Coffee Talk – The Civility Issue
Coffee Talk is a regular feature of the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine. We ask a short question related to an upcoming theme and responses are then published in the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine.
For this issue of the Contra Costa Lawyer we ask:
How do you deal with incivility from opposing counsel and how you turn it around?
First, channel Michelle Obama: “When they go low, you go high.” If they continue to be uncivil, taking the high road will only positively reflect upon you before judges, arbitrators and juries. Second, ask how you can help them. Although this sounds counter-intuitive as to an uncivil opponent, you may disarm them and they may share what’s actually going on, revealing a productive path ahead. Try it. It works.
During my 43 years of practice, I have run into my share of bullies and bad-mannered practitioners. One tactic that I have used is to bestow a few unexpected words of kindness upon the offender. As difficult as this has been for me to do, it has a quelling effect, and perhaps grants them the validation that they seek in their own personal lives.
–Michael D. Goforth
After tiring and difficult letters, I took OC to lunch to discuss the case. Went very well.
My approach is simple:
1. Make sure counsel does not confuse our kindness and civility with weakness.
2. Make sure counsel understands that s/he is not the judge or the jury.
3. While we can agree to disagree, our office will obtain the evidence our clients are entitled to under the law.
We will work with counsel cooperatively but will not tolerate incivility toward anyone in our office.