My oldest son, Paul III, recently graduated from Loyola (New Orleans) Law School. For a whole host of reasons, which are my fault, we don’t have much of a relationship at present, although I remain hopeful to establishing a good relationship with Paul III, who, to his credit, though understandably guarded, seems receptive.
Paul’s graduation reminded me of a continuing legal education presentation that I made at Paul III’s law school-in 2001-when I was 41. In addition to the required hour in ethics credit, the Louisiana Supreme Court had recently added a required hour on “professionalism,” which struck me as the potential bridge between strict compliance with the Model Rules on Professional Conduct and truly civil and classical ethical behavior. The Louisiana Supreme Court was clearly telling lawyers that mere compliance with the ethics minimums was insufficient.
But there was a lot of leeway on the appropriate subjects for a “professionalism” hour. So I undertook my normal course of action: to take the less traveled road. I wrote my own Code of Whole-Person Professionalism. I figured that if we were going to aim, then by golly aim high, which is exactly what I did.
And here’s what I wrote:
CODE OF WHOLE-PERSON PROFESSIONALISM
(A work-in-progress, just like the author)
Paul Hood, Jr.
Loyola University Law School
Fully cognizant that compliance with the codes of professional responsibility and professionalism does not require ethical or professional behavior in the classical sense or as it is understood by the man in the street; and further that neither code focuses upon the whole life of a lawyer that can benefit from true, classical ethical and professional behavior, and resolute in my belief that being balanced in life and work makes one truly ethical and professional, I pledge:
- To bear in mind that the law was never intended to, and cannot, solve every problem that I might encounter in my practice, and that a solution in law might not be the only, or even the best, solution to a particular problem; and further to look for and consider, and, when appropriate, to suggest, extra-legal alternatives.
- To consider “the big picture” in my advices to clients, taking into account common sense, psychological implications, holistic concerns, the law of diminishing returns and a cost-benefit analysis, all on both a long and short term basis.
- To acknowledge and repay my debt to my resources and mentors by “passing it on” to others as a cheerful resource and mentor to other lawyers and staff both inside and outside of my firm.
- To keep myself in good physical, mental and spiritual health.
- To consider my overall duty to the legal system and to society as a whole when formulating and implementing my advices.
- If blessed with children, a spouse and/or other family, to be an involved, loving, devoted and caring family member, eschewing the myth/copout referred to as “quality time” in favor of a lot of quiet, talking, just hanging out time.
- To remember how truly blessed with fortune, friends and family I am.
- To put myself into the shoes of others with whom I interact daily so as to more fully and fairly comprehend their reactions and viewpoints.
- To efficiently manage my time and to remember that I have a life outside of my office and, to that end, endeavor mightily to work only weekdays, and not to work weekends unless absolutely necessary.
- To consider the risks that I have been asked to bear in a particular matter in the overall fee that I charge, and to explain this cost element to my client, and to, if need be, walk away from an engagement for that the fee that the client is willing to pay won’t cover that risk.
- If I am in a firm, to remember that it is the little things that separate the good firms from the great ones, and to resolve to do the little things.
- To order my affairs and conduct my work in a manner that minimizes the work for, and surprise to, others, and to give others reasonable notice when extra work either after hours or on weekends will be necessary, and then to work mightily to minimize that intrusion, and to make it up later.
- If I work under the supervision of another lawyer, to treat that lawyer as my client.
- To be a lifelong learner and enthusiastic lover of life.
- To smile, internally and externally, and be of good cheer, even singing aloud if the mood strikes me.
- To be able to heartily laugh at myself at a second’s notice.
- To “walk the talk” of this Code by affirmatively encouraging and allowing my staff and other lawyers under my supervision to live according to this Code, and to encourage other lawyers as well as others to do the same.
In my next several blogs, I’ll begin to unpack the rest of that CLE presentation, which was an “Annotated” Code of Whole-Person Professionalism. Normally, in law parlance, an “annotated code” contains annotations in the form of code and statute citations, possible regulations and government rulings, reported decision citations, legislation and even scholarly articles.
But this “annotated code” has pertinent quotes for consideration. In each subsequent blog, I’ll cover a couple of the Code pledges and the associated “annotations.” However, what you need to know at the outset is that the annotations contain a quote from Paul III at age four. Paul III’s future law school main hall heard his name some 21 years before he was to graduate from that institution.