Time and time again I am reminded that lawyers are supposed to counsel their clients on the randomly stupid shit that they do to prevent them from getting into trouble. What we need more of is lawyers counseling lawyers on how to react when they have the opportunity to do something stupid. My gut reaction in most of these situations is to (1) swear loudly or (2) point and laugh. Unfortunately this is not always the advisable nor professionally prudent plan of action.
For the purposes of this column, I present you with several real life situations that I have found myself stuck in. I then give you a hint as to what I think I should have done… instead of what I did.
Situation One: The Interview
You are in an interview with a nationally known law firm for a position in their litigation department. The interviewing partner makes a comment that his favorite associate (who is like a daughter to him) just left for a part-time, legal aid job so that she and her husband can start a family. Upon uttering this, you can tell that the lawyer sitting across the table from you wants some acknowledgement that you may be replacing his favorite employee
The improper response: “Women. The nerve. The next thing they are going to want to do is have the right vote.”
The proper response: “It sounds like she’s an impressive attorney that has it all.”
My response: “Woo….(Realizing that my joke is inappropriate mid-word)… ell that’s great to hear”
Situation Two: The Partner Assignment
It is about 2pm and you get a call from supervising partner to come immediately to his office for an assignment. At the moment you receive this call, you are elbows deep in researching and writing a brief that is due at the end of business day. Presently, your brief is rather wordy…all of “NOW COMES the Defendant” but you drop what you are doing and rush to his office. After all, he is your partner. You rush into his office and it appears that he is watching porn on his computer (which he is frantically trying to close without you noticing). After he almost breaks his mouse, he looks up at you and asks if you saved a document to the firm server. “Yes, stored in the Jones file, titled ‘Exhibits’”
At this point, he tells you that he sees that you’ve saved the file on the server. He proceeds to spend the next five minutes, as you stand in front of him, reviewing the document that you saved onto the firm-wide server system not saying anything to you. It is about this point that he looks up at you and says “I am going to need you to rename the file ‘Smith Exhibits’. Please let me know when that is done so that I can send it off to the client.”
The improper response: “Why the f*** aren’t you doing that yourself?”
The proper response: [I am not sure that there is a proper response to this situation]
My response: “Fine” [I use my phone to change the file name as I walk out of the office for a drink]
Situation Three: The Client Email
You are in the midst of a heated litigation process with a handful of parties. Your client feels aggrieved having to deal with the low-brow nature of lawyers, lawsuits and these lying Plaintiffs. Due to the nature of the case, you are required to contact him more than he would like to confirm the odd fact or circumstance that pops up. After a fairly damning series of facts that he was withholding finally comes to light, you send the client an email that boils down to saying “Please let me know if there is anything else I should know”. His response is immediate: “Stop wasting my f***ing time.”
The improper response:”You brought this on yourself, you lying sack of shit”
The proper response: “I would never waste your time and I truly understand your concern, but we are just attempting to control the situation properly so as best to counsel you.”
My response: In three steps: (1) Forward the email to my partner asking if he wants to write the response, (2) turn on Cee Lo Green’s “F*** You” as loud as you can in the office while (3) copying & pasting “Shut up you dumb f***” over and over again in my response email to him (without sending it).
As you can see, my initial reaction is always on the border of inappropriate, likely due to the fact that I never would have thought to had a properly worded, professional response on the tip of my tongue. Here at Bitter Lawyer, we are just trying to make you fellow professionals ready to deal with all eventual situations that you may encounter in the professional world.