Putting the Civil Back in Civil Litigation

By August 7, 2012

By Alan J. Kluger
As litigators, it is our job to zealously advocate for our clients.  But sometimes lawyers cross the fine line between barrister and bully.  But that type of antagonistic behavior does not benefit the clients or the legal profession as a whole.  I have built a successful practice based upon my relationship with other lawyers and I am proud to call many of the lawyers I work with my friends.  So, it is important to me that my relationships with other lawyers remain civil, notwithstanding animosity between our clients.

When I step into the courthouse, I believe in the position that I have come to argue.  I focus not on who is right, but on what is right.  I do not make my arguments personal, instead focusing on the law.  Legal argument is an intellectual exercise and I respect that my opponents, like me, are just doing their job to passionately advocate for their clients.
I find it easy to distinguish between in-courtroom and out-of-courtroom behavior because I genuinely like lawyers.  First, lawyers generally tend to give time and money in their communities in greater percentages than other professionals.  I am constantly surprised by how many lawyers I know who volunteer their time and donate their money to help better our Miami community.  Second, lawyers are usually smart.  Even when I may not support my opposition’s position, I can usually respect his or her intelligence and advocacy.
At Kluger Kaplan, we are fortunate to litigate against some of the smartest and most talented legal minds in South Florida and throughout the country.  Almost every day I am fortunate to interact with some of the nation’s most effective advocates.  I am constantly exposed to interesting people with interesting points of view.  Although today we might be adversaries, next month we might find ourselves on the same side of the “v.”  It is also in my clients’ best interests to maintain a good relationship with opposing counsel because we can extend professional courtesies such as extensions of time and accommodating rescheduling.
It is important to note that one should never confuse courtesy and professionalism with compromising your client’s position.  A lawyer who makes compromises to the detriment of a client will not be respected by his or her peers.  Conversely, a lawyer who balances courtesy and professionalism with passionately representing a client’s position will garner the respect of other lawyers and make for a “civil” litigation experience.