April 22, 2019: New York State Bar Association Approves Updated Standards of Civility for NY Legal Profession

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has approved an update to the Standards of Civility for the New York legal profession. NYSBA approved the report and recommendations of the Committee on  Attorney Professionalism at its April 13 House of Delegates meeting in Albany.

“The Standards of Civility have been modernized for the first time since their initial 1997 adoption, particularly with regard to communications where technological advances have been substantial, and also expanded to include transactional and other non-litigation settings,” said NYSBA President Michael Miller. “This reflects NYSBA’s continued commitment to civility and decorum in our profession.”

“Civility and professionalism increase the effectiveness of the justice system and enhance the public’s trust in the legal profession. These updated guidelines, which reflect the growing complexity of modern-day law practice, serve as benchmarks, confirming the honorability of the legal profession,” said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. “I am thankful to the Committee on Attorney Professionalism and the Subcommittee on Civility for their tireless efforts in revising the guidelines and their dedication to preserving the integrity of the legal profession.”

Updated transactional and other non-litigation standards include:

  • A lawyer should not impose deadlines that are more onerous than necessary or appropriate to achieve legitimate commercial and other client-related outcomes.
  • A lawyer should focus on the importance of politeness and decorum, including such elements as the formality of the setting, the sensitivities of those present and the interests of the client.
  • A lawyer should be careful not to proceed without proper authorization or otherwise imply that authority from the client has been obtained when such is not the case.

In 1997, the New York court system adopted the Standards of Civility as an appendix to the then-Code of Professional Responsibility, which is now known as the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Standards of Civility are intended to be principles of behavior to which the bar, the bench and court employees should aspire and are not intended to be used for sanctioning or disciplining attorneys.

Instead, as explained in the preamble, “they are a set of guidelines intended to encourage lawyers, judges and court personnel to observe principles of civility and decorum, and to confirm the legal profession’s rightful status as an honorable and respected profession where courtesy and civility are observed as a matter of course.”

The Standards of Civility are divided into two main sections, one that is specifically directed to the litigation setting and one that is directed to transactional and other non-litigation settings. The first section is divided into four parts: lawyers’ duties to other lawyers, litigants, witnesses and others; lawyers’ duties to the court and court personnel; court’s duties to lawyers, parties and witnesses; and court personnel’s duties to lawyers and litigants. There is also a Statement of Client’s Rights appended to the Standards of Civility.

In 2016, Chief Judge DiFiore and Lillian Moy, then-chair of NYSBA’s Committee on Attorney Professionalism, had discussions regarding whether the Standards of Civility should be updated. Those discussions led to the establishment of the Subcommittee on Civility, which worked tirelessly the past two years in drafting the revisions. The primary authors of the report are Andrew L. Oringer, chair of the Committee on Attorney Professionalism, and Robert Kantowitz, chair of the Subcommittee on Civility.

Click here to view the report with the revised changes to the Standards of Civility.

About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, the Association has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.

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Contact: Christian Nolan
cnolan@nysba.org
518-487-5536