A couple of weeks ago, I left the courtroom after a contentious hearing only to overhear opposing counsel bloviating, quite loudly, to her client about my litigation strategy. Reeling, I walked over to opposing counsel and requested that she refrain from disparaging another lawyer in the vestibule of the courtroom in earshot of other members of the profession. Suffice it to say, opposing counsel did not accede to my request and continued her diatribe.
The encounter affected the rest of my day, as I had never experienced such incivility personally, more or less professionally. My mental space was consumed with the effect the encounter would have on my reputation and on my confidence as a litigator. But upon further reflection — after using mindfulness techniques to examine my own ego — I realized that I could not take things so personally if I wanted to excel in my professional life as a litigator.
If one sentence could define mindfulness for an attorney it’s this: The challenge is to care about the outcome of a situation yet maintain distance and objectivity to forestall unnecessary stress. For me, in practice, this means reacting to aggression with neutrality and maintaining a sense of calm.
With this newfound mindset, going to court has become less anxiety-inducing and the workday has become more manageable. Now, when I am confronted with an aggressive opposing counsel, I’ve been gratified to let my failure to be intimidated or to engage in game-playing carry the day. For new lawyers especially, the most important thing you can do for your client, your productivity and your peace of mind is to keep your composure, continue to extend courtesies and don’t take anything personally!
Maureen Edobor is an associate with Goldberg Segalla, LLP in Baltimore.