Civility

* So, this happened over the weekend: Anonymous hacked the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s website and is threatening to release government secrets about the DOJ (and possibly all nine of our Supreme Court justices) unless the legal system is reformed. [CNET]

* A spoonful of sugar makes the lawyering go down? Apparently the best way to remind lawyers that they need to act civilly is through song. Or through Above the Law posts, but we aren’t in the habit of hosting sing-a-longs like the New York Inn of Court did. [Wall Street Journal]

* “[U]nless there are major changes in the legal industry,” law school administrators shouldn’t expect people to apply in droves, especially when they’re now fleeing like rats from a sinking ship. [National Law Journal]

* Arizona’s Supreme Court will allow people to take the bar exam after two years of study, but come on, the justices don’t want to jump the shark by allowing online law grads take the test, too. [East Valley Tribune]

* Tim Tebow got to trademark Tebowing, so why shouldn’t Colin Kaepernick get to trademark Kaepernicking? All the San Francisco 49ers quarterback wants to do is sell some inevitably overpriced t-shirts. [NBC Bay Area]

* An appeals court threw out two of Casey Anthony’s convictions, but her legal drama is far from over. The ex-MILF filed for bankruptcy to escape nearly $1 million in liabilities, including Jose Baez’s legal fees. [CNN]

Why do so many people think that you must be a blowhard to be an effective litigator?

I’ve recently heard several tales of business folks (or in-house lawyers) worrying that outside counsel is not aggressive enough. What prompts the concern is the lawyer’s performance during a conference call or at a meeting: The lawyer is civilized. The lawyer speaks quietly, asks probing questions, gives intelligent advice, and appears to be an effective advocate.

After the meeting, one of the participants says: “Are you sure we should use that guy? He doesn’t seem very aggressive.”

Remarkably (at least to me), I’ve heard the same thing at law firms. I’ve heard transactional lawyers wonder about litigators who are calm and intelligent at the lunch table: “He’s such a nice guy. I’m not sure I’d trust him in court.”

What’s my reaction? On the one hand, we can’t ignore perceptions. If a lawyer is so low-key that he doesn’t inspire confidence, then that is a legitimate concern. If I don’t trust the lawyer who’ll represent me at trial to defend me during a vigorous cross-examination, then that’s a real issue; we shouldn’t hire that lawyer. Confidence matters.

On the other hand, if the concern is simply that the litigator is not a blowhard — the lawyer speaks quietly and intelligently during business meetings, where there’s no need for bluster — then I have a very different reaction. In fact, I have three reactions:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Is Our Lawyer Aggressive Enough?”

Andrew Shirvell: Photoshopportunity?

* SCOTUS halted Duane Buck’s execution in Texas last night. How did it take 16 years for this to happen? Slow and steady doesn’t win the race on death row. [CBS News]

* Casey Anthony owes the state of Florida a pretty penny. At this rate, she may as well go to law school, because she’s already $97,626.98 in the hole. [CNN]

* New lawyers in Florida must take civility pledges. If they’re treating each other with such incivility, why haven’t we seen any benchslaps from that state lately? [ABA Journal]

* The U.S. Trustee has thrown a curveball at two Biglaw firms in the Dodgers bankruptcy case. Will Dewey & LeBoeuf and Young Conaway ever get paid? [Bloomberg]

* You’re so vain, you probably think this movie’s about you. Sorry guys, you may be a few good men, but to be Tom Cruise, you have to be good-looking and have a passion for Xenu. [New York Times]

* Andrew Shirvell has to spill the beans on whether Ave Maria had to warn the state bar about his conduct. Apparently the man’s got great gaydar. Wonder why… [Detroit Free Press]


I have a confession to make.

Most of my friends are lawyers. Forrealz. To be sure, an increasing number of them, like me, no longer practice. But most of them still do, and I still like hanging with them.

When I would go to Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, or the federal district court across the channel in Southie, I would bump into classmates or colleagues more often than not. Later in my practice, it became increasingly common that I would already be friends with my opposing counsel. Some lawyers don’t like litigating against their friends, but I always did. It made it easier to get things done, and you didn’t have to waste time with unnecessary gamesmanship.

If you already had a level of trust with your opposing counsel, you could skip all the silly things that slow down litigation and make it more unpleasant. Discovery disputes, for example, drop down to zero. Settlement talks start sooner and are more meaningful. Extension requests are automatically given. Cases get resolved faster and easier.

But do you know who doesn’t like it when opposing lawyers are friendly with each other?

Find out who — plus big news about this column — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: A Civil Practice”

Have you ever noticed that some lawyers become different people when they get in front of a keyboard?

It’s like a Jekyll-and-Hyde kind of thing. They might be perfectly pleasant individuals in real life, capable of warmth or at least civility to their fellow human beings. But get them in front of a computer with a law-firm template on the screen, and they turn into some sort of lawyerly unmanned drone.

Most lawyers, especially junior lawyers, have an idea about what a lawyer letter is supposed to look like. It generally has fancy lawyerly words like “pursuant to,” and it usually includes lawyerly weirdnesses like parenthetically writing numbers in figures after having just spelled out the numbers in words (“If we do not receive a response for you and/or your counsel in five (5) days …”), and it almost always contains threats about Very Bad Things happening. And they tend to be uniformly douchey.

But here are four (4) reasons why lawyer letters are less effective than phone calls.…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: The Problem with Lawyer Letters”