Learn how to tolerate certain lawyers you might meet in your career so you can continue your professional relationship.
It’s true that lawyers usually bond over their mutual interest in law and can easily find ways to relate to each other. However, whether you’re working in a big law firm or running your own practice it is possible you may encounter someone you don’t like.
Sometimes it can be difficult to get along with the people and you don’t have to feel guilty if you meet a colleague who rubs you the wrong way. Luckily, there are steps you can take to deal with someone else’s problem behavior so you don’t sour your professional relationship.
Here are the types of lawyers you could meet in your career that you might not be able to stand:
The Distracting Lawyer
Although you do need to develop professional relationships with other lawyers, you also need to get work done and serve your clients. This can sometimes be difficult when one of your coworkers or suitemates is being disruptive.
Making loud personal phone calls, constantly talking and laughing with a colleague next to your office or trying to engage you in conversation at inappropriate times are all behaviors in an office setting that can become distracting.
How to deal with them: Resolving your issues with a disruptive colleague will require a lot of patience of your part. Try to understand that maybe this person doesn’t realize they’re being loud or they have a bad habit of losing themselves in conversation. Yes, it’s inconsiderate, but sometimes people don’t actually intend to be inconsiderate and will become apologetic once you point it out to them.
It’s up to you to be the mature one and politely discuss the situation with them. Communication is your best tool in this situation.
When you approach them, remember to use a friendly, kind tone and do not let them pick up on the fact that you might be irritated. Stay calm and choose your words carefully. People are unlikely to respond well to hostility and you don’t want to create any resentment.
If you’re uncomfortable telling them to keep the noise down, be honest about that. A reasonable person will respect you for trying to talk to them personally and managing to be pleasant about it.
The Unreliable Lawyer
You want to develop relationships with other lawyers so you can seek advice, refer cases to each other or find co-counsel opportunities. It usually takes more than an occasional greeting to build a solid professional relationship with someone so you try to meet up outside of the office or networking events to get lunch or grab coffee. However, for some reason this person always fails to follow through with plans or can never make up their mind.
Maybe this person tells you they have cases they can refer to you, but they never get back to you or keep putting off connecting you to their clients. They simply aren’t acting like a reliable colleague, which can be frustrating when you’ve already put in effort to develop your relationship.
How to deal with them: In this situation, you must try to be understanding. When dealing with this person, it’s important to remember not to take their behavior too personally.
You might be good at communicating, getting back to people and following through with plans, but not everyone is. Some lawyers, even ones in big firms, are still working on their organizational and time management skills. They could be too bogged down with client matters or have something else going on in their personal lives.
One way you can try to pinpoint the root of the problem when talking to them is by bringing up your own struggles with following through (even if you don’t in fact struggle with this). This might prompt them to open up about the issues they’re having and they might surprise you by admitting they can be a flake. If this happens, you can offer them advice or recommend resources to help them change their behavior.
However, it is possible that your relationship with this person will never improve if they continue to maintain poor communication with you and cancel plans. You have to be prepared to distance yourself from your relationship.
Ultimately, it’s their loss because you know you were an important professional connection for them. If they aren’t willing to put in the work to maintain your relationship, then there isn’t much you can do about that.
The Insecure Lawyer
This person is always talking about themselves, never asks you anything about you, always tries to one-up your accomplishments and has a tendency to brag. They’re so busy trying to prove themselves that talking to them feels exhausting.
You don’t have a solid professional relationship because they seem so self-involved. And you don’t want to become close with someone who has such a serious lack of confidence.
How to deal with them: Insecurity is something most people can relate to and we’ve all been guilty of letting it get the best of us at some point in our lives. You can’t change people, but you can change your mindset.
Although it’s understandable to be irritated by this person’s behavior, it’s possible that it will improve over time. Once they get to know you, insecure people start to feel more comfortable and feel less pressure to put on airs.
The Lawyer Who Doesn’t Understand Boundaries
You’re willing to give your colleagues advice and help them with their cases. You’re even willing to become a mentor to a lawyer with less experience; however, you have a limited amount of time you can dedicate to your professional relationship.
This person has a bad habit of asking for too much. They come to you with every little question and feel uncomfortable making a decision unless they get your input. Honestly, you have your client work and you can’t spend every free moment trying to coach them through their cases.
It’s not reasonable for someone to expect you to always be available to them. They often don’t respect your boundaries and don’t understand that there are limitations to how much you can do for them.
How to deal with them: You know from personal experience how difficult it is to be a lawyer who is starting out. You can relate to the fear and uncertainty, which means you should be able to sympathize with this person.
While they do need to learn when it’s appropriate to seek guidance, you can understand that their intention is not to bother you. This doesn’t mean you should permit the behavior to continue; however, you can take steps to help them dial it back.
Be honest about how busy you are and let them know when you’re spread too thin. Tell them you’re more than happy to discuss concerns they have, but you need to get back to them when you have more time.
Offer to schedule a lunch with them once or twice a month so you can give them your full attention. Request that they email you some questions instead of dropping by your office so you can respond to them when you have more free time. Introduce them to some of your other colleagues so they have more people they can seek advice from.
Resist the urge to start telling them “I don’t know” and avoiding contact. You never know when you might need their help for something and you don’t want to ruin a relationship you’ve already invested time in.
Relationship-building with other lawyers isn’t always as easy as you would like it to be. There is a chance your personality could clash with someone else, but you don’t want to let that prevent you from working together in a professional capacity.
You don’t have to be best friends to work together, but you do need to get along. It’s always best to be proactive about managing your professional connections and do everything possible to maintain a pleasant relationship.