The Uncivil Litigator: Stories of Lawyers Behaving Badly
Article Date: Monday, April 09, 2012
Written By: Matthew A. Cordell
A friend told me the story of one of her first encounters with an opposing counsel who failed to demonstrate the profession's values of civility, collegiality and professionalism. At the outset of what was otherwise a routine commercial dispute, the opposing attorney immediately began to inflict distress on her by ridiculing her over the telephone, hanging up on her, and sending passive-aggressive email messages. This distressed my friend, then a new lawyer, greatly. After beginning to lose sleep and her appetite because of the stress, she approached a more experienced attorney within the firm seeking advice.
After listening to the young attorney carefully, the senior attorney sat silently for a moment before reaching into her desk. She retrieved a Q-tip® cotton swab from a drawer and handed it to the young attorney. She then related that the Q-tip® had been given to her years ago when she was a young attorney in a similar position. The point, she explained, was this:
“An uncivil lawyer’s bad behavior is a reflection of her own shortcomings, not yours. You must decide to Quit Taking It Personally. If you can do that, the rest will resolve itself.”
Years later, my friend still keeps a Q-tip® on her desk as a reminder never to internalize another lawyer's boorish behavior. •
Matt Cordell practices in the banking, corporate and securities areas with Ward and Smith, P.A.
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