Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell Takes a Robust Stance on Professionalism and Civility

A Strong Reputation and Culture Deeply Rooted in Respect, Dignity and Excellence

Thanks to the firm’s legendary founders, Thom Rumberger, Bud Kirk and Dick Caldwell, Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell has long focused on the importance of excellence, respect, civility, collegiality, cooperation, and teamwork in the firm’s culture and history. Since the first day the doors opened, the founding partners emphasized these tenets, and our subsequent leaders have taken great care to cultivate these attributes throughout the years resulting in the continued growth, excellence, and reputation of the firm.

Rumberger’s culture is not merely insulated within its offices. It also extends to the courtroom and in every way that the firm’s lawyers interact with opposing counsel, judges, and through our attorneys’ involvement within their communities.  Over the decades, RKC has not only built upon its proven reputation for excellence and achieving results for its clients, but it has been able to do so the right, ethical, and professional way. 

First Firm to Appoint a Director of Professionalism, Career and Skill Development

As part of the firm’s ongoing commitment to maintaining the highest standards of professionalism among its attorneys, it is the first firm in Miami-Dade County to appoint a director of professionalism, career and skill development. Unlike many other firms that relegate career development to human resources, Rumberger made a bold choice to appoint Paul Lipton,  a prominent trial attorney with more than forty years of litigation experience formerly from a major national firm to this unique position. 

Lipton’s experience as a seasoned trial attorney offers RKC associates unprecedented mentoring and career guidance while also benefiting all generations of litigators to embrace their roles as leaders in the profession and within the community.  Lipton brings an uplifting, exhilarating, and contemplative perspective that fits perfectly with the firm’s existing philosophy, culture, and mission.

Self-Fulfillment as By-Product of Meaningful Involvement

RKC’s program helps litigators find greater satisfaction in their work by encouraging them to focus on relationships as well as involvement in both the legal and local communities.  Mere membership is not the point but instead meaningful, hands-on participation in organizations that  attorneys are passionate about and through which they can strive to make a difference.  This can be especially helpful for young associates who often focus primarily on the objective results of their work such as efficiency and production, mastering day-to-day skills, litigation practice, the art of persuasion, etc.  While the aforementioned are extremely important, they are not the complete picture.  “A myopic and repetitive focus on the daily grind of the craft can exhaust even the most dedicated attorney,” says Lipton.  “The solution or an alternative at least is to immerse oneself in the community and take great pride in serving which rejuvenates the attorneys and embeds a sense of greater purpose.” 

Through firm leadership’s encouragement and Lipton’s guidance and teachings, several of the firm’s attorneys have become very actively involved with the growing movement towards professionalism and civility.

Eleventh Judicial Circuit’s Local Professionalism Panel

Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell partners Joshua Lerner and Myron Shapiro were appointed to the inaugural Eleventh Judicial Circuit’s Local Professionalism Panels in and for Miami-Dade County.  Orlando associate Patrick Delaney was elected for a one year term to the Ninth Judicial Circuit’s Professionalism Panel.

The Florida Supreme Court Administrative Order enacted Local Professionalism Panels in each circuit across the state to hear and resolve professionalism complaints at the local level. The panels, which took effect in September 2014, receive, screen and act upon complaints of unprofessional conduct and work to improve professionalism by providing an informal educational process to address conduct inconsistent with the Standards of Professionalism and Civility. The panels are meant to act as a tool for promoting professionalism and providing learning opportunities for attorneys to understand the standards before a situation arises into a more serious issue. The rulings of the Panel are published on the websites for The Dade County Bar Association and The Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court.

Professionalism Talks and RKC Walks the Walk

As part of Rumberger’s focus on professionalism, the firm hosts a speaker series where members of the legal community, clients and other community leaders are invited to attend and address a variety of issues relating to professionalism and civility. The speaker series strives to provide a forum for legal professionals throughout the community to gather and discuss or exchange ideas, aspirations, issues, concerns, calls for actions, and initiatives with regards to professionalism, civility, and ethics.  For example, RKC invited John T. Berry, The Florida Bar's Legal Division Director,  to address the importance of civility and professionalism in the everyday practice of law.  The firm also hosted an event for Dade Legal Aid's Leadership Academy during which Paul Lipton addressed the fellows and others in attendance about essential leadership qualities.  Many of the presentations are shared via video conferences with each of Rumberger’s offices throughout Florida and in Alabama.

 “With Paul’s [Lipton] help, the firm has taken great steps in motivating our younger attorneys to get involved and be enthusiastic about their practice,” says Frank Sheppard, RKC’s Managing Partner.  “A year after Paul joined the firm, we have expanded the initiative to create programming in other cities in Florida and in Alabama that pushes forward the very core messages of our firm culture and promotes professionalism and civility within the legal profession.”

Professionalism Expectations

The Standards of Professional Courtesy and Civility for South Florida have been posted in the reception area of the Miami office as a reminder to all of the aspirational norms of the profession to be applied in everyday practice.

While Rumberger is blazing a trail towards spreading the word about the importance of professionalism, civility and mentoring, much work remains to be done and steps to be taken in elevating this esteemed and privileged profession.

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