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Civility In Law: DiMonte & Lizak’s Winning Edge

Jordan A. Finfer

The wonderment of the law is its vastness; vast in the texts that make it up, and the individuals that practice it. There are innumerable ways to practice law, and succeed in the practice. However, there are some aspects of the law that are necessary for every attorney’s success. This article is about one of those ways: civility.

Civility was best defined by the 18th century English author Lady Mary Wortley Montagu who said, “Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.” A litigator’s job is to resolve a dispute and in pursuing this goal he will deal predominantly with two individuals: the judge and the opposing attorney(s). How you interact with the opposing attorney and judge will dictate the tenor of the entire matter. Being civil with opposing counsel has many obvious advantages, such as keeping settlement communications open and available, or resolving disputes related to discovery without having to run to court. Being civil can save the client money because it permits issues to be resolved with a conversation as opposed to a motion. Being civil with opposing counsel when in court, and with the Judge is also persuasive. It tells the judge that you are reasonable, which allows him or her to trust your efforts outside of the court. This can result in having more leeway to pursue resolution of the cause or perhaps extend a deadline of something that is due to the court.

It is easy to disregard civility in litigation because of the adversarial nature of the profession. Thus remaining civil becomes that much more important and that much more prominent when it is displayed. Too many lawyers confuse harshness and rudeness with opposing counsel as zealously advocating for their client. In reality all incivility does is build-up walls between the lines of communication, stall progress, and drive up costs of litigation. For these reasons civility is one of the lawyer’s most important tools; particularly when opposing counsel has forgotten how to be civil. To match incivility with civility is a quick way to establish a rapport with an otherwise difficult opposing counsel and to build a relationship with him for each and every case he is your adversary.

DiMonte & Lizak prides itself on the civility within its practice. Being civil is not only the right thing to do; it is the right way to practice. It permits each matter we handle to be put in the best position to be resolved, efficiently and quickly.

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