Ontario’s Civil Court system is an adversarial system. This means lawyers on opposite side of the case are paid to put forward opposite points of view. This means the lawyers will disagree. They can do so civilly, but at the end of the day, they are paid to be adversaries.
Recently, I’ve had a couple of large files where new, junior lawyers have come onto the file for administrative tasks. When advising them that I disagree with their positions, these lawyers have alleged that they are being bullied. One young lawyer even accused me, having left one message for their assistant following up on a request for a document, of harassing their assistant.
I appreciate there are times when lawyers behave uncivilly and in those cases, the lawyers are being “uncivil”. But bullying? Come on. If you’re a client, are you paying your lawyer to cry “bullying” when opposing counsel takes an opposing position? Of course not. You expect your lawyer to stand up to the opposing counsel, put forward your position and advance the case.
Bullying is a serious issue that should not be trivialized by lawyers on opposing sides of a file who don’t like what they’re hearing.
Not all lawyers need to be litigators: if you don’t like confrontation then it’s not the career for you. That’s o.k. There are other ways to use your law degree that will avoid confrontation: preparing Wills, being a research lawyer or creating corporate documentation.
If, however, you choose to be a litigator then you have chosen to fight, so put the bullying language away and just get down to being the best representative for your client.
Inga B. Andriessen JD, Senior Lawyer