OCBA UPDATE: It's the stuff in-between that makes all the difference


No one I know gets up in the morning, day after day, and says: “Wow, I can’t wait to answer that set of interrogatories!” or “Man, that ninth revision to the subordination agreement is TOTALLY going to make my day!” Kidding aside, plenty of us are passionate about our work and serving our clients. But for most people, they want more. Often it is those you work with, your comrades all striving together. But the ties that bind us together, and really make this grand enterprise worth it, go beyond officemates.

The invisible strands that add so much to what we do precisely because they connect us exist all around. Most of us only take advantage of (or have the bandwidth to devote energy to) just a few of these. But the many opportunities that our profession and this bar association offer deserve to be spotlighted. Because sometimes people struggle. When they need it the most, they cannot seem to find these essential sources of support. Mental health and substance abuse issues plague our profession1 and yet many still feel uncomfortable talking about it or seeking help. Resources exist for those in need.2 But I wonder whether, like a good savings account, if we invest a little in some of these connections along the way on a regular basis, that might help avoid some of these perils. Literature suggests it might.3

One thing that makes a difference is simply interpersonal contact. We at the OCBA try to make this as easy for you as possible. We need heavy lifters, visionaries and doers in our substantive committees and for our justice initiatives. But we also believe in building social networks through our New Lawyers Committee (10 years in practice or less), at our regular membership mixers and at social events ranging from Race Judicata to the annual golf outing to the holiday party. Join us sometime, just for a drink, and see what you get from it.

Stress is a huge contributor to mental health issues with attorneys. Let us help lighten your load. Our recently rejuvenated solo and small practice committee is marshaling resources to help with everything from referrals to back-office support. Our CLE programs will keep you on the cutting edge of your practice. Or join the Inns of Court to work in teams with members of our bench to hone your skills while at the same time building familiarity with fellow attorneys and judges.

Another way we strive to make a difference is to simply make this combative, stress-addled profession just a bit more, well, human. The OCBA initiated the ombudsman program with the Oakland County Circuit Court to facilitate a back-channel for issues between bench and bar and we team with the court on our annual bench/bar conferences. Starting in January, we are introducing a new brown bag lunch program where lawyers and judges can sit down, break bread, and get to know each other a little better in an informal environment. All of these opportunities turn “opposing counsel” and “your honor” into real people, connections that allow us to better serve our clients and to do so with more humanity.

We also can make this job, and life, a little easier by striving for civility in our practice. Past presidents of the OCBA have spoken on this before4 and they continue to lead the way. Under Past President Jennifer Grieco,5 Past President Ed Pappas has helped move us forward on this important issue. On October 18, 2018, Ed chaired the “Promoting Professionalism in the 21st Century” program together with the support of the then-Chief Justice Stephen Markman. The state bar organized a set of resources for lawyers6 and then, on September 26, 2019, the State Bar Representative Assembly endorsed “Professionalism Principles for Lawyers and Judges.” Now they go the Supreme Court. If adopted, these principles would not serve as a basis for sanctions or a grievance; rather, they seek to effectuate Rule 1 of the Rules Concerning the State Bar7 by recognizing that “lawyers and judges together should exhibit the highest levels of professionalism to preserve and advance our noble profession, and to serve as exemplars to the public we serve.” The principles (see sidebar) have a commentary that is valuable reading. It makes the point that “lawyers and judges [must] work to achieve balance in their lives knowing that personal health and wellness are necessary for the best treatment of others.” We are not our best selves all the time, but by striving for professionalism and civility, we advance both our profession and ourselves.

Sandra Day O’Connor said: “We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone … and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one another that creates something.” It’s a tough world out there, folks. Take advantage of the helping hands, the kindness, the pay-it-forward spirit that resides within our bar. We’re here to help.
2For a good starting point, go to: https://www.michbar.org/generalinfo/ljap/home. For a good general clearinghouse on attorney wellness, see: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/lawyer_assistance/resources/lawyer_wellness/.
5See also her excellent Michigan State Bar Journal article: https://www.michbar.org/file/barjournal/article/documents/pdf4article3549.pdf.
7“The State Bar of Michigan shall, under these rules, aid in promoting improvements in the administration of justice and advancements in jurisprudence, in improving relations between the legal profession and the public, and in promoting the interests of the legal profession in this state.”
Daniel D. Quick, of Dickinson Wright PLLC, is the 87th president of the Oakland County Bar Association.

As adopted by the State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly
September 26, 2019

In fulfilling our professional responsibilities, we, as attorneys and officers of the court, must remain mindful of our obligations to the administration of justice and its truth-seeking process designed to efficiently resolve disputes in a rational and peaceful manner. In serving in our professional capacity, we adhere to these principles of professionalism:

1) We are civil in our interactions with all people involved in a legal matter or the justice system.

2) We treat all people involved in a legal matter or the justice system with respect.

3) We cooperate with each other within the bounds of our justice system.

4) We extend professional courtesy to each other.

5)  We do not engage in, or tolerate, conduct that may be perceived as rude, abrasive, hostile, or obstructive.

6) We do not disparage or attack other persons involved in the justice system, or employ hostile, demeaning, or humiliating words in written or oral communications or opinions.

7) We do not exhibit, act upon, or manifest bias against any person involved in a legal matter or the justice system.

8) We treat all people involved in a legal matter or the justice system fairly, regardless of their personal characteristics or viewpoints.

9) We act with honesty and integrity in our interactions with all people involved in a legal matter or the justice system and honor promises and agreements fairly reached.

10) We act in good faith and advance only those positions just under the facts and law.


Subscribe to the Legal News!


Full access to public notices, articles, columns, archives, statistics, calendar and more

Day Pass Only $4.95!

One-County $80/year

Three-County & Full Pass also available