By Eleni Koutroumanis
On November 7th the Connecticut Bar Association’s Professionalism and Legal Education Committee, the Hartford County Bar Association, and the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch teamed up to host “Raising the Bar: A Bench-Bar Symposium on Professionalism in the Judicial District of Hartford.” The symposium took place at the Hartford Superior Court and over 200 attorneys and more than 25 law students and new lawyers attended the event.
The morning’s plenary session was titled “Maintaining Ethical Standards and Preserving Professionalism in a Rapidly Changing Profession.” The morning’s speakers included the Chief Disciplinary Counsel Patricia King, Statewide Bar Counsel Michael P. Bowler, and Attorney Frederic S. Ury of Ury & Moskow LLC. The panelists discussed how the internet and electronic communication have affected the legal field. They remarked about issues they have presided over regarding unethical communications, internet behavior, and advertising, as well as some of the steps that the ABA is taking to clarify internet ethics for lawyers. Despite these efforts, the speakers emphasized the importance of good judgment and self-control that lawyers must exercise when using these technologies.
The plenary session also referenced an issue with the new methods of legal delivery provided by virtual firms, publically traded firms, and online legal providers, such as LegalZoom. The speakers suggested that the best way to compete with these entities is advertisement and a new set of ethical rules with respect to terms in advertising.
Next, breakout sessions were offered for civil, criminal, family, probate, and real estate/business law. Each session had a panel comprised of local judges and attorneys specializing in that area of the law. The discussions focused on how the bench and bar can maintain a level of professionalism and civility when dealing with self-represented parties or unreasonable clients. The theme of evolving technology and good judgment also carried over into the sessions.
After lunch, the event’s keynote speaker, Attorney General George Jepsen spoke about maintaining civility in the state’s largest civil law firm. He shared his efforts to approach all situations with an open mind and hear all sides and arguments before taking a stance, something particularly important to his public and political position. He also stressed that all attorneys should utilize the “simple but powerful” act of talking face-to-face to resolve an issue before turning to litigation or any extreme measures. Jepsen also reiterated the importance of respect, which was a reoccurring theme of the day. Even when working with individuals with whom you constantly disagree, it is important to make sure there is always a certain level of respect and that nothing is taken personally, he shared.
UConn Law had a strong presence at the event in part thanks to the generosity of Dean Fisher and the Honorable Kenneth L. Shluger, a co-chair of the symposium and UConn Law alum, in providing scholarships for UConn Law students who signed up on a first-come-first-serve basis. In an e-mail sent out to the HCBA and CBA committee members, Judge Shlugar stated that the event was a “resounding success” and suggested that this event was “perhaps the finest symposium yet.”