The practice of law represents a constant lesson in human nature. Clients oftentimes visit with us amid difficult personal and financial situations. Our job is to counsel our clients through tough times and provide them with logical options for the future. The process is not always easy. Oftentimes, the underlying situation involves a heated dispute with another party – a business partner, a family member, a contractor, etc. When the going gets tough, a skilled attorney stays cool, collected, and treats the opposing side with dignity and respect. There is a certainly a time to aggressively and zealously fight it out in court. At the same time, attorneys who exhibit behind the scenes restraint generally leave more money in their client’s pocket at the end of the day. This approach is called professionalism.
This Albert Einstein quote hangs on the wall of my office: “More the Knowledge Lesser the Ego, Lesser the Knowledge More the Ego …” I have had two recent conversations with attorneys who bear this principle out into real world dollars. One attorney called me last week and started screaming over the phone from the word go. I literally put the phone down to give my ear a break before I could even tell which case the lawyer was calling about. The lawyer on the other end of the phone just wanted to puff-up and would not listen to logic. If he had listened to logic, the lawyer could have avoided an expensive dispute by reading his statute book and pursuing a simple resolution. Instead, the parties are headed to court unnecessarily. C’est la vie. Another conversation in the last week demonstrates the value of the opposite, professional approach. Lawyers in our firm have worked with opposing counsel previously. Everyone believes that the lawyers at the table are reasonable. Our respective clients are at complete odds in their dispute. Settlement appears far away. In light of this dynamic, the attorneys are calmly discussing how to move through the lawsuit, identifying areas of agreement, and adding efficiencies to the dispute resolution process. Although this dispute is likely headed toward a contentious dispute in court, both sides will incur lower legal fees as a result of behind the scenes restraint.
North Carolina attorneys are governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct. An excerpt from the Rules’ Preamble lies at the heart of this article’s premise: “Although a matter is hotly contested by the parties, a lawyer should treat opposing counsel with courtesy and respect. The legal dispute of the client must never become the lawyer’s personal dispute with opposing counsel … The legal system provides a civilized mechanism for resolving disputes, but only if the lawyers themselves behave with dignity.” All of the attorneys at HSLC remain mindful of this goal and constantly strive to meet its expectations. Thousands of disputes have convinced us that this approach is not only professional, but also profitable for our clients.
– Chad J. Cochran