I just have to get this off my chest. When it comes to name-calling, I can hold my own with the best of them. I curse other drivers from the safety and comfort of my own car, expounding their respective virtues as morons or a**holes or other appropriate monikers depending on the level of severity of their driving crime. I've been in arguments where people have called me names, some worse than others, some very comical. Despite this, I do not believe that my work ethic, my intelligence or my honesty in my career has ever been challenged. Until now.
On Monday, I returned a call from an attorney on a case I recently filed for a client. While speaking to this attorney, another man's voice piped into the conversation. When I asked why I heard 2 voices, one responded by admitting that he was also in the room and telling me his name. Within just a few short moments, he called me unethical. When I asked him to repeat the statement, his partner - the man I had started the conversation with - backtracked and tried to smooth things over by saying something along the lines of "well, we're not sure there is any basis for the complaint, and we're not sure how you get to those damages." Something to that effect. I was not really listening, because I was still stuck on being called "unethical."
A few moments later in the conversation, the Bonehead (see, I can call people names too,) got very hot under the collar and called me an idiot. I backtracked, again, and asked him to confirm that he had in fact, called me both "unethical" and an "idiot." Needless to say, the conversation went south from there and did not last much longer.
Merriam-Webster defines the word "idiot" as "a person affected with extreme mental retardation" or "a foolish or stupid person." I do not believe that I fall into either of those categories, but I doubt this attorney would care to know the actual meaning of the words he throws around. (Interesting side note, one of the synonyms listed for "idiot" is "airhead," which I have been called many times. Given the context of this particular incident, however, I'm not as quick to brush it off, and never did really believe that I was an "airhead" either.)
Following the conversation with Bonehead and his partner, I passed the information on to my partners who have been involved in the case and know what is going on. Both of them assured me that Bonehead is a hothead (and several other more colorful things) and counseled me to ignore him. When Bonehead followed up the conversation with an email in which he quoted to me a section of the Canon of Legal Ethics, one of my partners assured me that it would do no good to respond directly to him.
Somewhere in my head, I know he's right. But at the same time, my heart and the other part of my head that does not take insults well really wants to strike back at him. I know deep down that it would do no good to engage this a**hole in a conversation and try to set him straight (about the case or about my intelligence and ethical standards) but it sure would feel good to be able to respond. Of course, for someone to attack a person they have never met on such a personal level takes a special kind of individual, one that I'm pretty sure I don't want to have further dealings with.
The problem that I have with this whole situation is how it has made me feel over the past few days. First, it has made me not want to check my email or answer my phone or even go to work. Those of you who know me in the professional arena know that I am one of those strange people that love what I do. I love being an attorney and I love coming to work. This week, not so much. In those moments of thinking about looking at my email or answering the phone, there is a moment of dread, a moment of worry that Bonehead is on the other end, ready to spew more vitriol in my direction. Worse even than the drop in the pit of my stomach is the doubt. Bonehead made me question my own belief in my client's case (which I am sure he wanted me to do from the outset) and made me question my own ethics in taking the case. Perhaps that is was is most troubling to me - this idea that maybe my client's case is not all that it is cracked up to be.
In the end, this will blow over (at least, for me.) The litigation will continue and I am sure I will have more dealings with that firm (although if it is anything like other firms, I will probably deal with an associate of the lower order and the "big guns" will only come in for things like hearings on motions, mediation and trial - if we get that far.) If I feel so inclined (and right now, I do) I might even tell the litigation partner to keep Bonehead out of the mix. For now, I comfort myself with the idea that Bonehead is not litigation counsel and that if I am lucky, I will deal with his peons for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, I will be boning up on insults in my own right, so that next time I will have a fighting chance. (One more sidebar - I found this guy's bio on the firm website, complete with photo and I swear, he could give Nick Nolte's mug shots a run for their money!)
And one final sidebar - if I have suffered this much indigestion and worry over a rude comment made by someone in a business setting, insults that I truly know are not correct, can you imagine how much hurt others must feel when they are picked on for how they look or talk or a physical impairment they might have? Just something to think about, as you go out and face the day. But if you do feel the need to insult someone's driving, make sure that your windows are rolled up and that your kids are not in the car (because you know they are going to repeat whatever you say!)