“You gotta be mean”

If I had a dime for every time I was told I was “too nice” to be an attorney, I could pay my student loans off. It seems to be a regular thought process that in order to be a competent, good attorney you have to be mean. It’s one (of many) sentiments in the legal community I just do not agree with.

When I was little, I was very impatient, stubborn, and expected others to be just like me. I would get frustrated with things and get mad. My mom would always tell me to be nice because “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”. At the time, it was the worst lesson in the world and never made me feel any better. As I got older, I luckily grew up and don’t get frustrated. I try to always treat others with respect and remember that in the words of Forrest Gump “sh-t happens” and it happens to all of us.

Now, I’m not naive. I know there are simply just bad people in the world who will take advantage of you given the opportunity. I chose to think everyone is by default good until proven otherwise. Even as I practice law and I write letters to collect grossly overdue debts or advocate for criminals, I still find myself playing nice (and maybe nicer than I should). I don’t fight with other attorneys and don’t play the one-ups-man game. I try to show even my more….morally questionable…clients the utmost respect and focus on what I can do to help them in the long run as well as with their immediate legal issue.

There are times to be mean and I tend to come across as mean in writing. But, I think there’s a difference in writing a strongly worded letter versus being a complete brat in person. I know as a lawyer I will always have an opponent. I will always be the bad guy to someone. Just because I may seem nice doesn’t mean I can’t get things done and advocate any less for my clients than a “mean” lawyer. If anything, I’m making more friends and being treated nicer by others in the process.


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