Lawyers who work in collaborative practice are lucky. For many reasons. One reason is that the practice is founded on respect; respect between spouses, and between the professionals on the case. Collaborative practitioners don’t write nasty letters to each other, or to anyone. We have come to see that kind of behaviour as being from the ancient past, a totally forgotten culture. We see that kind of correspondence as being about the writer rather than being about their client; indeed, nasty letters are invariably counter to the interests of a client.
Recently a letter from those primitive times made its way to me across email. Not from a collaborative practitioner of course. My initial response was somewhere between shock and embarrassment. Shock because its been a while. Embarrassment, because I had to share it with my client, and I am considered to belong to the same profession as the writer of that hysterical and rude correspondence.
The other response I felt was compassion for the other lawyer. Imagine carrying around that level of toxicity? I am imagining that this person is often in conflict, personally and professionally. I am also guessing that there is a failure to see who is the common denominator in all their conflicts.
When I left the world of litigation, I did so because some of the pain of litigation was going to be determined by the other lawyer’s conflict style. Of all the variables one can control in litigation, a spouse’s choice of lawyer isn’t one of them. So, my recent encounter with a conflict-junkie lawyer was a rude intrusion, and a forceful reminder of how sad and unhelpful that style is.
Supporting clients towards healthy, future focused resolutions is hard work, for them and for us. Our role should not be to manage the behaviour of the other lawyer, and its fallout for the clients. Whatever it looks like over there in the land of the toxic-letter-writer, I’m sure its not pretty. And that’s not good for any of us.