The Good Lawyer (Part 5) Assertiveness

A few months later, and here we finally are! We present to you the much anticipated (well, we like to think so) final installment of the Good Lawyer!  

As a short recap, in our previous posts we have already pointed out the value of having/or being a lawyer who is great at:

  1. communication;
  2. being resourceful;
  3. being responsive; and
  4. having good judgment.

Today we discuss our fifth and final trait ….. ASSERTIVENESS.

In the legal field, there is a very fine line between assertiveness and aggressiveness – which is why success is often mistakenly associated with aggressiveness.  People sometimes complain that a lawyer isn’t aggressive enough. But being overly aggressive is not actually an effective trait in a lawyer.

Overly aggressive lawyers are those who ignore other’s opinions and are less likely to help parties co-operate in reaching a settlement. This means they can lead their clients to rack up huge legal bills. 

Rather than being aggressive, the goal for a good lawyer should be to practice greater assertiveness. Assertive lawyers are those advocates who are not only able to clearly state their opinions and be heard, but they are able to do so without being disrespectful or unprofessional to others. But don’t get us wrong, an assertive lawyer can and should say “no” when the situation calls for it – but it’s all in the delivery!

What’s so interesting about this trait is that it engages some of the other traits we have already discussed. Being assertive requires the ability to communicate clearly and confidently. It also requires good judgment – knowing when to press an issue and when to step back and evaluate your legal position. Assertiveness is an art that a great lawyer aims to master.  

Moreover, some lawyers don’t realize how small the legal community can be. They don’t see how being a bully in this relatively small legal community can hurt their clients. Being assertive but respectful as an advocate can foster better working relationships with other lawyers and judges. When a lawyer has a reputation in the community as someone who is assertive (rather than a bully), opposing counsel is more likely to listen to their viewpoints and willing to negotiate. 

At Andriessen and Associates we don’t get pushed around, especially by overly aggressive lawyers that are all bark and no bite. We know that a well-prepared, well-reasoned, and well-delivered argument goes a lot further in the long run than digging in your feet like a short-sighted bully.  

Robin K. Mann, Associate Lawyer