Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Civility in the City of Brotherly Love.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | September 22, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle (c) 2009

SUMMARY: Make nice. Its ethical.

Shannon Duffy (a former legal-journalism colleague whom I would gladly invite to lunch when in Pittsburgh) wrote a piece in the Legal Intelligencer, the lawyer’s newspaper in Philadelphia, about a common story with an uncommon ending.

Two lawyers at a deposition let it become personal and started referring to each other by an unflattering epithet. However (here’s the unusual part), when the episode came to the attention of the judge, she sanctioned them to have lunch together. The idea was to restore some modicum of civility to the case. And, incidentally, the Rules of Professional Conduct direct lawyers to treat each other with courtesy and respect.

Every lawyer has encountered another practitioner who behaves himself like a [redacted]. (No ladies fit into this category, of course) Words like [redacted] and [redacted] are part of his everyday vocabulary. He intimidates his secretary, associates, children and anybody else whom he thinks he can with colorful but not very imaginative figures of speech.

Then it flows over to his professional demeanor. However, he takes care to keep it off the record. Eventually, he gets careless. On one fine day, his candid remarks are overheard by the wrong person or even spread on the official record. Then it is apology time.

This reminds me of a story, slightly off point, but not really. I was doing business with a lawyer from a government agency who sent a lot of mail. His secretary declared that he never read the letters he signed and set out to prove it. A long letter, addressed to my client, copy to me, ended with the memorable sentence: “Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter, a_________.”

He signed the letter. Everyone in the secretarial pool had a good laugh at his expense. Nobody noticed that the original and the copy to me went out in the mail. My client was angry and didn’t let it drop. The secretary, who was a single mother, was fired.

So, to all my brother lawyers who have ever called me a [redacted], an [redacted] or even a [redacted-redacted], either to my face or behind my back, I say:

Et cum spiritu tuo!

Now, go in peace.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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