I recently had the same law firm for the second time schedule a motion hearing with two days notice, without consulting me as to my availability. As with the first setting, I was not available. The first time, I moved something to accommodate them. The second time, I could not.
With the two-days’ notice in hand, I called the office and was told that Attorneys A and B were “winding down”, and “relaxing” having come from a trial. The person telling me this, whose tone was nothing but pleasant, said that Attorneys A and B never took calls when they were “winding down”. I assumed “winding down” and “relaxing” was code for “in the back room having a beer”. The receptionist asked the nature of the call, and I told her, To talk about the second incident of a motion hearing being noticed without consulting me.
The receptionist prudently determined that perhaps that trumped “winding down”, and got Attorney B. Attorney B got on the phone and started yelling at me, whereupon, rather than Using Nonviolent Communication, I felt myself drawn into yelling back. She would rant for a few sentences, stop, and when I would then start talking, she would yell, “Don’t interrupt me!” I would stop, let her talk for a few more sentences, then, when she stopped talking, begin again, whereupon she would again yell, “Don’t interrupt me!”
I found myself in the face of the worst about life that I’d left behind, sucked into her rampages and rants and responding in kind. Nonetheless, she agreed to re-set the motion and in fact, did so.
Then, I got online and sent her partner a note telling him that I appreciated the re-setting and was sorry that I lost my temper. I would have sent it to Attorney B, but her e-mail address was not listed anywhere, and his was.
Today, I got an outraged email back from Attorney A that reminded me why I abandoned this type of dialogue in the first place. I did not resort to responding in kind, but merely addressed a procedural point, which is that items supposedly sent by his office via e-mail had never arrived so perhaps our spam filters or anti-virus software had eaten them. I wished him a good day.
I ding myself for responding in kind to the yelling and outrage of Attorney B. I suppose that the occasional slip into what Marshall Rosenberg calls “jackal talk” is understandable. At least I understand my transgression, and can reclaim my foothold on nonviolent communication. And for the record, I have never set a hearing where there is opposing counsel without calling that attorney, as far as I can recall. Nor would I; and this firm has now done so twice. I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything but violent communication from folks such as them, but I surely don’t have to stoop to conquer.
On a brighter note, an opposing counsel in one of my cases worked with me to bring our clients to compromise today. That attorney, who deftly and capably represented his client, nonetheless met professional courtesy with professional courtesy. Most attorneys do so. I am honored to be in the same profession as most of them. And when I find myself playing to the least common denominator, by responding to violent communication in kind, I take it as a lesson to learn and resolve to redouble my efforts in the future.
Every day provides an opportunity to embrace nonviolent behavior and every regression provides a chance to learn. And so it goes. You’d like to be perfect but no one is. So what are you going to do, eh?
Laugh, and learn, and live.