Civil Discourse and Collaborative Governance

The American Bar Association recently reaffirmed the principle of civility as a foundation for democracy and the rule of law. Its Resolution 108 goes on: "When dealing with the public as well as one another, lawyers should set a high standard for civil discourse as an example for others in resolving differences constructively and without disparagement of others."

This Resolution was discussed at the annual ABA Dispute Resolution Section Conference in Washington DC in April. That lawyers should be both concerned about, and seeking to take a lead in, how to restore civility in public discourse was striking in itself. I wondered about the possibility of a joint resolution in similar terms in Scotland by the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates. The timing would be right--why not?

As an adjunct to this discussion, I participated with an international panel of speakers in a seminar on collaborative governance and reflected on Scotland's own important effort in the ground-breaking 2020 Climate Change Group, which I am privileged to facilitate, and on the prospects for a different approach to dialogue on the constitutional question, a topic of interest to many at the conference. I also mentioned our recent work with the Occupy movement here in Edinburgh. There is much to build on.