Mediations on peace while awaiting the inevitable snows

Mark Levison, The Levison Group

It was a warmer than usual Thanksgiving in my part of the world. December has been a nice surprise as well. Eventually we will get some snow. People will complain about it and I will like it. This time of year always invokes contemplation; where have we been, where are we going? Judges who were mere lawyers when I started practicing law are now starting to retire. That is a sobering thought. 2015 is moving on, and so is life. It is a common refrain that the glut of lawyers has caused more competition and less civility, but in this season, and always, there are ways around that problem. Being prepared gets a message across to opposing lawyers. Being courteous, not just to judges (to whom we have to be courteous) but to opposing counsel, taking the high road, particularly when others do not, are the kinds of things that in the end win respect and make it easier to practice law. There is a lot to be said for practicing law the easy way.

As lawyers we are fighters, but we fight within rules and the rules are set up to be fair. Losing clients aren’t always convinced about the rule’s fairness. Winners generally think the rules are just fine. In a conflict situation, there will be differences of opinion.

It is true that at times some clients will not understand that a demeanor of civility doesn’t mean the advocate is not ferociously representing their interests. It is often hard for clients to see that cooperation is usually good for them, both in terms of cost and results. There will always be clients who demonize the opposing client, and their lawyer, and who will demand pit bull tactics. While aggression can be productive, it can also be very counterproductive. This is a lesson applicable well beyond the confines of the courtroom, extending to personal relations, marital relations and even to politics. It’s not a bad message for this season.

Looking at the world today, as we roll into 2016, it is full of the strife of terrorism from Paris to San Bernardino, from Mali to Turkey. Even our presidential political campaign seems more outrageous and mean-spirited than usual. I am not sure lawyers can change much of that, but each step towards calmness and civility, in the field of conflict in which lawyers operate, may actually help.

Next month I am headed to Paris with a stopover in Istanbul. Some people think that’s stupid. Being scared is something I don’t spend much time on. Maybe that’s part of being a trial lawyer. There’s nothing wrong with fear of losing, but you can’t be a trial lawyer if you are scared to enter the ring. Avoiding a place that has been victimized by terrorist attacks means the terrorists win. If I am not intimidated, that is one little victory which says they lose. Besides, I also plan to visit Sicily, where Mt. Etna just had its worst eruption in twenty years. I am pretty sure I am more likely to be caught in a flow of lava than a flow of bullets. Another thing I think about at the end of the year is it means I’m another year older. There’s nothing I can do about that, but it does seem every time I get a funeral notice these days, I schedule another trip.


Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group. Mark Levison is a member of the law firm Lashly & Baer, P.C. Contact Under Analysis by e-mail at
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