Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dahlia Lithwick proposes a contest for the meanest lawyer trick. I object! There are few things more bush-league than this sort of stunt . When you see the messenger bearing the Order to Show Cause on a Friday afternoon you know that you are dealing with a jerk, and for the good of the legal eco-system it is incumbent upon you to (a) crush the jerk; and (b) make good and sure that the jerk's lack of civility is exposed to as large an audience as possible so that this sort of behavior is smacked down good and hard.

Where I mostly practice, in New York's Eighth Judicial District, we call this conduct "a lack of civility" and it is frowned on. If I were to be on the receiving end of a Christmas Eve emergency application, I'd pull the judge into it on the spot, and in nine instances out of ten the offending attorney could expect to get the fisheye-- and I'd get as much time as I want. Sometimes there's nothing to be done about it, and you just have to do the work. When that happens you do the work, but karma is big in our glamour profession, and payback's a bitch. This is even more true, I have found, in New York City, where the legal eco-system is even more finely balanced. Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind-- once you force the other guy to work, he'll make John Henry look like a weekend golfer-- and you'll end up working twice as hard. Lawyers are just as lazy as anyone else, but we didn't get to be lawyers by not knowing how to work-- we can do it, and we can make the other guy work harder if we have to.

I'm sure a lot of people have stories about what jerks they've been. I have a few myself, but we do our profession no good by hyping this sort of thing.

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