I have never seen so many personality disorders in people as when I deal with opposing counsel. I don't know if these conditions are over-represented among my opposing counsel or not, but I can tell you this: I have dealt with some seriously disordered individuals who write from either a state of psychosis or a state of seriously distorted perception. I have had one case where I had no issues with opposing counsel at all, and the remaining 100+ cases all involve some issue or another, varying in severity from mild to severe. Here, I offer experiences dealing with screwed up people and what I did to minimize the impact of their neuroses on my cases.
The narcissistic monopolizer
This guy loves hearing himself talk, so our phone conversations were very one-sided. He would also put little barbs in emails. After I had seen enough (a year into the case), I blocked his email address from sending to my domain, with the following explanation:
I tend to just block email addresses of opposing attorneys who harass me or are irritating, and this has greatly improved my inbox. It has also forced opposing counsel to send mailed letters, which I find much better in tone. In your case, whether it’s your monopolizing our phone conversations or your sending barbs in emails, I have seen enough. Frankly, you’re quite irritating as a person and also emblematic of the systemic failure of Gordon Rees partners to act and communicate like normal people. I may end up blocking your entire domain so that I never get another snide, self-serving email from you or your colleagues (we had a similar problem with one of your partners in another case, so you are not being singled out). If you find yourself unable to send email to us, that is why. Realistically, it will probably just be you so that I can still exchange vital information with your staff if needed. This has worked in other cases where opposing counsel appears to have a personality disorder, so I’m optimistic here.
The distorted perceiver, rememberer, and communicator
This guy's letters read like they were written by an inpatient on a 5150 psychiatric hold who was having delusions about practicing law. And he has the remarkable ability to produce page after page of delusional, distorted writing on an expedited basis. This guy happens to be elderly, so I think he is way past his expiration date as a lawyer and needs to retire. My strategy with him is to just be polite and not communicate with him via email, which puts me into an angry state that I want to avoid. I ended up blocking this person's email address, which forces his staff to handle all urgent communications. He took it in stride.
The obsessed crusader
This guy is obsessed with nailing my client for any and all wrongdoing that is completely unrelated to the case and his own client's fraud. He also tries to manipulate me by dropping various strategic comments, apparently in an effort to undermine my desire to advocate for my client. From asking inappropriate questions to making inappropriate statements "off the record," this guy is as screwed up as you can get while still being polite. I have a hard time determining whether this is just how this guy operates in litigation or if it is unintentional and pervasive to his personality. I just politely listen to his comments and thank him for his opinion, which seems to have the desired effect because he recently said "I like you, you seem like a nice guy."
This guy would needle my client in the most impolite ways possible. He knew she had a tendency to fly off the handle and he did it anyway, saying such things (with her standing nearby) as "this letter from her is like 'welcome to my psychosis.'" What an asshole. There was nothing I could do because these comments were either made in court or they were offhand remarks in the hallway. Fortunately, we beat him and his colleague at trial and had a great result.
"Errors" in grammar
This guy has a Ph.D. in addition to his law degree. English is his second language. Although he and I seemed to get along, I noticed that his declarations/court filings all contain "errors" in grammar and word choice that, conveniently, increased the strength of his case against my client-- sometimes dramatically. I thought my client was being paranoid in noticing that until I noticed the same thing, which was very concerning. I still have a hard time believing that this guy's grammar errors were intentional, because they were too perfect and plausible. If they were intentional, then this guy is Doctor Evil incarnate. The funny thing is that this guy said the same thing about my client, also a non-native speaker. I guess English as a second language provides many opportunities for "errors" in translation that aren't really errors. I settled that one, lol.
The narcissistic sociopath
A big firm attorney with a sadistic, narcissistic, and highly manipulative personality. This guy has a long career ahead of him and I'm sure his clients love what he does for them. I can tell you this: it's really irritating and also really effective when someone is (1) able to raise their voice just high enough that it's inappropriate, but not so high that I can say he is yelling at my client, (2) remember photographically multiple different things someone says in their deposition answer, and then question them on each of those things in sequence without notes, (3) make little comments to me that are inappropriate but that sound polite, and (4) be Mr. Nice Guy when he wants to be, and The Devil when he wants to be, among other things. I can't believe how great this guy is at what he does-- he was born for litigation. It's too bad he went to a third tier toilet of a law school (which my clients happily needled him about), but he surpassed that years ago with prowess at what he does. Part of me admires the talent, the other part of me has to remind myself that this guy is either acting or was born this way. The strategy here was simple: do what I could for my clients, but ultimately it was their case and they had substantially lost it in their pre-litigation conduct, not anything I may have done during their case. The strange thing is, I found myself kind of liking this lawyer's style, even if I didn't want to turn out that way as a lawyer or as a person.
The dream case with no problems
This one case out of over a hundred was polite and professional on all sides. Opposing counsel was pleasant and easy to deal with, and easy to relate to even though they were accusing my client of fraud (and ultimately won the case). I can't say the same for these attorneys' sleazy investor clients-- those people signed up for a get-rich-quick scheme and they deserved to lose their money, not get all their money back plus interest from my client.
Last updated: July 6, 2018
© 2018 Andrew G. Watters