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Knocking Out Bullying in the Legal Profession

I am sad to report that bullying is still alive and well in the legal profession.  Unfortunately, I have found that the mass majority of this behavior stems from senior attorneys with decades of practice experience under their belt who quite frankly feel that threatening and bullying a younger, less experienced, associate is the sure way to succeed on their client’s case.  This approach paints a bad picture of the legal profession.  Although I have been lucky to deal with experienced attorneys who do not take the bullying approach to resolving cases, the few bullies I have run into have really changed my perspective of the legal profession.  For example, in one of the first cases I worked on as a licensed attorney, I diligently researched and drafted a comprehensive position letter to forward to opposing counsel regarding my client’s position in the case.  I felt confident about how I portrayed my client’s legal issue and was looking forward to receiving a response from opposing counsel.  However, less than one week after forwarding the written demand, I received a phone call from opposing counsel whereby he let me know I was “inept, ignorant and inexperienced,” and that I should “back off before he considers filing sanctions against me personally.”  As you could imagine, I was terrified.

Regardless of whether that lawyer could even do the things he was threatening, I was worried that I made a mistake, potentially put our law firm’s reputation in jeopardy, or put my client in a bad position.  I immediately ran to our managing shareholder to let him know what potential trouble I had gotten myself and our new client into.  Thankfully, our firm’s managing shareholder is one of the most even-keel, ethically-centered, reasonable attorneys in the practice of law, so I knew he would be able to advise me on how to fix the situation I put myself in.  After a quick review of the position letter at issue, my boss assured me I was doing the right thing and that I would need to be tough and confident when dealing with opposing counsel going forward.  Of course, I did just that and ended up obtaining a very favorable settlement for our client.  Unfortunately, not all young attorneys can seek support and counseling from their boss or co-associates.  I urge senior-level professionals to take charge when it comes to combatting bullying in the professional arena.  Instead of taking a bully-approach and threatening younger professionals, I urge senior professionals to act as a mentor and strengthen the breadth of knowledge and experience within the young professional employee pool.

 Kyla Wilder

Phone: 281-367-1222

Fax: 281-210-1361

[email protected]

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