About 10 years ago a client was unhappy when he saw me shaking the opposing attorney’s hand in court right before the hearing. The client went as far as to suspect me of colluding with the other side due to being “too friendly”. I suppose he saw too many lawyer movies which make it look like being disrespectful or downright rude is the way to go, when nothing could be further from the truth in reality. I wanted to tell him that there are very few situations where being mean toward opposing counsel is a good idea, I couldn’t think of a single such situation.
Going back to the question of whether it’s always better to have a tough lawyer – this depends on what being tough means and it also depends on your case. If being tough means being thorough and putting a lot of effort into positioning your case for trial or the best settlement outcome, while also being honest with you about the potential challenges in your case, then it certainly cannot hurt. If being tough means not being afraid to take a calculated risk of going to trial and not settling under the right circumstances, then it is great to have this type of lawyer on your side, although not always necessary. However, if being tough means being stubborn or being a bully for the sake of being a bully, fighting a losing battle just to fight while disregarding unfavorable evidence, then this type of attitude is likely to hurt the outcome of your case more than be of benefit in any way.
Above all, who said that your lawyer can’t be nice and respectful and at the same time be knowledgeable, thorough, and firm when needed? These qualities aren’t mutually exclusive but in fact, usually complement each other. Being represented by an asshole isn’t nearly as exciting as some of the legal shows make it look, and you certainly don’t need your lawyer to be one in order to achieve the best results for you in your case.
Most importantly, like in many other aspects of litigation (and life) there is no single recipe for a perfect attitude that would apply to every case. Some cases require a tougher stance, while in many other cases, it simply doesn’t help reach a better resolution one bit while causing unnecessary friction.