The Future of Professionalism: Raising the Bar

October 22, 2009

Professionalism among members of the Bar is an intentional and dynamic process. It does not occur accidentally or by default. One of the primary reasons the WCBA and Tenth Judicial District Bar enjoy such a high level of professionalism among its members is the long-standing, wide-ranging and continuing efforts of our Professionalism Committee. Over the years, this joint Committee has continued to create new and innovative programs that promote professionalism among WCBA and Tenth members. It also regularly serves as the pilot program for efforts that are later implemented statewide.

The Committee is responsible for creating our Professionalism Creed, writing regular articles on professionalism in the Bar Flyer, establishing the pilot Professionalism Support Initiative intervention program, publishing Practicing Law: Wake County Lawyers’ Observations on Professionalism, and coordinating the annual Professionalism Roundtable Discussion at the WCBA October luncheon, among various other programs and projects. All of these efforts resulted in our Committee receiving the ABA’s Gambrell Professionalism Award, probably the most prestigious professionalism award given to bar organizations across the nation.

Not content to rest on its laurels, the Committee has embarked on developing two new ambitious projects this year. WCBA President Gaskins discussed the new pilot mentoring program in his May message. It is anticipated that this program, directed at new lawyers in the Tenth and WCBA, will coordinate and share resources with a similar new program for students at Campbell Law School. The mentoring program is expected to begin in 2010, once Campbell gets settled in its new location in the capital city.

At its meeting last month, the Professionalism Committee decided to move forward with another new program that it has been discussing for the better part of a year. The program is entitled: Raising the Bar: Recognizing Acts of Professionalism. The primary purpose is to allow WCBA and Tenth members to nominate other attorneys for notable acts of professionalism. For almost 20 years, the WCBA has recognized one member a year to receive the Joseph Branch Award, in recognition of a long and exemplary career of professionalism. The new program is similar but is designed to recognize specific acts of professionalism among members of the Bar, rather than an entire career.

The nominee will receive a letter from the Committee about the recognition and the option of potentially having information about the nomination publicized to members of the Bar. The Committee anticipates periodically writing an article or report in the Bar Flyer summarizing the nominations and the underlying specific acts of professionalism. These nominations also may be mentioned briefly at future bar meetings or luncheons.

The Committee hopes that this new pilot program will recognize notable professional actions and encourage continuing professionalism among members of our Bar. This type of recognition is important for new lawyers, members who have practiced in other locations before joining our Bar, and our existing members. As our membership continues to expand, it is not possible for all of our members to know one another as was true when this proud tradition of professionalism began. For these reasons, it is increasingly important to recognize and publicize the types of actions that distinguish our Bar as a model of professionalism.

For this program to be successful, we need the participation of members nominating other attorneys. If you believe another colleague has engaged in a notable and worthy specific act of professionalism, please take a few minutes to complete and submit a nomination form. We all bear some responsibility for raising the bar of professionalism, or in our case, keeping the Bar raised.