Myths about what a lawyer ‘should’ be: Aggressive, Controlling, Tough v. Assertive, Open to Discussion, Respectful and Creative Problem Solver.
The Federation of Law Societies and CBA study by Dr. Natalie Cadieux, Psychological Determinants of Mental Health in the Legal Profession found that incivility and bullying is happening, and the greatest culprits are: other lawyers. Judges are there too, but other lawyers are the main source. What is going on?
Traditional adversarial approaches can easily feed into toxic conflict and increase stress.
There is a persistent idea, long entrenched for generations, about the tough bulldog lawyer. The aggressive intimidating fighter, ready to duke it out in the judicial ring. A letter from such a litigator to opposing counsel, demanding and threatening. The client thinking this lawyer is really “fighting for them”. The opposing counsel feeling stressed, a heightened fight response is the most likely response – not the desired outcome of quickly giving into settlement demands rather than go up against this gladiator. Surely being tough is the only way people will respect you?
Lawyers get so much more done by treating others with respect, being open to hearing the other side, looking at big picture solutions that are cost effective, and keeping the overall interests of the clients balanced and informed by law and equity, as the goal. Responding to each other, picking up the phone, having online meetings get the job done. Not by false posturing, not by manipulative tactics nor bullying, and not by ignoring the other counsel. Working respectfully together towards settlement is more cost effective than litigation, and better for the clients.
Not only is this better for clients but this is better for lawyers. Good lawyers can work together respectfully and efficiently to help clients to resolve their legal matters, and can enjoy doing so when everyone is respectful and not personalizing their client’s issue. When we treat each other well, there is space for productive discussion, egos aside, results achieved, and the lawyers can trust each other as colleagues, and may even become friends.