There was a recent Twitter discussion about the most appropriate means of dealing with “difficult” (meaning most rude) opponents.  This led me to look at the guidance that is available for dealing with these issues in the legal profession. Here are some useful links.


“Although it may be really difficult not to lash out with something equally rude, a calm but firm response is a far better one. As they say, once you respond to anger and discourtesy with anger and discourtesy you’ve lost the argument. So, try not to let the situation escalate into a spiralling missile of anger and rudeness. It will only cast an unpleasant cloak over the entire hearing which may last days.”

“…when an opponent riles you, it’s time to rethink your strategy. It’s about looking at your adversary or your own attitude differently.”

“But here’s the problem: Opposing counsel isn’t going to change. Unlike your spouse or your friends or maybe even your colleagues, you have zero claim on this person’s loyalty or affections.”

“But here’s the good news: They don’t have to. You can feel better even if opposing counsel acts exactly the way they are acting from now until kingdom come.”

“As the boy scouts say, “Always be prepared.” More often than not, the difficult lawyer is trying to distract you from effectively representing your client. No matter what that lawyer does, focus on your client, the facts, and the law. Let the difficult lawyer waste their time (and their client’s money) on hostile and unproductive acts. Remember, at the end of the day, there simply is no substitute for preparation.”

“Nonetheless, much like Jujitsu defeats an opponent’s attack by using their momentum against them, the take away from these cases is that sometimes the best way to handle a bully is to focus the court on their poor and unjustified behaviour and then use it to benefit your client on the merits and when dealing with costs.”

Women’s Bar Association of Illinois – 8 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Opposing Counsel

“It’s so easy to miscommunicate via electronic communication. Sometimes that difficult attorney is more difficult with keyboard courage and the angry voice you use when you read their e-mails. Perhaps word choice or shortness in response to you is increasing your conflict. Picking up the phone is faster because you can engage in a dialogue, allowing you to respond and ask questions immediately.”

Make every effort to resolve your cases as amicably as usual. Be yourself. Don’t let their anger, hostility, and bad behavior change you.

Alexander Benikov on LinkedIn – Dealing With Difficult Opposing Counsel

“Whenever possible try not to burn bridges. If you break a relationship with opposing counsel and you think the relationship can be fixed try to fix it. Some relationships are not salvageable and this is ok also.”

“A Difficult opposing counsel can sometimes be downright intimidating. But most experienced lawyers have learned that being courageous is one of the best ways to deal with them.”

“The best way for dealing with an aggressive opposing counsel is to know the rules. The rules are there for a reason. Review the relevant documents, know the facts of your case and its controlling legal principles and learn in depth about your witnesses.”

“The first step in dealing with difficult people is to understand how you react to different kinds of challenging personalities.”

“Never lower yourself, however tempting, to his or her level. Make them rise to yours.”

” Sever all emotionality with the [rude opposing counsel]. You are the professor watching this interesting / silly specimen flail about in its petri dish.”

“Maintaining a collegial relationship with an opponent does not happen automatically or without effort.  Why?  Because the “default” settings in litigation are built-in disagreement, distrust, high emotions, misunderstandings, and even animosity between parties.”

“Keep a sense of humor.”