Estate planner, construction litigator, and SynerG member Kim Knight Rockwood shared this “SynerG War Story” about her final straw with bullying opposing attorneys and the lessons she learned from it:
When I was a young lawyer trying construction cases on my own, I was immensely intimidated by opposing counsel who were older, seemingly wiser attorneys who had been practicing law for decades. Not surprisingly, every single one of them was a man (there weren’t as many female first-chair attorneys back then as there are now, thankfully things have changed). Occasionally, I’d go up against an opposing counsel who seemed to relish having a young female as an adversary, almost like a rabid bulldog, drool dripping to the ground. But no one relished it more than one attorney I’ll never forget.
From the get-go, he was an incessant bully. On the day I took his client’s deposition – even though we agreed to save our objections until trial – he objected all day long, to distract and scare me. And I admit that it worked. When we wrapped up at the end of the day, we confirmed that the next day’s deposition would be at my office. Then he stepped out of the room, leaving his client sitting at the table. The court reporter was still in the room packing up, my client and I were packing up, and the attorney’s secretary was there, clearing the table of the drink glasses we’d accumulated. His client then asked me for my office address. I told him, but not before the attorney stormed back in the room and accused me of intimidating his client by speaking to him without his being present. He demanded that the court reporter pull all her equipment out and set it up again so he could get it on the record.
“It’s 5:10 pm and I want it noted for the record that opposing counsel was speaking to my client outside of my presence!” he practically shouted, staring me down.
“Yes, that’s correct,” I responded, not losing eye contact. “His client asked me for the address to my office for depositions tomorrow and I gave it to him. Also present in the room when this happened was the court reporter, my client, and your secretary,” I stated with a little shake in my voice, completely stunned by his accusation.
On my way home, I doubted myself. DID I do something wrong? The code of professional conduct says you aren’t supposed to speak to a represented client without his attorney present. Should I have kept my mouth shut, ignored his client’s request, and walked out of the room? When I calmed down, I realized that I did nothing wrong, that HE was wrong by acting so unprofessionally. It was then that I decided I wouldn’t let an older, more experienced attorney intimidate me again.
The next morning, he wandered around my office on his own, peeking into my colleague’s offices. When I noticed him, I told him firmly to wait in the lobby. Surprisingly, he complied. He was amicable the rest of the day. But his behavior before that motivated me to work even harder on my client’s case.
Even though I’m older and wiser now, I’ll never forget how that lawyer made me feel. He made me doubt my knowledge. He made me doubt my worth and value to my client, and he even made me doubt my career choice. But I’m grateful for him now. I became gritty. I gained self-confidence, even when I was up against a more experienced lawyer. And I never again doubted my ability to practice law and to do it well.
And I am happy to report that I ended up winning a summary judgment motion against that attorney and never heard from him again.
Kim Knight Rockwood, Kim practices estate planning, small business representation, and construction litigation at
Kim Rockwood Law.
SynerG Member since March 2019, https://synerglawcomplex.com/team-members/kim-rockwood-esq/
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