Difficult Lawyers:  The 3-Step Process To Getting Around Their Unhelpful Behaviour

Difficult lawyers. We have all dealt with them. 

They are the difficult lawyers that bully, that are rude, and that are impossible. They are the ones that fail to recommend a reasonable proposal for settlement to their clients. They are the ones that seem to be motivated solely by the financial gain of running a trial rather than recommending and doing what is right by their clients. 

They are the ones that you can’t get agreement on to do simple things, like have a combined book of documents for a trial. They are the ones that will not sign a Final Order. 

So, what do we do when dealing with these difficult lawyers? 

One awesome and effective thing to do is to do the forgiveness practice of Ho'oponopono

It is also important to remember what not to do. We do not throw them under the bus once we get to court. Doing that only makes us look bad. So, what do we do?

When You Cannot Agree: 

Although we should be able to work with opposing counsel to do simple process oriented things, reason does not always prevail. 

So, in that case we have to force their hand. 

The 3-Step Process For Getting Around the Difficult Lawyers' Unhelpful Behaviour:

The only way to deal with a difficult lawyer who refuses to agree to anything, is to force their hand. That is, start the legal process and let it unfold. Putting it simply:  set timelines, diarize for a response, and take action. 

So, referencing a real life example, there is a lawyer I have way too many files against. I will call him Mr. Difficult. Mr. Difficult, not surprisingly, makes everything difficult. Even something as simple as getting him to sign a Final Order (after a trial) is impossible.   

I use the following 3-step process with Mr. Difficult. It is the only way to move matters forward. In this example, I was having difficulty getting an order filed and entered with the court because he would not sign it (because, for whatever reason, he will not cooperate). In relation to getting the order entered, I did the following:  

1.    Set Timelines:  Put what you are asking for in a letter and provide a clear time-line for response. In this case I included the order in a letter. I asked him to get back to  me with the signed order (or his comments and corrections) within a certain amount of days.

2.    Diarize for the response. I set out in my calendar the day after I was supposed to hear from him. When I did not hear from him, I did the next step.

3.    Take Action:  When the opposing lawyer did not respond within the timelines I take action. The action does not include going back to them again and repeating your request, but setting the matter down for a hearing etc.

1 - Set Timelines:

The first letter includes the draft Order and asks for a response with a due date such as “may we please hear from you by  . . . “. It is reasonable to give the other lawyer some time to get back to you.

2 - Diarize:

Then set a reminder in the calendar for one day after the timeline expires.

3 - Take Action:

 If they have not gotten back with any response by the timeline expiring, take action. Set it down for a hearing, or whatever the next legal action is in terms of process. Action is not re-writing them and begging for a response. While you may write a gentle reminder letter to a reasonable opposing counsel, it will not get you anywhere when dealing with someone who is usually non-responsive or not cooperative. Think carefully about not wasting your client’s money on re-writing and begging for reasonableness when you are not going to get a reasonable response. 

4. Ask for Costs 

Although proceeding to court (when it should not be necessary) is a costly thing for your clients, in cases like this, it seems unavoidable. When we do finally get before the court, it is important to ask for costs to at least defray some of your client's legal expenses. 

By Val Hemminger, divorce lawyer and owner of Hemminger Law Group 

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Val has created this website to share with her colleagues. She is not suggesting, by any means, that she is the best divorce lawyer out there. She is, however, suggesting that she is the best divorce lawyer that she herself can be. Feel free to share anything you find useful.