I recently wrote about the differences of advocating and counseling for your client and wins and losses. I figured to piggyback off those topics I would write about your ability to communicate with opposing counsel.
I find that in family law cases too often attorneys get so emotionally involved in their client’s position (or whatever other reason) they don’t look at the family as a whole or the bigger picture. Instead, they try to flex their muscles: either to try an intimate opposing counsel and/or to try to show off to their client. This often results in attorneys slinging insults directly at the other side in written correspondence or even in pleadings.
But what does this accomplish? Nothing productive. And it doesn’t make anyone involved feel better. More and more, professionalism, courtesy and respect are tossed aside so an an attorney can appear “zealous” advocating for a client and/or stroke their own ego. Technology doesn’t help the situation, as attorneys can hide behind a computer screen.
All of this unfortunate, not only for the practice of law but also for the clients. More likely than not, the parties in litigation do not think fondly of one another, and the trust between them is probably low. If you add in the attorneys fighting with one another, it becomes a bomb just waiting to explode.
What I have found is the attorneys who are able to work well together and pick up the phone and talk once in a while are the ones who can arrive at an outcome that is as fair as it possibly can be for all involved.
At the end of the day, I would hope that all attorneys reading this would agree that we not only strive for the best results for our clients but also to make our clients as happy as they possibly can be. Do you think a client will be happy to pay you to sling insults back and forth with opposing counsel, instead of obtaining a fair resolution, with the least amount of time, attorneys’ fees, and uncertainty?
Whenever I get into a case where there is already an attorney in the other side, the first thing I always do, no matter if I know the attorney or not, is call the attorney to introduce myself and let them know I am entering my appearance for my client. I find that this one phone call, no matter how short, increases the chances of the case resolving without contentious (or too-contentious) litigation.
So, before writing the next scathing email or motion to the court, pick up the phone and have a civil (and hopefully productive) conversation with opposing counsel. Or, at a minimum, before hitting the send, think to yourself: Is the commentary really necessary? Is it productive? If your answer to either one of those questions is “no,” then perhaps delete the commentary.
What do you do to try to reduce the already contentious nature that the parties may have toward one another?