Aggression for Aggression's Sake Does Not Make Someone a Good Lawyer
People think that having an “aggressive attorney,” a “pit bull attorney,” etc. is the best thing without giving much thought to whether an aggressive strategy is a good thing on the facts of their case. Naked aggression is rarely a good thing. It needs to be part of your tool kit, but this article on “‘Aggressive’ Lawyers Often Finish Last” on the blog “the Lawyerist” makes a good case why aggressive attorneys often finish last. The author (Attorney Andy Mergendahl) makes the case why being calm, analytical, and persistent is the best strategy to winning people over. He cites several examples where being likable, persistent, analytical, and not relenting worked where aggressiveness does not.
Attorney Mark Hermann on his blog “Above the Law.” You want an attorney who can handle a difficult issue and who can hold people’s attention, but a “blow heart,” is rarely the person people want. Unfortunately, the myth seems to continue and lawyers like politicians are remaking themselves to get people’s vote (checks).
One of my closest friends and mentors taught me years ago that you rarely want to make it personal with opposing counsel. Prosecutors and Attorney Generals have too many cases. You don’t let them walk all over you and you certainly fight back, but you need to resist the strategy of jumping into the mud and starting a wrestling match. Sometimes you have to show that you can “give as good as you can get,” but the myth that naked aggression is a good thing just that. Having an attorney who is always mad, accusatory, and difficult to deal with does not cause people to win the case.
Oregon Family law Attorney Peter Bunch has a nice quote about how to be both aggressive and effective:
Many people assume that writing argumentative or accusatory letters and taking extreme positions is something a good, aggressive lawyer does. It is not. The hallmark of a good lawyer is sound judgment, good skills, and professionalism. In family law, it is possible for a good lawyer to predict a reasonable range of results in many circumstances. His or her job is to work diligently to obtain the best possible result for the client, not to waste the client’s time and money engaging in unproductive finger- pointing or intimidation. Being “aggressive” means being prepared, having a good knowledge of the facts and law, and being professional, while firmly advocating for the client’s best interests.
Unfortunately, some people think of aggression as being difficult, angry, and obstreperous. An attorney who practices in this fashion is like a mechanic who only owns one tool. He or she won’t be able fix many projects and if they continuously use the wrong tool, all they will do is break whatever they are trying to fix.