Professionalism is the combination of the core values of personal integrity, competency, civility, independence, and public service that distinguish attorneys as the caretakers of the rule of law.
These Ideals of Professionalism emanate from and complement the Maryland Attorneys' Rules of Professional Conduct (“MARPC”), the overall thrust of which is well-summarized in this passage from the Preamble to those Rules:
“An attorney should use the law's procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others. An attorney should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other attorneys, and public officials.”
A failure to observe these Ideals is not of itself a basis for disciplinary sanctions, but the conduct that constitutes the failure may be a basis for disciplinary sanctions if it violates a provision of the MARPC or other relevant law.
Attorneys are entrusted with the privilege of practicing law. They take a firm vow or oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of Maryland. Attorneys enjoy a distinct position of trust and confidence that carries the significant responsibility and obligation to be caretakers for the system of justice that is essential to the continuing existence of a civilized society. Each attorney, therefore, as a custodian of the system of justice, must be conscious of this responsibility and exhibit traits that reflect a personal responsibility to recognize, honor, and enhance the rule of law in this society. The Ideals and some characteristics set forth below are representative of a value system that attorneys must demand of themselves as professionals in order to maintain and enhance the role of legal professionals as the protectors of the rule of law.
Ideals of Professionalism
An attorney should aspire:
(1) to put fidelity to clients before self-interest;
(2) to be a model for others, and particularly for his or her clients, by showing respect due to those called upon to resolve disputes and the regard due to all participants in the dispute resolution processes;
(3) to avoid all forms of wrongful discrimination in all of his or her activities, including discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation, with equality and fairness as the goals;
(4) to preserve and improve the law, the legal system, and other dispute resolution processes as instruments for the common good;
(5) to make the law, the legal system, and other dispute resolution processes available to all;
(6) to practice law with a personal commitment to the rules governing the profession and to encourage others to do the same;
(7) to preserve the dignity and the integrity of the profession by his or her conduct, because the dignity and the integrity of the profession are an inheritance that must be maintained by each successive generation of attorneys;
(8) to strive for excellence in the practice of law to promote the interests of his or her clients, the rule of law, and the welfare of society; and
(9) to recognize that the practice of law is a calling in the spirit of public service, not merely a business pursuit.
Accountability and Trustworthiness
An attorney should understand the principles set forth in this section.
(1) Punctuality promotes the credibility of an attorney. Tardiness and neglect denigrate the individual, as well as the legal profession.
(2) Personal integrity is essential to the honorable practice of law. Attorneys earn the respect of clients, opposing attorneys, and the courts when they keep their commitments and perform the tasks promised.
(3) Honesty and, subject to legitimate requirements of confidentiality, candid communications promote credibility with clients, opposing attorneys, and the courts.
(4) Monetary pressures that cloud professional judgment and should be resisted.
Education, Mentoring, and Excellence
An attorney should:
(1) make constant efforts to expand his or her legal knowledge and to ensure familiarity with changes in the law that affect a client's interests;
(2) willingly take on the responsibility of promoting the image of the legal profession by educating each client and the public regarding the principles underlying the justice system, and, as a practitioner of a learned art, by conveying to everyone the importance of professionalism;
(3) attend continuing legal education programs to demonstrate a commitment to keeping abreast of changes in the law;
(4) as a senior attorney, accept the role of mentor and teacher, whether through formal education programs or individual mentoring of less experienced attorneys; and
(5) understand that mentoring includes the responsibility for setting a good example for another attorney, as well as an obligation to ensure that each mentee learns the principles enunciated in these Ideals and adheres to them in practice.
A Calling to Service
An attorney should:
(1) serve the public interest by communicating clearly with clients, opposing attorneys, judges, and the general public;
(2) consider the impact on others when scheduling events. Reasonable requests for schedule changes should be accommodated if, in the view of the attorney, such requests do not impact adversely the merits of the client's position;
(3) maintain an open and respectful dialogue with clients and opposing attorneys;
(4) respond to all communications promptly, even if more time is needed to formulate a complete answer, and understand that delays in returning telephone calls or answering mail may leave the impression that the communication was unimportant or that the message was lost, and such delays increase tension and frustration;
(5) keep a client apprised of the status of important matters affecting the client and inform the client of the frequency with which information will be provided, understanding that some matters will require regular contact, while others will require only occasional communication;
(6) always explain a client's options or choices in sufficient detail to help the client make an informed decision;
(7) reflect a spirit of respect in all interactions with opposing attorneys, parties, staff, and the court; and
(8) accept responsibility for ensuring that justice is available to every person and not just those with financial means.
Fairness, Civility, and Courtesy
An attorney should:
(1) act fairly in all dealings as a way of promoting the system of justice;
(2) understand that an excess of zeal may undermine a client's cause and hamper the administration of justice and that an attorney can advocate zealously a client's cause in a manner that remains fair and civil;
(3) know that zeal requires only that the client's interests are paramount and therefore warrant use of negotiation and compromise, when appropriate, to achieve a beneficial outcome, understanding that yelling, intimidating, issuing ultimatums, and using an “all or nothing” approach may constitute bullying, not zealous advocacy;
(4) seek to remain objective when advising a client about the strengths and weaknesses of the client's case or work;
(5) not allow a client's improper motives, unethical directions, or ill-advised wishes to influence an attorney's actions or advice, such as when deciding whether to consent to an extension of time requested by an opponent, and make that choice based on the effect, if any, on the outcome of the client's case and not on the acrimony that may exist between the parties;
(6) when appropriate and consistent with duties to the client, negotiate in good faith in an effort to avoid litigation and, where indicated, suggest alternative dispute resolution;
(7) use litigation tools to strengthen the client's case, but avoid using litigation tactics in a manner solely to harass, intimidate, or overburden an opposing party; and
(8) note explicitly any changes made to documents submitted for review by opposing attorneys, understanding that fairness is undermined by attempts to insert or delete language without notifying the other party or the party's attorney.
An attorney should understand that:
(1) professionalism requires civility in all dealings, showing respect for differing points of view, and demonstrating empathy for others;
(2) courtesy does not reflect weakness; rather, it promotes effective advocacy by ensuring that parties have the opportunity to participate in the process without personal attacks or intimidation;
(3) maintaining decorum in every venue, especially in the courtroom, is neither a relic of the past nor a sign of weakness; it is an essential component of the legal process;
(4) professionalism is enhanced by preparing scrupulously for meetings and court appearances and by showing respect for the court, opposing attorneys, and the parties through courteous behavior and respectful attire;
(5) courtesy and respect should be demonstrated in all contexts, not just with clients and colleagues, or in the courtroom, but also with support staff and court personnel;
(6) hostility between clients should not be a ground for an attorney to show hostility or disrespect to a party, an opposing attorney, or the court;
(7) patience enables an attorney to exercise restraint in volatile situations and to defuse anger, rather than elevate the tension and animosity between parties or attorneys; and
(8) the Ideals of Professionalism are to be observed in every kind of communication, and an attorney should resist the impulse to respond uncivilly to electronic communications in the same manner as he or she would resist such impulses in other forms of communication.
[Adopted June 6, 2016, eff. July 1, 2016.]
MD R Attorneys, Appendix 19-B, MD R ATTORNEYS Appendix 19-B
Current with amendments received through February 1, 2023. Some sections may be more current, see credits for details.