Diary of a busy practitioner, juggling work and family somewhere in England. This week: dealing with opponents
I’m really struggling with some of my opponents lately. Coming from a non-contentious background, I got out of the habit of having opponents at all really, or dealing with solicitors other than the ones I work with.
There is the guy who seems to think he is an aggressive litigator but is really just an old-style general practitioner having a go. I recently asked him for better copies of some documents because the ones he’s sent are illegible. Rather than just send me new copies, he’s made a comment about how he thinks the first set were fine. Why on earth does he think I would have asked for more?
There is the woman I mentioned a few months ago who wanted me to read, digest and report back to my client on her client’s statement all via my mobile phone on my day off. She has gone on to be aggressive and awkward about everything. This doesn’t improve her client’s chances of success, it just makes my life difficult. And it also makes me worry about the future of feminism and the chances of there ever being a level playing field whilst women like her are trying to throw other women under the bus. Oh, she is a trained mediator apparently. Good luck with that.
Then there is my opponent who is a friend. Having now worked 'against' him, there is a strong possibility he is an ex-friend. I’m pretty much flabbergasted at how a nice, friendly bloke can morph into an obstropolous, mean and difficult character. In the interests of my own anonymity, can I just say that if your name begins with M and you haven’t heard from one of your former colleagues recently, it is because she thinks you are a g*t. In fact, you may wish to know that R, M, P and H are all coming round for a barbecue next month but I didn’t invite you because of the way you have spoken to me in the course of your client’s 1975 Act claim. When the parties instructed us, they were ready to mediate. Nine months on you are still finding excuses not to mediate. You have caused my client and your own to incur extra costs, delay and stress. You can’t just say you are a litigator by day and my friend by night, because you are also one human being who should treat people- your client, my client, me- how you would wish to be treated yourself. From a career point of view, I will never recommend you to a client or for a job.
Has anyone ever gone wrong, in litigation, by co-operating, being firm but fair, talking to the other side and working out the middle ground? What is the point of this aggressive manner? Are you trying to scare me? Trust me when I say I have the fiercest three year old in the West. My brother once said 'I wouldn’t pick a fight with her in a pub' and I have to live with her every day. It will take a lot more than rudeness to scare me.
I saw a solicitor in action recently who was trying to settle a claim at mediation. The other side suddenly said they couldn’t settle because they needed their insurer’s agreement and they weren’t able to get it. The solicitor, who had been well-prepared, calm and articulate throughout, and who clearly knew his stuff, very politely threw his toys out of his pram. Suddenly the insurer’s agreement was forthcoming and the matter settled. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be arguing, or sticking up for our clients, or being firm, of course I’m not. I’m just saying don’t be a g*t.