This week in Things I Wish I Knew…solo attorney, Joleena Louis tackles the topic of bullying and shines a light on its presence in the legal arena.
Overall, most opposing counsel I have come in contact with have been very professional. We can each zealously represent our clients, yet still treat each other with professional courtesy and respect. However, on more than one occasion I have had to deal with one exception: the legal bully.
I have experienced two types of legal bullies in my career; the most obvious one tends to be very rude, abrasive and overly aggressive. This particular bully made every step of the case difficult and tried to intimidate me at every opportunity.
Then there is the bully that is more passive aggressive with an element of superiority. He or she will not be as loud and may even seem friendly, but is very condescending and attempts to make a person feel less than adequate.
My age, gender, and small stature presents an easy opportunity to be targeted by these types of attorneys. They [mistakenly] assume that I will be easy to intimidate. When I worked for a firm, it was easier to limit my contact with a legal bully as I could ask the partner in charge of the matter to deal with them.
But as a solo attorney, I have had to learn to deal with these bullies on my own, here’s how I like to handle them.As a solo attorney, I have had to learn to deal with bullies on my own Click To Tweet
I Stay Professional
Professionalism is key. A legal bully wants to bring you down to his or her level and ultimately wants you to get upset and engage. The most efficient way to deal with this is to stay calm and professional no matter what happens.
If the bully starts acting inappropriately in person, I stay calm and listen and then restate my question or point. If it escalates, I will let the person know I am walking away and will return when there is less contention; if the person is yelling on the phone, I will tell him or her to either send me an email or call me back when he or she can speak to me in a respectful manner.
Then I simply hang up.
I Call First, Then Email, for Clear Communication
Documenting your communication is essential in handling the matter. I always start with a phone call as opposed to an email first. This negates confusion or possibility of furthering the heated atmosphere. Emails or letters to confirm what was discussed are also an adequate follow-up method.
I Always Try Do The Right Thing
I try to do what I am supposed to do, plain and simple. Know the law, know the facts, and meet your deadlines. Do not give the bully any ammunition to use against you. If you say you are going to do something, keep your word.
The Emotions Created by the Bully Are Real, But Can Be Overcome
Do not give the person too much of your mental or emotional space because it is not worth it. Dealing with a bully in any sense can make a person angry and annoyed. That can bleed into your personal life and in many respects, that is exactly what the bully wants. This person wants you to be worried about his or her presence, whether it is in person or in thought.