Today I experienced one of the most highly contentious conflicts, in which I lost my “cool”. I have not had this type of conflict since I was in college. Here’s the story:
I had a court appearance this morning for a client. The opposing counsel notified me the night before that he was going to request a continuance and would not be there early in the morning, because he had a criminal matter. He did not give me a time estimate.
I arrived in court at approximately 9:00 a.m. I advised the bailiff and the clerk that the opposing counsel said he would be in court, but did not give me a time estimate. I told the clerk that the opposing counsel had another matter, but would be at the hearing. I then called the opposing counsel’s office and asked if he would be in court and what time. His staff had no idea and stated that he had not given them instructions. I asked if he could call in to the court and let them know when he would be arriving.
The clerk notified me that the opposing counsel was still in Riverside on a criminal matter and did not give a time estimate. I asked if he could appear by phone, and the clerk stated that the opposing counsel was to pre-arrange a court call, which he did not do.
I advised the court that I was unsure of when the opposing counsel would arrive, and the court stated it would wait until 9:30 a.m. During the time I waited, I cleared calendar dates for a trial with the clerk and with the opposing counsel’s office. The court called the case and instantly advised me that the case had a long history of continuances, that the parties were admonished that no further continuances would be granted and asked what I would like to do. I told him our client wished to set the matter for trial. The court set it for trial on the day mutually agreed upon by myself and the opposing counsel’s office. Then I relayed the issues.
The opposing counsel’s office was notified of what occurred, and the opposing counsel called my office requesting to speak with me. I did not want to speak to him, because I was working on filling out paperwork. My secretary then advised me that the attorney was going to go back in front of the court and request that the trial date be vacated and the matter be set for a MSC. So, I spoke with the attorney.
He began yelling at me and telling me that I had a duty, as an officer of the court, to notify the court that he was tied up in a criminal matter and to put the matter over to another day. I calmly told him that I did advise the clerk of what I knew, what the judge said to me and the total occurrence. He began yelling and screaming at me that I had the duty to tell the court and not to appear until he got there or to put it over.
I calmly told him not to yell at me and that I had no such duty. My duty was for the client, not the attorney. He then stated that I was lying, that I did not notify the court, and that the clerk told him that I never said anything to them. He kept stating that I had a duty to notify the court, what I did was wrong, etc.
I could not handle the yelling or blaming anymore. I raised my voice, which escalated to the point of yelling at the attorney. I told him that he had a duty to notify the court, that he did not call in or put the matter on second call and he did not even inform his staff of what occurred. Then I told him not to yell at me, that I could not talk to him anymore and that if he wanted to talk to me to put it in writing. Then I hung up. I was so upset I was shaking.
My fiancé (law clerk) and the senior attorney, were ecstatic and proud of me. The senior attorney has dealt with this attorney for 20 years. He told me that if I did not stand up for myself he would have no respect for me, would have continued to yell at me and would walk all over me. My fiancé stated the same and said that he had never heard me yell at anyone like that.
I have been experiencing so much guilt, regret and anger over the past few months. My anger and perhaps even rage, has been waging war within me. Yet, with all my inner turmoil, and dealings with persons such as this attorney, I have not lost my “cool”. I am an extremely patient person and do not take things out on others. Or at least I try not to. Usually, when I am in a conflict with someone, I walk away if my rage starts to boil over. I have had experiences of regretting my conduct and words during a conflict, so I have learned to walk away, calm down, then return to the situation.
In this case, I feel like I had no choice. This person was insulting my integrity, lecturing me on ethics and the way of the world. He was completely in the wrong. I had no duty to hold the case up until he arrived. These attorneys make the rest of us look bad. They give us a bad name. I know his personal style and office, and know for a fact that he does not work on cases, and only continues them until he is off the case. That cannot be allowed. Moreover, he
is the unethical person that I previously posted about. He has no right to lecture me on ethics!
Further, he is known to be a big bully in our community. I hope my actions do not speak ill of me. I sort of regret that I lost my cool, but I couldn’t just sit there like a beaten animal waiting for the next blow.
This is truly an example of a conflict that escalated to an irritatingly high impact level. What could I have done different? This is truly upsetting. And I have work that needs to be done.