Law students learn ‘civility matters’ at inaugural luncheon
By Andrew Steadman (2L)
On Wednesday, the Levin College of Law got a little more civil.
UF Law hosted the Inaugural Joe Milton “Civility Matters” luncheon on March 19 in the Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom. Named in honor of Joe Milton (JD 69), the luncheon provided law students with catered lunch and lessons on how to practice civil behavior and properly adhere to the Florida Bar’s Oath of Admission. The luncheon was made possible by a donation from Milton’s estate.
American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) member James D’Andrea (JD 91), of the Jacksonville firm Milton, Leach, Whitman, D’Andrea & Eslinger, moderated the panel discussion, which included Victor Hulslander (JD 74) of the 8th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida and Robert Stripling (JD 66), partner at the Gainesville firm Stripling & Stripling.
D’Andrea spoke of his experiences working with Milton, who established a reputation during his career both as a zealous advocate and as a consummate professional.
“This event brings together a number of things Joe Milton was devoted to,” D’Andrea said. “The University of Florida College of Law, ABOTA, professionalism, civility and lunch.”
D’Andrea said ABOTA was dedicated to spreading civility throughout the legal profession.
“Civility is part of your calling,” D’Andrea said. “You have to get it in your mind and you have to work to keep it there.”
Much of the presentation focused on real video recordings of depositions in which lawyers exhibited some distinctly uncivil behavior: lawyers bickering and cursing while their clients sat in front of the camera. The panelists discussed the causes of these meltdowns, addressing how young lawyers could avoid taking the bait when opposing counsel is looking to pick a fight.
Stripling said he knows from experience that the ability to maintain one’s professionalism even in situations of stress pays dividends when it comes time to argue before a judge.
“I saw what the court’s reaction was to those who were respected by the court and those who were not,” Stripling said.
Hulslander, who has years of experience dealing with lawyers who fail to check their bad attitudes at the courthouse door, said he had to develop his own method of convincing contentious attorneys to stay civil. That method involved threatening to call the bailiff, which he said was the one sure way he could remind lawyers of their manners.
“It goes a long way to your success if you know how to talk to people and you know how to treat people in a civil fashion,” Hulslander said.
Stripling said young lawyers must be mindful of their reputation from the moment they enter the legal profession because early mistakes can follow lawyers for their entire careers.
“The way you conduct yourself is so important because it’s a first impression of you as a new member of the Bar,” Stripling said.
Hulslander agreed, adding that the decision to adhere to a standard of civility is a personal one.
“This is a work in progress,” Hulslander said. “Who you are is how you decide to live your life.”