f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

August 23, 2003

An Article for That Special Lawyer (You?)

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 4:43 pm

A lot of law office staffers would love to send this month’s LexisOne ShrinkRap column to a “special” lawyer they know.  Entitled Avoiding Incivility in Litigation, it’s written by Joni Johnston, Psy.D. (August 2003).   (via the ABA Litigation Section homepage)

Dr. Johnson notes that “Given a choice, most of us clearly would choose to do good.”   However she asks:

So why don’t we? We often feel like the system stacks the odds against us. We can point the finger in a lot of different directions, the culture of law firms, the adversarial nature of our judicial system, the rewards of playing hardball, or the inflated expectations of clients. The incentives to act combatively, selfishly, or inefficiently can be compelling. Yet the results can be disastrous. Deals blow up. Cases don’t settle. Expenses escalate. Reputations suffer. Court dockets jam up. Commitments fall apart. Justice is delayed. And relationships are damaged.

The article describes some of the sources of lawyer stress and incivility, and offers some good tips on dealing with stress.  Along the way, we read about lawyers who engage in “just” behavior — just becoming monsters when a trial is going on or a critical transaction is at stake.  Dr. Johnson asserts (correctly) that “We can be civil when we’re aggressive, upset, angry and intimidating; we just don’t have to be rude. She concludes with the reminder:

The practice of law has been described as hockey while wearing suits. If it is, we can take heart from the best hockey players. They, like the best lawyers, treat other players fairly and with civility. And they win without resorting to cheap shots.

Yep, a lot of staffers would love to send this article to a lawyer they know.   But, it’s hard for them to do it without jeopardizing their careers.   So, why don’t we attorneys email it to ourselves, give it a lot of thought, and let our staff know we’ve read it and plan to put it into action.  Today (well, on Monday).  That would be special. 


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