April 01, 2013

Letter: Lawsuits Are Not a War

To the Editor:

I read with much dismay the article entitled “Sun Tzu and the Art of Trial.” The message that such an article conveys is not only time-wasting and trite, but it sends the message that we should all treat these very human issues of conflict as if we were armed with guns, maces, spears, and lances. The most often heard complaint in regard to attorneys is that, as a profession, we are unprofessionally unkind, hostile, and make battle to make money. I happen to agree with that criticism quite often.

I hope I do not sound too sanctimonious, but focusing on the client, and the client’s needs, doing your preparation and homework, treating the opposition and court respectfully and truthfully should be more than enough. The infantile, or at best, male pubescent article likening lawsuits to war is a misplaced allegory that tells us of everything that is wrong in the outlook of some lawyers about what our profession is all about. To the extent that the article seeks to perpetuate this ideal that trial is battle, it also seeks to perpetuate bad behavior by lawyers. Such an outlook and such an article is not worthy of our profession. As an attorney in trial, I would much rather face an attorney such as Mr. Shepherd or Mr. Smith, who seemingly look at everything with a paranoid, kill-or-be-killed attitude. Such attorneys with such outlooks are a dime a dozen. What I am most concerned about, when in trial, is facing a calm, prepared, professional, polite, and kind attorney. Such a genuine attorney will persuade a jury almost every time.

 

—Joe Nichols

Poissant, Nichols, Grue and Vanier

367 West Main St.

Malone, NY 12953

 

 

Litigation responds: The very first sentence of Judge Margaret McKeown’s “Comments” that accompany the Sun Tzu piece says, “Whatever Sun Tzu may have been thinking in the sixth century B.C., he surely was not considering legal ethics and professionalism.” She goes on to point out that Sun Tzu’s advice that “all warfare is based on deception” is “anathema to the courts.” Additionally, the very next article in the Winter 2013 issue bore the headline “Why Professional Courtesy Advances Your Client’s Case.” Litigation regularly presents many views within its pages and doesn’t expect every reader, including its editors, to agree with every such view.

 

We welcome your letters at Litigation.Journal@americanbar.org. (Letters may be edited for length or clarity.)