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"I am Attorney, Hear Me Roar!"

Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion Roar.jpg

No matter our profession - whether we're lawyers, doctors, cops, bus drivers, teachers, accountants, etc. - we all start out rookies. And as rookies, we're bound to make mistakes along the way. Some of our past misadventures will seem all the more embarrassing to us if we grow in wisdom through the years; we remember these goofs and blunders as a lesson learned while hoping that others have forgotten them. We've all been there.

One of the most common mistakes of a rookie attorney is inflexibility. No matter our achievements in law school, the real world is the only operating environment that matters. Shouting, "I am attorney, hear me roar!" at your colleagues across the table doesn't doesn't bring a young lawyer any closer to constructive outcomes in a case. Here are some common variations on that theme drawn from lawyer-to-lawyer negotiations:

  • "Are you saying...?!" Yes, that is what I'm saying. This is the way such matters are usually handled whenever possible - in a civil and collegial fashion, saving everyone the trouble and cost of litigation.
  • "My client would never agree to that!" Okay, we're working on a compromise settlement. What will your client do? Not that? Then what? The answer is silence -our valiant rookie hasn't thought all this through yet.
  • "We're just going to file a lawsuit." Sure. Have you fully apprised what entering into litigation entails? Timing? The costs to your client? The attendant delays in the entire process?
  • "Do you realize a, b, and c?" Yes, I do realize that. That's why we have a dispute between our respective clients. By their nature disputes often involve disagreements over issues of fact and law.
  • "My client is a victim." There are real victims in this world - people hurt by wrongdoing and besieged by poverty, illness, and other evils. Disputes over property and money can sometimes leave real victims in their wake. Yet at other times, fights like these are in fact two adversarial parties contesting rights to certain assets.  

Inflexibility and a contentious attitude toward one's opposite number are not mistaken by anyone in the legal field as a sign of strength and professionalism. Rather, such behavior only hinders a decent compromise between parties and the resolution of a dispute. My advice comes from experience of my own past mis-steps as a young attorney, ones I look back on with a good measure of chagrin. Just as rookie baseball players have their more senior teammates and coaches to help them mature as athletes, so too can we all grow and succeed with a little humility.

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