Wednesday, November 26, 2014

More on Lawyer Civility

On Tuesday I had to share a silly letter that I got from opposing counsel threatening "sanctions" over the stupidest thing.  It is my sincere belief that lawyers, particularly lawyers in big firms, try to justify and even inflate their bills by picking stupid fights with their opposing counsel.

Then today I get an form email from the Northern District of California basically slamming their lawyers over the same thing. There's a very interesting quote attributed to Chief Judge Claudia Wilken:
“The bench and bar have long bemoaned the decline in civility in federal litigation, especially on the civil side. This year, the court decided to tackle the problem by taking concrete action. After much discussion and a great deal of input from the bar, we promulgated the Guidelines for Professional Conduct for the Northern District of California. The guidelines set forth best practices for attorneys to follow and to cite when litigating cases in our court. While they do not carry the force of rules, our judges expect attorneys to adhere to them.”
There is no mention of my theory that lawyers pick fights just to protract litigation and inflate their bills. But maybe that's just something judges don't like to admit in public.

I'm glad this issue is getting extra attention. I don't want to say "now" because I think it's been getting a lot of attention for a long time.

Perhaps it's my own demeanor, but I don't enjoy working an in area where nearly everyone you work with is constantly threatening you. And I'd be willing to bet the legal industry is alone in this. Heck, look even at the UFC where people are paid to bash the hell out of each other. Even there the fighters generally act professionally to each other. Sure, they frequently threaten to bash each other's faces in, but that is their job. You don't see them taking the beatings personally.

In the legal profession, lawyers seem to take winning and losing personally. Like their clients' case is their own case. Maybe that's where the acrimony comes from. And maybe that's why you see it more in younger, less-experienced lawyers. Either way, until we identify the cause, I don't see this issue going away.