Stop Training Lawyers to Be Jerks


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This article was originally posted on The Huffington Post. 

As I reflect back on my 10+ years of law practice, I received plenty of advice — some I followed, some I ignored. Often, the advice was good and helpful. Other advice that I thought was good turned out to be bad. I wanted to share one particular piece of advice I regretted taking.

When I was a young lawyer, I was invited to sit in on a deposition with one of the managing partners at the firm. This was my first deposition, and one of my first experiences coming face to face with an adversary. When I got to the conference room, I asked opposing counsel and his client if they wanted anything to drink and if they were comfortable. I don’t recall if they asked for anything, but what I do remember is what happened after the deposition. The managing lawyer pulled me aside and told me never to do that again. It was not my job to offer water or make the opposing side comfortable and in fact, it was my job to do the opposite. To make them as uncomfortable as possible.

This was just one example of the mentoring and advice I received from this partner, but it tainted the way I practiced law for a long time. His tactic was to be the most aggressive man in the room, to be the most boisterous and to never give an inch. I tried my best to mimic his tactics. I wanted to be tough. I wanted to win. I thought if I just followed his advice, I’d be just as successful as he was. But I wasn’t.

As I reflect back on those very impressionable years of my professional life, there were many things I failed to see. If I could go back and do it all over again, I’d tell myself the following. [Read more]