By: Sam Dudar, Esq. – Attorney
Behind the Horns: Handling “Aggressive” Plaintiff’s Attorneys
Plaintiff’s lawyers often advertise themselves as providing “aggressive” representation.
In a limited sense, this is a praiseworthy term. All lawyers are obligated to provide “zealous advocacy,” so to the extent that plaintiff’s lawyers provide “aggressive” (i.e. “zealous”) representation, they are doing exactly what they and every other lawyer is obligated to do.
So, okay: let’s give them the benefit of all the connotations that are associated with the term “aggressive,” which is a word that sounds like what it is: a teeth-grating, fang-baring growl to display super-machismo-uberly-ultra-mega alpha superiority (I would say “alpha manliness”, but I’ve seen too many talented plaintiff’s lawyers–better than many male plaintiff’s lawyers I’ve seen, actually–who are women to suggest that I am excluding them; I’m not; when I say “plaintiff’s lawyers,” you can safely assume I’m being gender neutral).
“Aggressive,” like a stomping rhinoceros, acting quickly, letting other animals know the rhino’s territory or mating ground will be defended to the hilt.
Certainly there are rude lawyers who talk tough, are of considerable size, tan, boldness to threaten this or that, even to the judges’ faces in open court–behavior which is most unbecoming of a lawyer and can even be reported to one’s state bar association. Yes, lawyers can be tyrannical. Yes, lawyers can be intimidating, even persuade you to invest in them out of terror for contradicting them. And yes, some of these lawyers are successful in this facade.
But it’s only a facade. On any other day, you might find an attorney affable, neighborly, guileless, unassuming, generous to a fault…..except when that attorney is in court and is cross-examining a witness effectively, yet courteously, or when that attorney is speaking on paper to these “aggressive” plaintiff’s attorneys in only a few mild, reasonable words. Why so few? Because the attorney knows their power: their power that is backed by statute and precedent and persuasive legal argument.
I don’t know if there really existed quaint, antebellum days when the legal profession was a gentleman’s pursuit. I don’t know what Daniel Webster would think of a lawyer leasing a yellow with black stripe sports car, conveniently parked outside of his or her office in a blatant promotion of purported success. Perhaps the lawyer is successful and should feel proud enough to display enough bling to let the world know….and attend court dressed in a money suit with a large, gold dollar-sign necklace and deliver a closing argument with the worlds, “Does it look like my client is made of money?”
What I do know, as a civil litigator who has defended clients in civil litigation against “aggressive” plaintiff’s attorneys as those described above, is that you should put the burden of dealing with a lawsuit on the shoulders of me or another defense attorney who knows how to tame the rhinoceros stomping at your door and turn the “aggressive” plaintiff’s attorney’s firm demands into mere post-game, locker-room braggadocio, puffery, and flaccid talk that is as “powerful” and “enduring” as someone trying to outshout the crashing of the ocean’s waves: your defense attorney owes it to you to let you go on about your daily life and let your attorney bait the bull.
To be handed a lawsuit is one of the most stressful events in an individual’s life. You see how “aggressive” plaintiff’s attorneys are when hungry, as when they smell blood in the water. For this reason alone, it is important to consult with an attorney who doesn’t need to brag about another client’s case or success; you want an attorney who can give you a plan to put faith in the law for your case; never walk away from your attorney without being confident in your attorney’s plan to defend you. This is what I do for a living as a problem solver: I will work as hard as I can, take on as much work as I can from my clients to give them peace of mind. In this way, when the “aggressive” bull of a plaintiff’s attorney snorts and stomps at their doors and demands remuneration or an unfair, one-sided settlement, or sanctions, they just need reply softly, “Please speak to my attorney.” Those are magic words to anyone who wants the charging bull or the stomping rhinoceros to *poof* and vanish, leaving them to deal with someone who knows how to crack the legal whip, bring them to heel, so the next time they talk about being an “aggressive” plaintiff’s attorney, it’s at a court-ordered anger-management course.