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Dealing With Difficult Opposing Counsel

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 27, 2017 3:59 PM

The toughest lawyer I ever met had the credentials to prove it.

In college, he was a Golden Gloves boxing champ. He got knocked down one time, but got back up and knocked out his opponent.

He didn't go directly to law school, taking time to explore a career in rodeo first. That's right, he jumped on wild horses and bulls because he enjoyed the ride.

But this man was also the most civil and respectable attorney I ever met -- and very successful in the courtroom. That's because being "tough" does not mean being difficult.

Respect Your Opponent

Not that boxing or busting broncos has anything to do with law practice, but they do have something to do with a professional approach. In each of these endeavors, it is supremely important to approach your opponent with respect.

Even if your opponent doesn't seem to merit respect, you need to be on guard. In boxing, they say the punch that knocks you out is the one you don't see coming.

But if your adversary chooses to sucker-punch you or otherwise violate the rules of civil behavior, you might want to think about your defense and offense again.

Check Your Attitude

Kara Lowentheil, writing for Above the Law, says that when an opponent riles you, it's time to rethink your strategy. It's about looking at your adversary or your own attitude differently.

"You just have to change the way you're thinking," she says.

Of course, we have all met that attorney who defies any Jedi mind-tricks. So the best defense may be a good offense. Randall Ryder, writing for the Lawyerist, says sometimes you have to punch a bully in the mouth.

"Standing up to a bully does not mean physically intimidating opposing counsel," he says. "It means taking a deep breath and figuring out how to turn the tables."

Stand Up to the Bully

Usually, it's best to step away from petty conflicts but you may have to ask the court to intervene if it is to protect your client. A good lashing from a judge tends to calm those savage beasts.

In the rodeo, they call 'em "union animals." That's a horse or steer that bucks around until it hears the whistle, then quits.

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