Principles of professional courtesy

    1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This very simple and well known saying is the cornerstone of professional courtesy. If you treat other practitioners with contempt and disdain, you are not entitled to expect polite treatment in return, regardless of your seniority or your perceived level of self-importance or brilliance.1  
    2. Never forget the basic words of common courtesy – “may I”, “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and “sorry”.
    3. Do not discriminate against, underestimate or dismiss another practitioner by reason of race, gender, age, ethnic origins, sexuality, marital status, religious beliefs, where they work, where they went to university, or any other superficial reason.
    4. Never lie to or mislead another practitioner.
    5. Always return telephone calls and correspondence from other practitioners promptly.
    6. Do not publicly denigrate the character or capabilities of another practitioner or law firm.
    7. Do not seek to intimidate, threaten, offend or insult a fellow practitioner either in correspondence or in conference.
    8. In correspondence, avoid directly referring to a practitioner on the other side of a matter. For example, I was taught that in correspondence you should refer to “your client” as opposed to “you” and “my client” as opposed to “me”. This takes the personal element out of correspondence.
    9. If your actions have caused delay to another practitioner or you have promised that you will deliver something by a certain date and you are no longer able to make that deadline, let the other practitioner know and if it is appropriate to do so (to the extent permissible without breaching client confidentiality), apologise and explain the delay.
    10.  Always strive to retain your professional perspective in relation to a matter. Not only does it enable you to continue to give your client realistic and commercial advice, but it assists in maintaining a professional and diplomatic relationship with the opposing side in a matter.
    11. Defend the profession whenever you have the opportunity to do so.

Extracted from 'Professional Courtesy - Is there still a place for it in modern practice?' Petrina Macpherson Proctor February 2010. 

1 This is not to suggest that two wrongs make a right, if you are a recipient of bad behaviour. There is a tremendous quote from the recent decision of Lander v Council of the Law Society of The Australian Capital Territory [2009] ACTSC 117 at paragraph 24 (22) which reads: “A lawyer can be firm and tough-minded while being unfailingly courteous. Indeed, there is a real power that comes from maintaining one’s dignity in the face of a tantrum, from returning courtesy for rudeness, from treating people respectfully who do not deserve respect, and from refusing to respond in kind to personal insult.”