Models in Professionalism Are Often Cultural Competency Lessons

In the March 2015 issue of NWLawyer, there are two articles focused on cultural competency. The first is my guest writer for the President’s Corner, Francis Adewale, and the second, called “Know Thy Client,” is by Sims Weymuller.

These articles are both excellent representations of a central trait of cultural competency that is also a central pillar of professionalism in the legal profession. Both cultural competency and professionalism believe that understanding others, exercising empathy and compassion — even when we may disagree on facts and law — provides us the access to understanding how to solve problems.

Both Francis and Sims outline an understanding that highlights what most scholars loosely call the three general ethical principles of cultural competency:

  1. Acknowledge the cultural differences in other people’s lives;
  2. Respect the cultural differences; and
  3. Minimize the negative consequences of cultural differences.

Other scholars, like Travis Adams, describe this in five steps on a continuum of cultural competency.

No matter how you slice it, they all agree that cultural competency is good business, good for clients, and helps us maintain the highest ethical and professional standards.

My thanks to Francis and Sims for great articles, and for reminding us all that empathy and compassion are why we are in the business of serving others.