Document Type


Publication Date



The adversary system's pressures can strain the tone and tenor of a lawyer's oral speech, but the strain on civility can be especially great when lawyers write. Words on paper arrive without the facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and contemporaneous opportunity for explanation that can soothe face-to-face communication. Writing appears cold on the page, dependent not necessarily on what the writer intends or implies, but on what readers infer.

This article is in three parts. Part I describes two manifestations of incivility, a lawyer's written derision of an opponent, and a lawyer's written disrespect of the court. Part II describes how either manifestation can weaken the client's cause. Part III describes how incivility in writing can also compromise both the lawyer's own personal enrichment and the lawyer's professional standing among the bench and bar.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.