February 2012 Bar Bulletin
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February 2012 Bar Bulletin

Civility: Life Lessons in Tuscany

By Karen W. Murray


On October 12, I arrived in Sovana, Italy, to commence an eight-day continuing legal education class on civility: "The Civility Promise in Italy: Experience Consciousness, Creativity, and Community." There were about 40 others on the same journey, including 21 other attorneys from the U.S. Little did I foresee what life lessons we would come away with, being the skeptical lawyers that I perceived us all to be.

Why go all the way to Italy to learn about civility? After several months to reflect upon what I took away from the seminar and the 10 relaxing days I stayed in the beautiful countryside of Tuscany, I fully realize that the civility promise could not have happened at home. It was crucial to travel elsewhere to immerse ourselves in the conversation of civility without any distractions so we could begin our exploration into the civility promise of consciousness.

The Civility Promise of Consciousness

The three-minute walk along the cobblestone street from the Sovana Resort, where I was staying, to the Scilla Hotel, where the CLE would take place, gave me enough time to think about how lucky I was to be in this medieval village that was made up of only two streets. When I heard the local people shout out, "Buongiorno!" as I walked past their homes and businesses, I immediately felt I was welcome and that I somehow belonged there.

Later, as I conversed with my fellows and heard from them why they had chosen to journey to Tuscany to learn about civility and then heard from the faculty their goals and expectations for us during the upcoming week, I sensed this CLE was going to be like none other.

After the initial welcome, the faculty immediately outlined five specific goals for the seminar: 1) foster civil behavior in our personal and professional lives; 2) examine factors that lead to incivility; 3) identify consequences of incivility and benefits of civility; 4) construct a tool kit to increase our own civility; and 5) develop skills to promote civility throughout the community.

To accomplish these goals, the faculty made it abundantly clear that we needed to unplug, or at the very least silence, our technical devices until the class sessions were over. As we began turning off or silencing cell phones, iPads and laptops, we heard a bell ring in the distance. One of the faculty asked us to stop what we were doing and remain silent until the bell stopped ringing.

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