Once you begin working as a trial attorney, it doesn’t take long to run into your first “bully.” This ruffian might be a young attorney looking to make a name for him or herself or one that has spent years proving that their bully tactics work. Either way, you are now faced with an additional challenge as you look to bring your case to a successful close.
Being prepared with some “go-to” techniques on how to deal with an opposing counsel bully can make all the difference. Here are a few tips on how to deal with a bully in the courtroom:
- Don’t Allow Yourself to be Baited
When your opposing counsel is coming across strong and exhibiting bullying behavior, it’s easy to interpret this as a way to intimidate or dominate in the courtroom. But actually, they may just be trying to bait you, waiting for you to lose your cool and make a mistake. It’s a much more subtle approach, but effective nonetheless. Baiting through bullying is used in depositions, courtrooms, and even over the phone.
As you’re taking the beating from this bully, the temptation arises to fire back and give this person a taste of their own medicine. The problem is, giving into this temptation is usually attached to a display of emotion that you may not have control over. Don’t be baited! Play your game and stay confident in your approach.
- A Change in the Courtroom
Here’s another tactic that can really cause trouble for you if you’re not paying attention. Your opposing counsel acts like a complete jerk from day one by doing their best to goad and trick you at every turn. This may go on for months and months as you work towards your day in court. By the time the trial is set to begin, you have nothing but contempt in you for this person and are ready to pounce.
You might assume that this bully will use the same techniques and strategies in the courtroom, and you’ve prepared yourself to fire back and stand your ground. But at their first appearance in court, your opponent suddenly has all the characteristics of an angel. They’re gentle, smiling and professional addressing everyone politely and doing their best to win over the jury. You, on the other hand, are about to burst from your built up frustration and anger caused by this character.
This is another form of baiting that you must be careful of. You can really damage your argument and your standing with the court and jury by trying to vent your anger or make your opponent look bad. Maintain control and don’t let your emotions get the best of you.
- Does Yelling Help?
Bully attorneys have been known to portray a wide array of characteristics. They can be rude, argumentative, condescending and objection-happy, all in an attempt to intimidate you or to look stronger than you. Every once in a while, you will encounter a “yeller,” someone who feels the need to raise their voice consistently in attempt to get their point across.
Before you succumb to the temptation to yell back, ask yourself if yelling really works and how. When dealing with a yeller, returning fire by yelling back can definitely give you that brief moment of satisfaction, but how does it further your argument or help you achieve the desired outcome?
Many have found that handling a yeller with a calm demeanor can actually be much more effective. Letting the yeller know that you do not appreciate their tone and asking them to refrain from yelling shows your ability to keep your cool and almost instantly puts you back in control. Your opponent is now faced with a choice of either complying with your request or ignoring it, both of which shows a hint of weakness. You can beat a yeller at their own game by remaining calm and not getting overly emotional.
If you haven’t encountered a bully in your career as a trial attorney yet, chances are you will one day. Remember to maintain perspective, keep a cool head, and be confident in your approach.