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Be Reasonable

A young lawyer friend recently called me seeking advice. He is getting ready for trial and his opposing counsel had accused him of improper/unethical conduct.

My friend was angry - and I don't blame him. To say the charge was misplaced would be giving the other lawyer too much credit.

My counsel was sought.

That happens when you're an old guy like me.

The issue which created the dispute was actually a non-issue. My friend was quite willing to give the other side what it wanted. If a simple straight up request had been made, it would have been accommodated. Instead, as many in our profession are prone to do, the other lawyer took a more oblique approach. Apparently, he assumed someone was up to something and was quick to jump to conclusions.

Guess what? Misunderstanding ensued and the other side fired off its ugly after hours message.

I told my friend just to move on. It would be okay to tweak the opposing counsel a bit, but there was nothing worth fighting about. His client's interests were not impacted by giving the other side what they wanted.

Often, lawyers go to war with each other over matters that have no real impact on anyone's clients.

Doing so is always a waste.

(Not that I haven't been guilty at times of such counter-productive behavior...)

Two lessons:

* Just ask for what you want. Don't assume you have to do it indirectly because you can't expect the other side to be reasonable. Avoid the unforced errors that come with simple misunderstandings.

* Unless there is some concern which might adversely impact the client's interests, walk away from fights - even when the other side is being a complete ass. Don't get mad.

Default to being reasonable. You'd be surprised how often it actually works.

As a general rule, reasonableness beget reasonableness.

If it does not, you can go to Plan B. Sometimes that happens, for sure.

Either way, what matters is what is right for the client.

The lawyer's ego or, worse, machismo, rarely has much to do with what is right for client.


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