There is a phrase that was common when I was a young lawyer:  it takes years to build your legal reputation and a moment to lose it. The phrase needs to be brought back into fashion.

As a lawyer, my words carry extreme weight.  I choose them carefully.  If I say I “may” be able to do something that doesn’t mean I can.  If I say I “can” it means I will.   This is important because as a lawyer, my words bind my client if I say they do.

Lately I’ve encountered situations where other lawyers have not acted with integrity.  Saying one thing in a phone conversation and another thing before a mediator or Judge.

In a particularly surprising situation, opposing counsel and I learned a senior and previously well respected mediator had told each of us things that the other allegedly said which were simply not true.  That resulted in the matter settling at pre-trial, instead of at mediation.  A mediation which I note was scheduled for three hours, but hastily concluded by the mediator for having “no chance of settlement” within the first hour.

Lawyers who think they’re “getting away” with fudging the truth need to know this: lawyers and judges talk.  They talk about bad experiences, who can and who cannot be trusted.

So lawyers – think before you speak.  You don’t want to lose a good reputation.

Inga B. Andriessen, Principal Lawyer