Never Hire a Bulldog Attorney

tytanium | 12.21.17

How many times have you heard the old idiom “if you have to hire an attorney, make sure he’s a bulldog!”

That is by far the worst advice to ever give a potential client.  Rule 1.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct advises attorneys to “zealously” represent their clients, and most attorneys practicing ethically are mindful of the high bar set by that standard.  For many people, even attorneys, “zealous representation” brings to mind hard-nosed litigators who are “tough” and who will “take the case all the way to the top” and “fight for their clients’ rights no matter what.”

This approach to advocacy is antithetical to meaningful representation, and it usually ends up costing the client more in lost time and money – especially where the “bulldog” bills by the hour.  It is important to remember that 1.3′s admonition is not to win at all costs, but to represent the client’s best interests.  If those interests can be achieved without the costs and uncertainties associated with a trial, then Rule 1.3 compels attorneys not to act as though they are standing before a jury, but to set aside personal feelings and approach the negotiation process with equal zeal.

Negotiating very often requires a conscious shift away from the types of offensive and defensive tactics that might drive a successful trial strategy.  Finding common ground, eschewing drama, abandoning ego, and compromising are some hallmarks of successful counsel that a client should be asking for.

Conversely, it should be clear that approaching a negotiation in a dramatic, egoistic fashion with a fear of seeking common ground and an unwillingness to compromise is equally ineffective advocacy.  So if, as happens in the vast majority of cases, a negotiated settlement is the desired outcome, then the bulldog attorney must be set aside unless and until such an approach serves the client’s interests.

Unlike a bulldog attorney, the attorney to retain is the one who develops clear, concise, and well-reasoned arguments, but puts the client’s interests – including a quick and efficient resolution – ahead of his desire to win.  They appreciate the value of reasonable settlement and have the confidence to negotiate without undue drama.  They guide clients to safe harbors through the perils and emotional storms of litigation while bulldog attorneys stir the seas of discontent and unnecessarily drive up attorney’s fees and emotional costs.

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