Carlson emphasizes ethics, civility and professionalism in speech to law students

August 13, 2003

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice George C. Carlson Jr. on Wednesday told first year law students in Oxford that ethics, civility and professionalism should be cornerstones of their future law practice.

Carlson was the keynote speaker at the James O. Dukes Law School Professionalism Program at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Carlson said he has seen through the years as a trial judge the development of a trend of "win at all costs" litigation tactics.

Carlson, of Batesville, who was appointed to the Supreme Court Nov. 1, 2001, based his remarks on 19 years of experience as a circuit court judge.

Carlson said the lack of civility, ethics and professionalism is a real problem for the legal profession. Law schools, the bench and the bar are addressing the problem. The law student orientation program at which he spoke is part of that effort to find solutions.

The late James O. Dukes of Gulfport, a former Mississippi Bar president, founded the professionalism program for first year law students at the University of Mississippi and the Mississippi College School of Law. The program was recently renamed in his honor.

Carlson said, "Jimmy Dukes conceived the idea for this program and we are here today because there really is a problem."

Carlson told the students that they are part of the solution.

"You are the future of our legal profession. I implore you to remember as you go through law school that being a lawyer is not about making money," Carlson said. "I am satisfied that if you work hard during law school and then as a lawyer, you will achieve financial success. But more importantly, I implore you to remember that the legal profession, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, is still a service profession. We are put here on this Earth not to be served - but to serve. When you become a member of the legal profession roughly three years from now, you will become a member of a profession established long ago to serve our citizens."

Carlson said, "Don't let the concept of making money, or winning at all costs, ever cause you to lose sight of the fact that your greatest calling as a lawyer should be to serve - and to serve in a way that is deemed to be civil, ethical, professional. If you do that, you will not have to seek out success - it will find you."