Inspired lawyer proposes Bench-Bar Civility Honor Roll
Across the nation and in Massachusetts, there has been a call to arms to promulgate civility in all bench-bar facets. For example, annually the American Inns of Court designates a month to spotlight the need to work toward a “vision of a legal profession and judiciary dedicated to professionalism, ethics, civility and excellence.”
And, as recently as Feb. 22, the Massachusetts Bar Association held a program on “How the Bench and Bar Can Work Together to Improve Lawyer Civility.” While I believe we can all agree that it is easy to “talk the talk,” when there are no directional signposts to navigate theory into practice insofar as “walking the talk,” we are left to wonder where the rubber meets the road. Just three days after the MBA conference, I was privileged to have witnessed firsthand a spontaneous act of civility at its finest.
At long last, on Feb. 25, we had a 9 a.m. hearing on an uncontested G.L.c. 208, §1A, divorce case. The parties had been waiting since July 2020 for their court date. After two and a half hours in the Zoom waiting room, parties and counsel were finally called for the hearing.
The judge asked for a clarification and written edit to the child support section of the separation agreement and told us she could not approve the agreement as is.
After attorney Jared Wood and I hammered out a written revision, attorney Wood snatched victory from the jaws of defeat: He dashed out to his car, drove to the parties’ homes to get their original signatures on the edited agreement, and then rushed to the Middlesex County courthouse to flag down a court officer and get the revised agreement into the hands of the judge’s clerk. (There may or may not have been the necessity for attorney Wood to have not one but two McDonald’s cheeseburgers and a milkshake on the way back to his office, for his emotional and physical fortification.)
Just three days after the MBA conference, I was privileged to have witnessed firsthand a spontaneous act of civility at its finest.
At 3 p.m., parties and counsel took a leap of faith by signing back into the judge’s Zoom waiting room. With five minutes to spare, at 3:55 p.m., the judge gave us a second call, enabling the parties to have their long-awaited hearing and their agreement approved. None of this could have happened without attorney Wood’s tenacity, grace and kindness under pressure. He literally went the extra mile(s)! In his honor, I propose that we institute a Bench-Bar Civility Honor Roll to inspire us to attain the lofty theoretical “vision of a legal profession and judiciary dedicated to professionalism, ethics, civility and excellence” — and to celebrate the role models among us who have truly elevated their professional practices as models of civility. For, in the end, they are our guideposts. See full article
Vicki L. Shemin is a partner at Fields & Dennis in Wellesley. She can be contacted at VShemin@FieldsDennis.com.