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The civil in civil litigation

October 19, 2012

Here’s the plain simple truth: effective client advocates act with integrity. Resorting to tricks, deceptions, abusive language, bullying, last minute tactics and the like does not make you a great lawyer. It actually means you are a [insert four letter word here].

Thank you to Marie Henein, for her call for civility at the Bar, in her contribution to Precedent Magazine’s Big Ideas section:

“While civility is an important aspect of advocacy, professionalism and credibility, it does not make you less of a fighter, less fearless or less vigorous an advocate. When Winston Churchill sent a letter to the Japanese ambassador announcing war upon Japan, he ended it with: “I have the honour to be, with high consideration, Sir, Your obedient servant.” When criticized, Churchill said this about his unfailing civility even in the midst of a war: “Some people did not like this ceremonial style. But after all, when you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite.” Fight and vigorous advocacy are not anathema to civility.”

I regularly hear from litigators about the painful machinations and bullying behavior of opposing counsel. The litigators I knows are lawyers lawyers. They are highly skilled advocates and are respected by the judiciary and their colleagues. They get to the best result for their clients while treating opposing counsel with civility. They are civil litigators in both senses of the word. Regrettably they are at risk of being outnumbered by the bullies.

I applaud Henein for her article and recommend to the legal bloggers, writers, educators, and practitioners that we continue speaking out for the benefits of civility and the ills of bullying tactics.

Next time a client tells you they are looking for a bulldog remember this:

“According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) a Bulldog’s “disposition should be equable and kind, resolute and courageous (not vicious or aggressive), and demeanor should be pacific and dignified. These attributes should be countenanced by the expression and behavior.”

The prize winning bulldogs are dignified and resolute. The snarling and snapping members of the breed are neutered.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 19th, 2012 at 2:01 pm and is filed under Client Relations, Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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