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Tips for Handling Lawyer Bullies

For lawyers, it's nearly a guarantee: if you practice, at some point in your career, you'll deal with a bully -- or, if you're unlucky, a few hundred bullies. It's simply unavoidable.

However, how you react and respond to bullying can be career defining, career breaking, or just be down-right frustrating. Below, you can find a few of the best tips on how to deal with different types of bully lawyers.

Working for a Jerk?

If your bully is your boss, unless you somehow thrive off being bullied, you might want to start job hunting. But, if you work for a large firm that has an HR department, you can go that route, but you still might not have much recourse, or protection, if you file a complaint, or even bring the subject up. Unfortunately, the legal market still isn't strong enough for bullied associates to not be pragmatic, though putting your health and safety should definitely come first.

Adversary as Bully

When your bully is an adversary, this is where you can really put the screws to them and really kill them with professional courtesy. AboveTheLaw has compiled an impressive list of tips for dealing with an opposing counsel that's trying to bully you. Perhaps the best tip provided is to "productively procrastinate." This entails waiting until the end of the day, or right before you're going to be unavailable, before sending an email to that bully adversary, and to keep communication between you two in writing, and on your own timeline. Letting a bully control your time is letting the bully win.

That Bully Colleague

When your bully is a coworker, or colleague, it can be a different type of challenge to get it to stop. If you've tried talking it out, or having another coworker mediate, without any success, you might be left with no other option but the nuclear route. 

One way to get coworker bullying to stop is to start openly documenting the conduct, and when asked, explain that you plan to report them to your state bar for their repeated unprofessional conduct. Sure, that's low, but so is being a bully. Just make sure you're not being overly sensitive and that the bullying conduct is actually actionable before you start openly documenting it. If it is, hopefully the fact that you've explained your plan will put an end to the conduct and you won't actually have to follow through on snitching.

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