In law school, we are taught that ours is a noble and civil profession populated by genteel intellectuals guided in their every action by the rule of law. What a shock it is, then, when we encounter an "aggressive lawyer" for the first time, that one attorney who is the complete opposite of what we have been taught to expect. We are in a deposition, and this aggressive attorney may be rude, condescending, hostile, disruptive, vulgar, and/or disrespectful. We are caught by surprise and may not be prepared for how to react or respond. How we handle the situation reflects on the type of attorney we are, on our firms, on our clients, and on our profession in general.

For the general public, finding the right  lawyer can be a daunting task. For some clients it may be their first experience with the legal system, aside from a traffic ticket.

It can be tempting to look for a lawyer who claims that he or she is aggressive.   It is common to see on attorney's website, or during your meeting with an attorney, the self-proclaimed declaration about how "aggressive" they are;  a real "pit-bull" lawyer who loves to cross-examine the police, the defendant, the opposing party, or to make unreasonable demands to a claims adjuster.   This is done with the belief that being "aggressive" will somehow get you, the client,  a better result.   

Here are some reasons to consider a calm, cool and confident lawyer:

1. Aggressive does not mean effective – An aggressive attorney often makes few friends in the courthouse. The judges often have little patience for certain aggressive tactics, such as refusing to agree to a new hearing date. An effective attorney will compromise on procedural issues, realizing that a case is won or lost with arguments and facts, not tricks. You will also find that fighting over such procedural issues often does little more than waste time and money. Ask any judge, and they will tell you that they are tired of lawyers who cannot get along with one another, who argue over the most minute aspects of their case, who accuse other lawyers of misdeeds, who complain about imagined slights, who hold hard-and-fast to deadlines without accommodation or courtesy, and the list goes on.

2. Aggressive attorneys have a harder time reaching settlements – You may think there is no way that you will settle your current case, however statistics show otherwise; upwards of 90 percent of cases settle before trial. Settling a case is far cheaper than going to trial, and attorneys fees are higher for trial, not to mention the extra cost of expert witnesses.  Aggressive tactics, especially when dealing with claims adjusters may result in the claims adjuster digging in their heels and sticking with a low ball offer, ultimately resulting in your case having to go to trial rather than settle.

3. Aggressive attorneys are often not realistic – A good attorney will help you understand what the court is likely to consider in your case. He or she will explain the factors the court (or jury )  will consider in determining an award in your case.   An aggressive attorney may not give you a reasonable or realistic assessment of the likely outcome, leaving you unprepared for the final settlement or jury award.

4. Aggressive attorneys may alienate the opposition -  claims adjusters and defense lawyers are turned off by aggressive tactics, which may thereby reduce or eliminate the possibility of a reasonable settlement, and may result in low settlement offers.

5.  "Aggressive" lawyers are often hated by other lawyers – Lawyers discuss among themselves how to handle these obnoxious fellow lawyers, and try to mentor younger lawyers to not behave that way.  Good Lawyers Don’t Just "Try" Cases; Good Lawyers Try to "Resolve" Cases. If other lawyers hate you, then you will have an uphill battle when trying to resolve your clients case.

Family law attorneys can probably attest to this fact the most. Aggressive lawyers run up legal fees, eliminate any likelihood of cooperation between parents, and leave children as the victims of litigation. The same is true for civil litigation. Sparing with opposing counsel or writing aggressive letters or emails is useless.  Engaging in aggressive behaviors does not change the facts or the law of your case

Overall, while it might initially be tempting to find an aggressive attorney for your case, you may ultimately find that a more calm and reasonable attorney will better suit your long term needs.

To be an effective lawyer, you need to win people over. You do that by being prepared, courteous, and firm. You don’t do it by being aggressive.

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