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Can trial attorneys be nice people? 

 I know you will read the title of this blog and a small smile will appear on your face. Maybe even a chuckle. Just the thought of trial attorneys as “nice people” might seem totally foreign to you. We teand to think of attorneys of human pit bulls. A female attorney and a friend of mine – yes, a trial attorney- has a business card that depicts her in a cartoon as “a pit bull in heels.” That’s a fine reputation for a trial attorney. 

I have often indicated that we appellate attorneys are a different breed. We don’t take risks in the same way that trial attorneys do – we like the security of payment up front. We tend to be less confrontational, but I won’t write that in permanent ink. We do know that our circle of appellateattorneys is a small one and we often come up against each other on a regular basis. We also realize that the justices who review our cases are not persuaded by unbridled passion as they attempt to determine if the lower court has committed a judicial error. 

Hardly the stuff of action-packed thrillers, although I find a good legal issue can be very exciting. It may change a few lives as well. Sometimes there are just no clear-cut answers and we have to reason our way through. That is where creativity can be important. 

I often advise clients not to pick an attorney based on his or her ability to be aggressive. A pit bull costs more money in the long run, much more than cooperation.  And I am not sure that “pit bulls” are more successful than nice people. But Hollywood seems to think otherwise. 

For me, I am stuck with my childhood training that requires me to be nice to people.  And why not? What do I have to lose? For those attorneys who are aggressive and threatening, they are one-noteattorneys. They can’t be nice after threatening people and it is hard to threaten while trying to collaborate. But I can always resort to being more aggressive if the niceness doesn’t work. Fortunately, I haven’t had to do that too often.