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William C. Altreuter
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Thursday, February 09, 2006

These days it's unusual for me to wake up in the middle of the night remembering something I'd forgotten to do, but it does still happen sometimes, and it happened to me last night. I'm in the middle of working out an arbitration with a lawyer I've known for twenty years, but hadn't seen in probably ten years. The course of the litigation has gone pretty congenially-- I removed the case to federal court to get it out of the building where he is every day, but he never groused, and has been a perfect gentleman at every turn. We took a stab at mediation, and when that didn't work we worked out a plan to arbitrate that both our clients were happy with. Yesterday I roughed out a stipulation, and at 2:30 (I checked my watch) I awoke with the realization that I had left out an important concession. Today he faxed back some suggestions, including the point in question, and I called him to confirm that omitting it had been inadvertent on my point. "I woke up last night and thought of it," I told him. "So, you're losing sleep over this?" he replied. "No, no," I said, I went right back to sleep. I'm not that worried about it." "You went back to sleep after you took a piss," he replied, "That's why you woke up in the first place," confirming my belief that he knows exactly what my priorities are.

I've been thinking about this case in contrast with another I'm handling because the two matters are a study in contrasting approaches to professionalism. In the companion matter my adversary is a lawyer I have known for a comparable period. I have had many cases with this cat, and although I respect his abilities, I am struck by the way he turns everything into a clash of personalities. Phone calls go unanswered, and are terminated when he abruptly hangs up. Arguments made are rebutted by asserting that they are "misrepresentations". Everything is a snarl with this guy, and it can be frustrating, to say the least. I'm sure it is more miserable to be him than it is to deal with him, though, and for whatever it is worth, it doesn't seem to yield him better results than he would get if he were just as skilled and less of a puke. Funny how it goes-- I try to enjoy the work, and I think that's the biggest part of why I do. It's not such a bad way to make a living-- so why act like it is?

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