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Standards of Professional Courtesy

STANDARDS OF PROFESSIONAL COURTESY

Whether it be the result of failed memories or reality, it seems that the practice of law in our country, and specifically in Broward County, is losing its professionalism. While the practice of law is largely an adversarial process, as professionals, we strive to zealously advance our clients' positions and interests, even those with which our opponents disagree, without doing so in a disagreeable manner.

The Broward County Bar Association is determined to provide assistance to maintain, and we hope, to advance professionalism in the practice of law in Broward County. We stress that this process is for assistance, not punishment. We trust that through the process of self-assessment, at times assisted by those whom the members of the Broward County BarAssociation highly regard as models of professionalism, lawyers who start to lose their professional perspective may be helped to regain it.

There are standards of professional courtesy that are expected to be observed as a minimum level of acceptable behavior. The following standards of professional courtesy describe the conduct preferred and expected by the majority of attorneys practicing in Broward County. These standards are not meant to be exhaustive, but set a tone or guide for conduct not specifically covered by these standards. These standards have been codified with the hope that their dissemination will educate new attorneys and others who may be unfamiliar with the customary local practices and expectations of the members of the Bar whom practice here. Compliance with these standards, unlike the "Oath of Admission" and the "Rules of Professional Conduct" adopted by the Florida Supreme Court, is voluntary. These standards have received the approval of the Boardof Directors of the Broward County Bar Association. They have been endorsed by the judges of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, who expect professional conduct by all attorneys who appear and practice before them.

Scheduling

1.1 Attorneys should endeavor to provide opposing counsel, parties, witnesses, and other affected persons, sufficient notice of depositions, hearings and other proceedings, except upon agreement of counsel, in an emergency, or in other circumstances compelling more expedited scheduling. As a general rule, actual notice should be given that is no less than five (5) business days for in-state depositions, ten (10) business days for out-of-state depositions and five (5) business days for hearings.

1.2 Attorneys should communicate with opposing counsel prior to scheduling depositions, hearings and other proceedings, so as to schedule them at times that are mutually convenient for all interested persons. Further, sufficient time should be reserved to permit a complete presentation by counsel for all parties.

1.3 Attorneys should notify opposing counsel, the court, and others affected, of scheduling conflicts as soon as they become apparent. Further, attorneys should cooperate with one another regarding all reasonable rescheduling requests that do not prejudice their clients or unduly delay a preceding.

1.4 Attorneys should promptly notify the court or other tribunal of any resolution between parties that renders a scheduled court appearance unnecessary or otherwise moot.

1.5 Attorneys should grant reasonable requests by opposing counsel for extensions of time within which to respond to pleadings, discovery and other matters when such an extension will not prejudice their client or unduly delay a proceeding.

1.6 Attorneys should cooperate with opposing counsel during trials and evidentiary hearings by disclosing the identities of all witnesses reasonably expected to be called and the length of time needed to present their entire case, except when a client's material rights would be adversely affected. They should also cooperate with the calling of witnesses out of turn when the circumstances justify it.

2 Discovery

2.1 Attorneys should pursue discovery requests that are reasonably related to the matter at issue. Attorneys should not use discovery for the purpose of harassing, embarrassing or causing the adversary to incur unnecessary expenses.

2.2 Attorneys should not use discovery for the purpose of causing undue delay or obtaining unfair advantage.

2.3 Attorneys should ensure that responses to reasonable discovery requests are timely, organized, complete and consistent with the obvious intent of the request. For example, a response to a request to produce should refer to each of the items in the request and should refer to each set of documents as separately marked exhibits.

3 Conduct Toward Other Attorneys, The Court and Participants

3.1 Attorneys should refrain from criticizing or denigrating the court, opposing counsel, parties or witnesses, before their clients, the public or the media, as it brings dishonor to our profession.

3.2 Attorneys should be, and should impress upon their clients and witnesses the need to be, courteous and respectful and not rude or disruptive with the court, opposing counsel, parties and witnesses.

3.3 Attorneys should make an effort to explain to witnesses the purpose of their required attendance at depositions, hearings or trials. They should further attempt to accommodate the schedules of witnesses when setting or resetting their appearance and promptly notify them of any cancellations.

3.4 Attorneys should respect and abide by the spirit and letter of all rulings of the court.

4 Candor to the Court/Other Counsel

4.1 Attorneys should not knowingly misstate, misrepresent, or distort any fact or legal authority to the court or to opposing counsel and shall not mislead by inaction or silence. Further, if this occurs unintentionally and is later discovered, it should immediately be disclosed or otherwise corrected.

4.2 Attorneys should notify opposing counsel of all oral or written communications with the court or other tribunal, except those involving only scheduling matters. Copies of any submissions to the court (such as correspondence, memoranda or law, caselaw, etc.), should simultaneously be provided to opposing counsel by substantially the same method of delivery by which they were provided to the court. For example, if a memorandum of law is hand-delivered to the court, at the same time a copy should be hand-delivered or faxed to the opposing counsel.

4.3 Attorneys should draft proposed orders promptly and the orders should fairly and adequately represent the ruling of the court. Attorneys should promptly provide, either orally or in writing, proposed orders to opposing counsel for approval. Opposing counsel should then promptly communicate any objections and at that time. the drafting attorney should immediately submit a copy of the proposed order to the court and advise the court as to whether or not it has been approved by opposing counsel.

4.4 Attorneys should draft agreements and other documents promptly and so as to fairly reflect the true intent of the parties. Where revisions are made to an agreement or other document, attorneys should point out or otherwise high-light any such additions, deletions or modifications for all opposing counsel.

5 Efficient Administration

5.1 Attorneys should refrain from actions intended primarily to harass or embarrass and should refrain from actions which cause unnecessary expense or delay.

5.2 Attorneys should, whenever possible, prior to filing or upon receiving a motion, contact opposing counsel to determine if the matter can be resolved in whole or in part. This may alleviate the need for filing the motion or allow submission of an agreed order in lieu of a hearing.

5.3 Attorneys should, whenever appropriate, stipulate to all facts and legal authority not reasonably in dispute.

5.4 Attorneys should encourage principled negotiations and efficient resolution of disputes on their merits.

 

Approved by the Board of Directors of the Broward County Bar Association