Beyond Your Law Degree: Dealing with an Antagonistic Opposing Counsel

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In law school, the lawyers I was fortunate to get to know were all helpful, ethical, and professional.  Thus, you can understand why I was stunned when my initial conversation with an opposing counsel began with attacking my client and my ability as a lawyer, and ended with screaming at me.  I thought this was an anomaly but a few weeks later I encountered a similar conversation.  These conversations made me wonder if I had a personality defect.  However, many of my peers shared their similar experiences.   One such experience included an encounter where a veteran litigator proceeded to demean and attack a peer of mine  in court and in front of the judge.  As my law partner stated– it’s a tactic, often referred to as a “Rambo” attorney.

Is that what new and young lawyers have to look forward to – becoming an antagonistic and bullying lawyer?

My answer – NO.  As a young or new lawyer it is easy to fall into the mindset of “this is how it works” and adjust accordingly.  But when we took our Oath we swore to “honestly demean” ourselves in the practice of law, as did all lawyers.  Additionally, Rule 4.4 (a) of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct states that ”in representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person.”  

Sadly not all lawyers whole-heartedly embrace the ethical and professional standards of the legal industry.  But that does not mean we have to meet them at their level.  The next time you encounter a “Rambo” attorney, don’t engage in their antagonistic or ugly banter, just kindly remind them of their Oath and Rule 4.4(a).  After all,  as the future of the legal industry,  if we don’t uphold the ethical and professional standards, who will?

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One Response to “Beyond Your Law Degree: Dealing with an Antagonistic Opposing Counsel”

  1. Peter Feldman 30. Oct, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    Also – some attorneys behave that way towards secretaries and other staff. There’s simply no excuse, and firms that harbor these individuals should take appropriate action — yes, even if it’s an equity partner.

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