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Harry Sondheim Professional Responsibility Award goes to staunch ethics advocates

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Don’t ask Brian C. Walsh whether he worries that lawyers get a bad rap.

Just think of the T-rex that feasted on the attorney in Steven Spielberg’s film “Jurassic Park” – as movie audiences cheered – and you get a sense of how far the legal profession’s image has plummeted, said Walsh, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge.

Pasternak Goodman Walsh
Pasternak Goodman Walsh

It was difficult enough to overcome the stain that Watergate left on the shiny image of American legal advocates (think Atticus Finch). But by the 1990s, “nasty lawyer jokes were all the rage,” Walsh said. Then when an ABA study indicated that regard for lawyers had sunk to its lowest point ever, Walsh realized he needed to start rebuilding the profession from the inside. As then president of the Santa Clara County Bar Association, Walsh introduced and succeeded in getting the association to adopt its first Code of Professionalism in 1992.

As the code’s chief architect, he believed that formalizing a policy of ethics and professionalism would encourage lawyers to be more civil in their practices – and ultimately “the way to regain respect is start showing respect for each other … and to everyone we encountered,” he said.

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