Taking a Look at Ourselves: An Essay on Professionalism
By Wayne S. Hyatt
I am not a professor of ethics or professional responsibility. Nor am I an "expert"
schooled in the finer points of theoretical professionalism. I am just a practicing lawyer…and a
real estate lawyer at that. So what warrant do I have to write about and to speak about
"professionalism"? Perhaps being a lawyer, proudly a real estate lawyer, who, as do many
others, cares about his profession is all the warrant I need. You may be the judge of that.
Fall 2008 marks my 40th anniversary as a member of the bar. Except for three years'
service in the U.S. Navy, I have engaged in the fulltime practice of law those 40 years. Because
of the rather unique nature of my practice, I have had the privilege of working with clients—and
local counsel—in all but two or three states. I have seen true professionalism. Regrettably, I
have also experienced the antithesis of a true professional. Those experiences, positive and
negative, also help shape one's view of the very significant but too often misunderstood topic of
This essay does not cite scholarly reports or bar commissions. It does not cite cases. It
relies instead on experience and on ACREL's own well-considered Statement of Professionalism,
and it is one person's view of what it means and requires to be a professional. It is certainly not a
statement that the author is a model except to the extent he—and each reader of this essay—can
aspire to being the best we can be.
I hope it helps you in your professional life.
When I began practicing law 40 years ago, people did not talk about professionalism.
Professionalism as a defined, separate topic was not something that received much attention or
concern; people practiced as professionals but did not talk about "professionalism." The bar was
small, and the bar did not rely upon a businesses model for how lawyers and law firms operated.
Lawyers' firms were...