James Fitzmaurice – – the habit of acting ethically (Update 1x)

Today I attended a Continuing Legal Education Seminar at the Radisson Hotel in Salt Lake City.  One of the speakers mentioned how an attorney acted as a mentor to younger lawyers, in particular modeling ethical behavior.  In the following passage from an article available online, Patrick J. Schiltz, writes about his experience with his mentor.

He [mentor James Fitzmaurice] taught me by being a decent man who practiced law every day in a decent manner. . . . Moral formation “rests on small matters, not great ones,” and what I recall most about Fitzmaurice are “the small matters”:

I recall how Fitzmaurice would take strident letters or briefs that I had drafted and tone them down. I recall how Fitzmaurice would run into an attorney who had treated him shabbily and greet the attorney warmly. I recall how Fitzmaurice would time and again refer clients and files to young lawyers in our firm who were having trouble attracting business. I recall how Fitzmaurice never blamed others for his mistakes, but often gave others credit for his accomplishments. I recall how often Fitzmaurice took the blame for mistakes that I and other young attorneys made. I recall how Fitzmaurice, at the conclusion of a trial or hearing, would walk over to the client of his adversary and say, “I just want you to know that your attorney did a terrific job for you.” In short, what I best recall about Fitzmaurice were not occasions of great moral heroism, but his “quiet, everyday exhibitions of virtues.” It was through such exhibitions that he helped shape my character and instill in me the habit of acting ethically.

(Patrick J. Schiltz, Legal Ethics in Decline: The Elite Law Firm, the Elite Law School, and the Moral Formation of the Novice Attorney, 82 MINN. L. REV. 705, 738 (1998))

Update (4/30/10)

I found the Schiltz article excerpt in another article,  Julie A. Oseid, When Big Brother is Watching [Out For] You: Mentoring Lawyers, Choosing a Mentor, and Sharing Ten Virtues from My Mentor,  South Carolina Law Review, 2008, U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-22.

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