Litigation

Cal. Litig. 2023, Volume 36, Issue 2

THE BEST WAY TO DESTROY AN ENEMY IS TO MAKE HIM A FRIEND

Written by Sidney Kanazawa*

"Zealous advocacy" often blinds us to possibilities that are right before us. To see them, we may need to change how we perceive ourselves and our opponents.

When she was on the bench, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary House (ret.), once faced two incessantly combative lawyers who each claimed entitlement to $40,000 in sanctions against the other. Rather than decide their reciprocal discovery motions, she ordered the two attorneys to have lunch together, to ask a set of questions about each other, and to report back at 1:30 p.m. They balked but after lunch they sent a note to Judge House’s clerk that they had settled the case. A year later, they visited Judge House’s chambers to let her know that they and their families had become friends and were now vacationing together on a regular basis.

Born out of courage, the concept of "zealous advocacy" advances a noble goal of client loyalty that is sometimes distorted into justifying bullying, hiding, posturing, rudeness, and other competitive behavior. In the name of "zealous advocacy," some attorneys (and clients) feel compelled to treat opponents as "enemies" and are uncomfortable befriending and collaborating with opponents to harmonize competing viewpoints — a misunderstanding of our practical role as lawyers and how we can most effectively perform that role.

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