TBA Law Blog


Posted by: Jason Pannu on Jan 12, 2018

Journal Issue Date: Dec 2018

Journal Name: Vol 54 No 12

We recently witnessed a spike in discourtesy and vulgarity during the November midterm elections. The dirty election campaigns, lack of respect, and even outright hatred were palpable. It is fair to state that incivility is at a crisis point in our society. This incivility has permeated the legal profession in so many ways. As lawyers, we have the opportunity to address the incivility plague that divides our communities. We also must do better to be respectful when dealing with one another as lawyers.

Civility in Our Communities

Recently, at a breakout session I attended at a business conference, the CEO of an insurance company described the new approach his company was taking to address incivility. He decided that, given the political climate, there was no time like the present to address the corporate culture and what his company stood for as an organization. He led a conversation about how his company continually stressed civility and inclusiveness, while acknowledging that some employees held strong political views. The CEO emphasized to his management team that they need to be role models. He said his company did not want any member of the company to feel disrespected, disregarded or excluded because of their political beliefs.

The lessons from the CEO of the insurance company can be applied to our communities. Civility is contagious. Our behavior as lawyers sets the standard for business and social interactions in society. The time is ripe for lawyers, as leaders in our communities, to support and unite our communities by promoting a more civil and inclusive environment. When we emphasize and practice ways to facilitate robust, but civil, discourse about controversial topics, we empower citizens to be constructive and engaged in an increasingly polarized world.

Civility with Other Lawyers

Civility with other lawyers is of paramount importance and is necessary to best serve the interests of justice. Civility is a mind-set that requires us to respect others, remain open-minded and engage in honest analysis and evaluation. We act civilly by understanding our inherent biases, listening carefully to others, recognizing our assumptions, and adhering to the Golden Rule: treating others as one would wish to be treated. For me, there is not much more frustrating than talking with an opposing lawyer who is constantly “reloading” rather than listening.

Civility de-escalates unnecessary conflict, which reduces costs and finds solutions that are in the best interests of justice. This, in turn, benefits a lawyer’s business by creating more satisfied clients. Civility also creates greater job satisfaction and reduces stress, which increases lawyer well-being and mindfulness. I do not understand how those lawyers who are constantly discourteous and uncivil to opposing counsel find satisfaction in their careers.

Let us also not forget that our Rules of Professional Conduct require us to maintain “a professional, courteous and civil attitude toward all persons involved in the legal system.”

So to borrow those immortal words from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure: BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER!

Pannu’s Pairings: Natural Wine

I am drinking more natural wine than any specific appellations at the moment. What is natural wine? There is no universal definition or certification. Natural wine first starts with organic or biodynamic farming in the vineyard and then takes a low intervention winemaking approach in the cellar. That is to say, the process relies on wild yeast for fermentation and no additives, sulfites, or processing aids are used. Further, neither fining nor filtration are used in the winemaking process, which sometimes leads to an off-putting amount of sediment in the bottle for those who are not used to sediment. The end result of this minimal intervention approach is the “natural” taste of the wine.

Without the controls of chemicals, sulfites, industrial yeasts and filtration, natural wines can vary wildly in taste from vintage to vintage, barrel to barrel and even bottle to bottle. Natural wines tend to be lower in alcohol, tannins (for reds) and body, and many possess a subtle “barnyard funkiness” that I find so desirable. These wines are made to drink young and with little contemplation. The French affectionately refer to natural wine as “glou-glou,” which is named for the sound made after being gulped by wine drinkers (what Anglophones would call “glug”). Many natural winemakers eschew the stuffy and complicated appellation classification system and, instead, prefer to have their wines classified as simple table wines.

Natural winemaking is practiced in almost every winemaking region in the world but especially in Italy, Austria and France with the current king of natural wine being France’s Loire Valley. The 11th Arrondissement of Paris is littered with wine bars that focus on natural wine and is where the popularity of natural wine first exploded.

Since there is no legal definition of natural wine, the term can be abused by wine retailers and producers. One must carefully research the producer and winemaking process to determine whether it is truly a natural wine. Legendary wine importer Kermit Lynch was one of the first Americans to focus on importing low intervention wines into the United States. Natural wine production is often tiny, so you tend to not talk about your favorites, just as a fisherman does not like to talk about his/her favorite fishing spots. Some good natural wine producers include Guy Breton (France), Partida Creus (Spain), Christian Tschida (Austria) and Eric Texier (France).

Pairings: Nothing and everything ... there are no rules with natural wines. With their lower alcohol content, many natural wines are great on their own as an aperitif. There are so many different styles of natural wines that it is hard to talk about specific pairings. Experiment with different pairings or consult your friendly sommelier.


JASON M. PANNU is a shareholder in the Nashville office of Lewis Thomason. You can reach him at JPannu@LewisThomason.com. Follow Jason on Twitter @jasonpannu and Instagram @jasonpannu.
PHOTO: Jason M. Pannu, right, with Kermit Lynch at Chez La Vieille in Paris, France.