Oklahoma Bar Journal

The Golden Rule: A Timeless Principle for the Legal Profession

By Janet Johnson

Upholding justice, maintaining the rule of law and safeguarding rights and freedoms are the cornerstones of the legal profession. These cornerstones also come with the great duty of ethical and professional responsibility.

The legal profession is surrounded by adversarial proceedings, high-conflict cases and emotions running high. Thus, the golden rule is a great guiding principle. The golden rule is classically phrased as, “Do unto others as you’d have done unto you,” or paraphrased as, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” Some modern business experts advocate for rephrasing that as, “Treat others as they would like to be treated.”[1]

Many of us remember the golden rule from elementary school, but its principle can be found all around us. When we consider ethics, civility and professionalism in the legal realm, it makes sense that ideas of kindness, compassion and fairness should be encouraged. In fact, it should follow that we all desire and encourage individuals to extend the same considerations we desire for ourselves.

At a minimum, we must demonstrate integrity and respect. This means we uphold our rules of professional conduct and treat clients, colleagues and the court with respect. Additionally, this extends to civility. While opposing parties may try us, we must remember to maintain basic courtesies and act professionally in our interactions. An amicable approach will go far. Also, accountability is huge. Accepting responsibility for one’s actions and decisions will go a long way.

By adhering to ethical guidelines and embodying professionalism, legal professionals demonstrate their commitment to justice, the rule of law and the well-being of their clients. They contribute to a legal system that is fair, equitable and trustworthy.

So my challenge for us all is to recognize that the golden rule plays a tremendous role in our profession. Empathy and compassion are important. By nature, there is an inherent dignity and worth that we all desire. Irrespective of whether we are with colleagues, peers or clients, embracing the principle of the golden rule will undoubtedly leave us all more fulfilled and with a deeper understanding of the impact of our actions. I am confident this guiding principle will assist all in upholding integrity and justice. I am confident that the articles within this bar journal have been educational and enlightening.

To contact Executive Director Johnson, email her at janetj@okbar.org.






[1] https://bit.ly/3DfmOFe (last accessed July 12, 2023).

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 95 Vol 6 (August 2023)

Statements or opinions expressed in the Oklahoma Bar Journal are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Oklahoma Bar Association, its officers, Board of Governors, Board of Editors or staff.