By Edd Roberts, Roberts Law Office, PA
First posted on: Tenth J.D. Bar Professionalism Newsletter: August 2018

My six and four-year-old constantly make me aware that the things I do and the words I say in their presence are absorbed by them. These young boys of mine are being shaped by the actions and words that are modeled by me as I go through life experiencing the good and the bad.

As I reflect on my modeled behavior and the responsibilities that come with being a parent, I’m reminded of similar responsibilities required of me in my day-to-day professionalism as a lawyer. Although there is a book for our professional conduct that regulates and defines our professional conduct, most of what we learn about professionalism as young lawyers comes from behavior modeled to us by older lawyers.

We are fortunate in the Wake County Bar to have a substantial contingent of senior lawyers who practice law with the utmost professionalism. This modeled behavior to young lawyers watching is one of the things that makes our bar so special. I remember a particular lesson learned from a senior lawyer of the bar for whom I had great deal of respect (mainly because he beat me most of the time). He was representing the other side in this hotly contested case where the key witness was a law enforcement officer. At the end of all the evidence and arguments, I thought for sure he had won another one. However, to my surprise the verdict went against him and his client. While I was happy to have won, the lesson I learned that day from him was far more meaningful to me. He thanked the court even though he had just received an unfavorable outcome for his client. He sought out and shook the hand of the law enforcement officer, whom he had just recently been grilling with tough questions during a well thought out and lengthy cross examination. Finally, as he passed me on the way out of the court room he softly spoke the words, “Good job.” Now this old trial lawyer had vigorously represented his client, but at the end of the trial, he accepted the result with poise and dignity and was not ill tempered as one might have expected him to be, or adversarial after it was all over.

The take away lesson for me was that this lawyer handled himself with the same professionalism in a loss as he did in a win. The professionalism that was modeled to me that day stuck with me. I find myself almost 18 years later trying to comport my behavior as a lawyer to that level of professionalism that was modeled to me back then.

As lawyers we should always conduct ourselves in a way that honors our profession. No matter where we are, or with whom we interact, it is essential to remember that we must conduct ourselves as professionals. I can only hope that I live up to that standard of professionalism modeled for me almost 18 years ago – for myself and for the young lawyers that may be watching me.