Bullyproofing: How to Respond to Bullies in the Legal Profession
by Alison Peryea
...Motivation: Why Bullies Act the Way
Some people believe that bullies in the le-
gal practice act the way they do because of
underlying anger-management problems
or personality defects. Indeed, studies have
shown that bullies’ brains actually work
differently than the brains of those who
do not bully: bullies suffer from a kind of
paranoia that constantly causes them to
see provocation from others when it does
not exist. “Bullies come to believe that ag-
gression is the best solution to conflicts,”
wrote Hara Estroff Marano in Psychology
Today. “They also have a strong need to
dominate, and derive satisfaction from
But there are also practical motivations
for bullying in the practice of law. Our
adversarial system incentivizes aggressive
conduct, and some misled attorneys confuse
bullying with zealous advocacy. The unfor-
tunate paradox in the practice of law is that,
while civility among parties and counsel is
championed as the gold standard, the real
ity is that bullying sometimes pays off.
Attorneys who bully do so to intimidate and
gain or regain power and control. When
successful, hyper-aggressive conduct can
cause opposing lawyers (particularly new
attorneys) to doubt both their cases and
competence. When this happens, an inexperienced
attorney can lose sight of the true
goal — success for the client — and grab
desperately for a fictitious one: getting the
case over with, even if it means persuading
a client to accept an unfavorable settlement.
This, of course, is a bully’s desired outcome...
I recommend clicking on the following link to get the original story, which is full of terrific links.
Responding to Legal Threats
Citizen Media Legal Project
Even if you have done everything right and taken every possible precaution, there may come a time when you are sued or receive a legal threat. The first thing you should do is take a deep breath and assess the situation.
First, determine what type of legal threat you received. Most legal threats come in the form of a letter or email. Typically, the letter or email will demand that you cease whatever activity is being complained about and desist from engaging in the conduct in the future. If you receive such a letter or email, you should carefully check to see if the correspondence includes an attachment that bears the name of a court or otherwise resembles a complaint or legal filing. Consult the following examples to determine what type of threat you've received:
Examples of cease-and-desist letters and email: Stutz Artiano Letter, DirectBuy Letter, Best Buy Letter, Goldman Letter, Diebold Letter, Strahl Email, and Dreamworks Email.
Examples of lawsuit complaints that should help you determine whether you have been sued: Mayhew Complaint, Ronson Complaint, and Pivar Complaint.
Examples of subpoenas that should help you determine whether you have been served with a subpoena: Earthlink Subpoena, AutoAdmit Subpoena, Tice Subpoena, and IBM Subpoena.
Second, weigh your options as to how to respond. It is imperative that you DO NOT DELAY. Even if you have only received a threatening letter or email and have not been sued, you should take the threat seriously and review the Responding to Correspondence Threatening Legal Action section of this guide to help you formulate a response. If you receive a lawsuit or subpoena, you should review the Responding to Lawsuits or Responding to Subpoenas sections of this guide to determine how to respond.
Third, consider hiring a lawyer or seeking legal self-help. Even if you believe the legal threat you've received is meritless, it is best not to minimize the situation. Do not assume that the threatening party will simply go away. Speaking to a lawyer, even if it is only a phone call, or doing some legal research can help to set your mind at ease and get you started on the right path to deal with the legal threat. See our Finding Legal Help section for some guidance.