The Lawyer Limbo Rock - How Low Will You Go?
Image: Ronda Proudfoot
Recently, I was at a court conference in a breach of contract matter where my adversary and I started getting into an argument.
Certainly, these things are not uncommon for lawyers, but when you're trying to work out some issues in terms of exactly what documents each side is going to need to turn over to the other side, the convention is (assuming there isn't an important issue regarding privileged documents and communications) that the two sides try to act reasonably, accommodate each other, and reach a compromise.
Quite frankly, working these kinds of things out without requiring the court to step in is almost always in the best interest of the client. Simply put, the courts really resent having to mediate these kinds of issues, which makes everyone look like they're back in kindergarten. Naturally, that resentment does nothing to advance a client's interests.
Every once in a while, you come up against someone who is intractable. That's OK too; needlessly unpleasant, but OK.
Then there is the exceptional situation: an adversary who not only won't budge, but pushes his agenda by making factual assertions that are not only untrue, they are demonstrably false.
I confess. When that happened, I lost my cool.
Here's the point:
I understand, and respect, that every lawyer has a job to do, and a client to represent. But that doesn't mean, or entitle, you to lie. In fact, the ethics rules specifically forbid you from doing so - not that you should need that rule on the books to know it's wrong.
And, yes, all the lawyer (pronouncing it "liar") jokes notwithstanding, I am happy to say that this particular incident stood out, because I have encountered relatively few (although it seems like a lot more lately) attorneys willing to go that low for their client.
I also know something else: "karma," if you want to call it that, is interesting; lawyers who act this way have a knack for getting caught at times, and in instances, that are particularly inconvenient (read: expensive) for them.