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We deal with difficult people everywhere, really. At work, we may have to deal with difficult people as co-workers, as customers, as vendors, and as bosses, just to name a few.
Difficult people come in all shapes and sizes. The street bully is the difficult person who yells and throws insults to get his or her way. The silent killer uses passive-aggressive tactics to wage wars based on sabotage. In this post, the author of a recent LexisNexis® Legal Newsroom | Labor and Employment Law Blog article focuses on the person who pushes his or her way around like a bull in a china store and expects everyone to jump into action at his or her command.
The ABA Journal asked its readers how they deal with difficult people of a particularly difficult variety – opposing counsel in litigation. As a general rule, the author of this article had very positive relationships with opposing counsel, but that said, “there certainly have been times when I have had to deal with a lawyer on the other side who, it seems to me, insists on being unreasonable or who routinely uses bully tactics in an effort to get his or her way. These interactions trouble me a great deal and, unfortunately, tend to change the way the case is litigated. Perhaps it is because this happens so infrequently (thank goodness), that I have given these bullies a good deal of thought once the interaction or case is over.”
There are a few mantras that recommended to “do my best to remember when getting screamed at by another lawyer or having to deal with a lawyer who uses threats as strategy. I share them here both as a reminder to myself and in the hopes that readers may be able to put them to use in their time of need.”
Mean people are scared people. If my opposing counsel is yelling, that means he or she is scared of something said (either already said or potentially said).
A lawyer who can't control his temper can't control his case. If opposing counsel spends hours writing lengthy letters and multiple emails filled with ridicule and scathing commentary, he or she is not spending his time preparing his case, reviewing the facts, or coming up with new legal arguments and strategy.
Sticks 'n stones may break my bones (and even hurt my feelings), but they won't affect my client's case. At the end of the case, nasty comments and raised voices are irrelevant. The outcome of the case--whether by settlement, by verdict, or by judicial decision--will not include a scorecard of baseless accusations made or declare a winner for worst-mannered, most uncivil lawyer. The case will be decided on the application of the law to facts, as argued by the more effective lawyer, so it's best not to focus on anything else.