The Honorable Ashleigh Parker Dunston, Wake County District Court
If we took a moment to think of one of the attorneys that we admire the most who embodies professionalism, poise, and proficiency, there is typically one other word that we can always use to describe this person--humble. Merriam Webster defines humility as: "freedom from pride or arrogance." I love this definition because of the word freedom. Freedom indicates that you have broken away from a norm or that you have the autonomy, maturity, or self-governance to do something different. In this instance, doing something different is not being prideful.
As attorneys, we all need have a healthy balance of confidence and swagger that makes us good at what we do. If we're honest, we know that there's no better feeling than successfully winning that trial, writing a brief, or mediating between difficult clients. The question is, when does it become unhealthy? When does our arrogance and egotistical attitude become a part of our character, instead of just the result of a circumstance? When do we allow it to dictate how we operate when interacting with our colleagues?
C.S. Lewis said, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less." I've learned that humility is either something that you have or something that you'll be forced to have. I've personally had to swallow my pill of pride several times and been lowered to levels emotionally that I hope that I don't see again anytime soon. While serving on the bench, I try to constantly remind myself that my job is not to "judge" the individual, but to help them. We are all one decision away from ending up at the defense table or facing a jury of our peers. Humility means recognizing that we shouldn't be too proud to be transparent about our faults and shortcomings, seek help when necessary and have a heart of gratitude for the opportunities that we've been given. We can practice humility by making a conscious effort to thank our staff, celebrate the successes of others, ask for and accept feedback, and always be willing to learn new and better ways to do things.
No one is perfect and we all have room for growth in all areas of our lives. We must always remember that success is temporary, treating people with respect is free, and humility is one of the most important characteristics that we should strive for in professionalism.