Civility - Drawing the Line

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Long title: 
Robust Communication or Incivility - Where do we draw the Line?
Baron, Paula and Corbin, Lillian
Author(s)' contact information: 
La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia University of New England, NSW, Australia
Conference title: 
International Legal Ethics Conference VI
Conference location: 
City University London

Civility has long been considered as a core value of lawyering. For some time, concern has been expressed in the literature about the loss of civility in the legal profession, and regulators and professional associations have sought to foster civility and to discourage, and in some cases, penalise, incivility. In particular, instances of incivility or discourteousness are increasingly linked to questions of misconduct. However, the notion of 'civility' is itself, often contentious, and the line between 'robust' communication and incivility is unclear.
Does civility matter? If so, when will lawyer advocacy on behalf of the client, or their strongly worded criticisms of an opponent's actions, become the subject of claims of unethical behaviour?
Arguing that civility is important, this paper will analyse relevant case law from Australia, UK, US, Canada and NZ, in order to better understand contemporary conceptions of civility and to draw out principles currently being used to gauge the distinction between appropriate communications and unethical behaviour.

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