Since I first considered going to law school more than ten years ago, I have been interested in litigation. The idea of arguing in court and participating in trials really attracted me. I know that from the beginning of my legal career, I have been mainly engaged in litigation matters. When I first conveyed to several practicing lawyers that I wanted to become a litigation lawyer, they said I was too good at litigation. Indeed, some of my earliest mentors in the legal profession told me that a good litigant must be ruthless, and a person with civil and compassion is not a good quality litigant. However, in my own experience, good litigants are the first to complete, and litigants can benefit from being polite and courteous towards opponents and other people interacting with them.
The main reason a good litigant is better than a rude litigant is that similar litigants can build better relationships with opponents, witnesses, and other people involved in the litigation process. Before the case is submitted to the judge and jury, the vast majority of lawsuits are settled through settlements. Resolving a case usually requires the lawyers involved in the case to get along well with each other. This is especially true if the parties themselves are in poor conditions, because their lawyers can engage in dialogue to resolve the issue amicably. If the lawyers on this matter do not get along, it is likely that mediation or judicial intervention will be required, which may be costly. People don’t want to resolve litigation in a convulsive way. Being friendly to opponents can help lawyers get the best results for their clients.
In addition, etiquette is an important part of litigation. Throughout the litigation process, lawyers often request extensions, provide courtesy copies, notify cases and other favorable conditions. If one party is rude to another lawyer, then the possibility of another lawyer offering comity will be greatly reduced, which will make litigation easier.
Sometimes, politeness is more important than the legal arguments that lawyers may raise in litigation. For example, I have engaged in large-scale infringement cases. During this period, if one party is appointed in a testimony, it is difficult for the defendant to withdraw the lawsuit. However, during the years of litigation in these cases, the defense attorneys like me at the time knew the plaintiff’s attorneys relatively well, so we established rapport with many of them. This friendly relationship is very important for receiving notifications about when and where deposits occurred and which cases involved specific defendants.
Once, based on a relatively complicated bankruptcy argument, I asked the plaintiff’s lawyer to fire one of my clients. Although the lawyer could have brought the case to court and might even win the lawsuit, the lawyer eventually persuaded the client to dismiss my defendant from the case. This may be due to the good relationship between me and the lawyer. The amount of the litigation is smaller than you think, so if you have earned the reputation of a polite lawyer, it may lead you to follow other litigations, and you may participate in them later in your career.
Of course, in some cases, it is difficult to be polite to opponents in litigation. Sometimes customers are so dissatisfied with their opponents that they refuse to let you extend the courtesy of the suit. Of course, in this case, the lawyer may need to accept the wishes of his client, but I always try to explain the impact of the extended courtesy on the case.
Once, I filed a lawsuit on behalf of a client, and the client refused to let me extend the time for the opponent to answer the complaint. I explained that we are working hard to resolve the issue, and extending the defense time will give us more time to negotiate before the defendant needs to spend legal resources, which may make them less willing to resolve the issue. The customer finally agreed to the extension, and we resolved the issue shortly thereafter. Of course, in other cases, it is more difficult to persuade customers to extend courtesy, but in most cases, it is usually beneficial to explain the value of courtesy in litigation.
Of course, if it is necessary to improve the interests of clients, all litigation lawyers need to be prepared for ruthless litigation. Indeed, I am not afraid to “take off my shirt” and lash out at opponents who act cautiously or rashly in the lawsuit. However, usually only after lawyers are provoked by unethical opponents do they need to escalate in order to maintain a moral high position and give polite opportunities.
All in all, there is an old saying: “Honey attracts more flies than vinegar.” So I am not sure why so many people think that effective litigants need to be ruthless and cautious. In my experience, kindness and civility can bring many benefits to litigants and their clients. Of course, if provoked by opponents, litigants must be prepared for battle, but in most cases, good people will complete the litigation first.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of… Rothman Law Firm, Is a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm.He is also the founder of Student Debt Diary, A website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can contact Jordan via the following email: email@example.com.