Respect. Something that isn’t as pervasive in society as it should be. Something that comes with experience, but something that should be an inalienable right just like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
As a basic, fundamental principle, I respect my clients; and I respect my counterpart in every case; I respect judges and the court reporters. But what I don’t respect is a lack of respect- without serious justification, for my clients- injured workers.
I recently had a case where my client was testifying at a first hearing for a claim this his employer denied. The attitude of defense counsel was horrendous- nasty, jaded, short, condescending, presumptuous, and unjustified. Although I understand that defense counsel has an ethical obligation to represent his clients’ interests zealously, that doesn’t mean that counsel needs to treat a claimant like he’s 2 years old. One can represent their client with aggressiveness but be respectful of the other party.
I am often tempted to point out to counsel that I thought his behaviour was unnecessary, but I stop myself. I realize that the Judge is hopefully picking up on the same thing as I am, and to my counterpart’s detriment. Further, saying something will normally turn into an argument which will heighten the negativity. So, I end up protecting my client by staying silent.
Some special cases will require a chip on the shoulder, but most times, a lawyer can do a great job representing their client without the nasty attitude.