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Calling out bad behaviour in the legal profession

 Technology, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) seeks to cut out the very work that professional service advisors do.

By Demetrio Zema, Founder and Director

This week, I represented a client at a Mediation. After the Mediator finished his opening comments, he invited me, as the Plaintiff’s lawyer to make any opening submissions and outline the position of the Plaintiff. I thanked the Mediator, and I preceded as follows…

“The Plaintiff’s primary position is outlined in the Statement of Claim filed in these proceedings”.

Immediately, without any opportunity to take a breath to continue my sentence, from the other side of the Mediation table, the principle of the law firm acting for the defendant utters …

“Rubbish”.

I stopped, confused … I’d barely finished my first sentence, let alone put any argument forward and a reasonably well-regarded, old enough to know better practitioner, deems it appropriate to chime in and say “Rubbish”. We were off to a good start … weren’t we?!

The Mediator, also bemused (let’s be honest, appalled) at the conduct, cautioned the practitioner, reminded him of common courtesy and that it is within all parties’ interest to make submissions uninterrupted. The practitioner then leaned back into his chair, folded his arms across his chest and smirked from ear to ear. He was rather pleased of his actions and attempt to through me off guard. Nice work mate – very professional (it didn’t work)!

This isn’t the first time that this has happened, and I am sure it won’t be the last. But why does this behaviour continue to happen. Why do practitioners deem it appropriate to attempt intimidation, chime in and disregard all professional courtesy all for a cheap “pleasure” arising from a sense of entitlement or clear arrogance.

In another example, I recently had a practitioner show up four hours late to a sale of business settlement, four hours!!

As you can imagine, I had an anxious and concerned Seller with a large follow on transaction at stake, and a no show from the other side for a 10.00am scheduled settlement… Great! Following four unanswered calls and three emails to the lawyer on the other side, finally resulted in a call back with the lawyer saying as follows:

“Sometimes, things won’t go your way, you’ll just need to learn to deal with that in your professional career. We will be there when we can” ... and the call was terminated.

Again, I was confused, this is a rather straight forward transaction, settlement all in order, and a practitioner with an ego as big as Kanye West, clouds his judgement and lack of professional courtesy to show up to a set settlement. To make matters more frustrating, the same practitioner didn’t even bother to show up to the settlement (4 hours later), instead orders a graduate lawyer, who has never attended a settlement before, nor any knowledge of the file to attend our office to complete the settlement on his behalf. His client; less than impressed. The graduate lawyer; extremely embarrassed and my client; completely appalled. 

I hear similar stories all too often, of practitioners being intimidated, belittled and completely disregarded and disrespected by fellow practitioners. I am often asked for advice by practitioners on how to deal both internal and external intimidation tactics. The games need to stop, and the “Big boy big pants” mentality needs to be shown the door in today’s legal profession.

When I started Law Squared, my vision was to create a law firm whereby all lawyers were provided with an opportunity to work in a law firm that encourages creativity, embraces individuality, celebrates collaboration and denounces bad behaviour. Negative culture is rife within the legal profession and weekly I speak to practitioners who are disenfranchised and looking for a way out of their law firms and often out of the profession.

Law is a stressful profession, I get it. However bad behaviour is uncalled for, unnecessary and unwanted. Any practitioner who still deems it appropriate to intimidate (or at least try to) and belittle others in the profession, needs to see themselves out of the profession.

I could go on about the Solicitor Conduct Rules and the extensive guidelines issued by each Law Society on how practitioners should engage with one another, but I won’t. It’s rather appalling (and embarrassing) that we need a set of rules as a profession on how to treat each other, when common courtesy and professional courtesy should prevail.

The legal buying world is changing. Clients want innovative, solution focused and like-minded lawyers to act on their behalf. They want lawyers who will focus on achieving outcomes, not lawyers with bad behaviour and big egos.

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At Law Squared, we partner with passionate entrepreneurs and businesses who need our technical help and expertise. We’d love to have a chat with you, so feel free to drop us an email at hello@lawsquared.co.


 

Demetrio Zema

dzema@lawsquared.co

+61 417 679 007

 
 

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