Wearing the Suit of Professionalism

I loved Doug Clark’s take on the Karl Thompson/Otto Zehm issue here in Spokane. It was contrary to his usual funny, witty, and sarcastic commentaries – it was serious, eloquent, and on the mark for the truth that is going on with our police department.

He mentioned the police department’s guide for being a good police officer. (And mind you, most of our police officers follow the guideline; it is the few that are marring the reputation of the whole.)

Ten years ago, I started a chapter of a legal association in Spokane for legal secretaries and paralegals, NALS of Spokane. (NALS is a national association for the education and professionalism of non-attorney law firm personnel.) We have a series of tests we take covering laws, regulations, ethics, and skill sets that guide us in our jobs – even though we are low man on the totem pole, so to speak. A quarter of our eight-hour test covers two Code of Ethics manuals, one for attorneys and one for judges. Secretaries and paralegals follow the same principles as attorneys and judges – we follow, in fact, their Manuals. (The "Model Rules of Professional Conduct" for attorneys was created to resolve issues, like the Watergate scandal.) When I read both manuals (just as long in length as for police officers), I was struck by how it affected me. I wanted to wear the values and philosophy like a suit. I mean that I wore professionalism, integrity, ethics, high ideals, and moral fortitude. I held myself to a high standard, and my actions influenced all the staff around me, and even the attorneys. My attitude held weight for my entire firm – little old me.

When I read Clark’s article, my mind went back to the day I passed my certification test – I thought to myself that the manual police officers follow is the crux of everything wrong with the police department. They are not reading the manual. If a small peg on the board of a whole bunch of holes can read the manual and carry a whole law firm, then a police officer should be able to do it, too.

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