Are Attorneys Trained to Be Jerks?The question I pose could be answered differently depending on whether or not you are an attorney.  But according to attorney Jeena Cho, who penned an article at The Huffington Post entitled, Stop Training Lawyers to Be Jerks, many lawyers learn by example and mentoring how to be jackasses.

Cho recounts her early days as an attorney when she was invited to sit in on a deposition by a managing partner at the firm.  When she arrived at the conference room to greet opposing counsel, she inquired whether or not they needed something to drink.  After the deposition, the managing partner pulled her aside and angrily scolded her for her civility.  He told her that her job was to make the opposing attorneys as uncomfortable as possible.  He wanted her to be the most aggressive person in the room, as he was.

Cho contends that the advice and mentoring she received from this partner had the opposite of the intended effect.  Instead of making her successful, it set her up for failure.  She said that if she could go back in time, she would do things differently.  What she would do instead would be:

Lead with kindness.  Cho does not see any competitive advantage to being unkind.  She says she became a lawyer to help people and pursue justice.  Her humanity plays an important role in achieving those goals.  She has found that leading with kindness has provided better outcomes for her clients and often for everyone involved.

Be yourself.  Cho is a petite Asian woman.  Her mentor is a tall, muscled white man.  She says it made no sense for her to mimic his fist pounding and shouting; it just didn’t fit.  Developing her own lawyering style took time, but the way she practices now fits her personality.

Hold on to your values.  Cho says there is a temptation to leave your values and humanity behind when you enter the courtroom, but that is where those traits are most needed.  She says that no one should use zealous advocacy as an excuse to be unkind.  Recognize that everyone in a case has a role to play and respect that.

I commented on Cho’s article and referred her to the American Board of Trial Advocates’ Civility Matters program.  ABOTA created this program to promote civility in the practice of law, and hopes to spread it to other bar and professional programs as well as law schools.  You can learn more about this innovative program here.

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GrowthLadder copy7 Strategies for a 7-Figure Law Firm

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