I believe most lawyers feel parental about their clients’ rights. It is difficult not to when we put in so much effort into identifying, defining and protecting those rights. In doing so, more often than not, we come across some really nasty notices and briefs from lawyers we don’t even know and we take them personally.

When I am at the receiving end of it, my progression of emotions is something like this: Shock (What the heck?! I don’t even know you!)  Disbelief (Let me read that again. Did I get it right?)  Indignation (How dare you make baseless allegations. Get your facts right, buddy!)  Amusement (Two can play that game.) Wickedness (I can’t wait to see your reaction.)

The battle

I am not always sure if the other counsel meant to be nasty and honestly, I can never be sure especially with lawyers I don’t know. I make this distinction because I know people who do not mean to be nasty or rude but come across so. This could be because their a) lack of proper language skills (not at all uncommon in a country like India) or b) need to finish uncomfortable conversations as soon as they can or c) not understanding the difference between being straightforward and being rude, etc.

Rudeness or being nasty is also subjective and perceived differently by different people. I had this friend in law school who I perceived as blunt and others thought was plain rude. Maybe her choice of words made it so but I quite liked her and conversation with her would amuse me to no end. And for reasons best known to her, she let me make fun of her bluntness.

Sometimes, whether I make the aforementioned distinction or not, I lose my cool when I see a brief I find nasty. I get incredibly annoyed and type my response furiously. Of course, I make it a point to not be outright rude (subjective, I know), but I definitely make it known that the nasty tone in the brief was uncalled for. Then I wait a while to gather my thoughts and if time allows it, put it aside to work on it the next day.

The reasoning

When I think about the whole situation with relative calm, I find myself editing my response to sound more professional and stern. The thing that calms me down is the realisation that I am dealing with someone else’s rights and not mine. I cannot afford to personalise the attacks and jeopardise the client and its reputation when I am supposed to protect them.

For the clients, at some level, a person’s lawyer is an extension of that person. When my client is already vexed about receiving a notice (baseless or otherwise), my being passionately antagonistic towards the other person or his lawyer, because I feel slighted, would only serve to exacerbate the whole issue much to the detriment of my client. So I choose to be pleasant.

Being relatively new to this profession, I am still learning the tricks of the trade and how not to lose the battle of wits or words or call it you may. I will update the blog when I come up with more persuading reasons for not replying in kind. If the readers have any reasons for not going down that road, I would love to hear them.