Nightmare Lawyers:
Dealing With Nightmare Opposing Counsel and What Not to Do

Nightmare lawyers; we have all dealt with them. We have all experienced them. These are the extraordinarily difficult lawyers who are on the other side of our files.

Mr. Difficult:

For example, we have all come across the type of lawyer who bullies others. They bully other lawyers, other lawyers' clients, and anyone else they come across. 

There is one lawyer in our city who is renowned for his behavior this way. The whole lawyer “being a gentleman” thing is totally lost on this guy. 

I hear that every city has at least one. 

I know numerous lawyers who will not take files against this lawyer. They will not speak to him on the phone because of his bullying. Other divorce lawyers are exhausted and stressed by his rudeness. He is renowned as one of the nightmare lawyers in our city.

Then there is the lawyer who seems to have a personality disorder of sorts. This is the type that is so impossible to deal with, that he seems unable to cooperate on even the simplest and most mundane matters. I am thinking of one particular lawyer who practices in our city. I will call him Mr. Difficult. 

Mr. Difficult will not agree to anything (despite its reasonableness) and instead litigates. Mr. Difficult refuses to recommend a reasonable offer of any sort to his clients. He also refuses to make offers of any sort, thus forcing parties into litigation. At the end of the trial (where he loses repeatedly it seems – I have yet to see Mr. Difficult succeed on a case) he will not even cooperate with the process of the trial itself, or the entry of the Final Order.  

Dealing with Mr. Difficult has been a totally exasperating experience. It has been frustrating for me, and expensive for my clients. 

Mr. Difficult does not seem to be aware of the ongoing damage he causes. All of this is done at his clients’ expense. It is also done at the expense of their ex-spouses (who happen to be some of my clients) and their children. By the time Mr. Difficult is done with a case, the parties, who were already not doing well (because they are getting divorced) are pretty much guaranteed to be polarized forever. 

When Mr. Difficult inevitably loses the hearing or trial, he recommends the appeal, files the appeal documents and then does not move the appeal forward. 

So, what do we do with someone like Mr. Difficult? 

Before we talk about what to do. Let’s talk about what we don’t do.

Nightmare Lawyers:  What Not to Do:

First of all, don’t go “there”. As in, don’t let the mud fly. This is also known as, don’t do what I did recently. Don't let the mud fly.  

I was in court recently and this is where I erred big time. 

I forgot the old adage that when we sling mud at someone, all it does is fly back at us. 

I had to appear before the Registrar to get the terms of an order entered. Mr. Difficult was the nightmare lawyer on the opposing side. I had to appear before the Registrar to get the order entered because Mr. Difficult would not endorse the draft Order (as he is required to do as an officer of the court). He would also not suggest any changes to my draft. 

At the hearing before the Registrar, I went “there.” I pointed out the correspondence between us where I had asked Mr. Difficult to get back to me with respect to my draft Order. Because Mr. Difficult only gave nonsensical and exasperating letters of response, none of which dealt with the order itself, I pointed all of this out to the court. 

He is an idiot and I pointed out his idiocy. And this is where I went wrong. 

The result is that the Registrar ended up chastising me for going “there.” She made it clear that she did not want to hear about lawyers and their conflict with one another. 

Her frustration about the lack of respect and camaraderie between counsel was evident. 

When I pointed out how difficult and awful Mr. Difficult is, all it did was make me look mean, petty, awful, and bad. Worst of all it did not even move my client’s case forward. 

So this is my lesson learned. It is always important not to go “there” no matter how tempting it is to point out opposing counsel’s ridiculousness to the court. We can’t throw opposing counsel under the bus, even if they are nightmare lawyers to deal with. It gets us (and our clients) nowhere.

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

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.