What has happened to civility? To treating each other like human beings. I don’t know what it is of late, but it seems that people tend to choose hostility over simple kindness. A couple of examples from yesterday: Since my husband now gets SSDI, we needed to modify child support. No problem, right? My husband’s exwife hires an attorney to represent her. Again, no problem. The attorney she hired went to law school with me. We were acquaintances, we shared a few beers together from time to time, and although we weren’t the best of friends, we always visited when we saw each other. She has even called me with a couple of legal questions in the past that are more in line with my practice than with hers.
Anyway, I sent her an e-mail, asking how she was, and explaining that I was married to her client’s husband, etc., and saying that I was hoping we could come to an agreement that was satisfactory to everyone. Her response was to simply say she could not speak with me unless I entered my appearance on his behalf. Really? No, “hey, how have you been” or “it’s been a long time”? Not even a recognition that she ever knew me. It was the strangest thing. I should probably add here that there is nothing hostile about the child support modification, and actually because of the derivative benefit my husband’s daughter gets, her Mom actually will get more money. So, the way we see it is that it is great news for everyone. Apparently not….
Moving on from that, I was a little irked at her response, and also confused just because no matter the circumstances, why can’t we just be civil? This brings me to the second lawyer of the day. She represents a foreclosing bank, and I represent another entity that holds a mortgage on the property. So, again, this isn’t anything that should cause any tension between us, but I e-mailed her asking for copies of the documents that she had filed with the Court, and had failed to provide to me. Well, she totally flipped out telling me how I need to better control my client, and all this other weird stuff. Come to find out, she got confused and thought that my client was the property owners, who she had been speaking with, and not the other mortgage holder. No apology. She had been swearing and totally going off on me for being unable to control my client, and then when I actually very calmly advised her that she had never talked with my client, she insisted she had. I asked her to pull up the e-mail she claimed to have received from my client to send to me. Her response was simply a statement that she was mistaken, and she had not talked with my client, ever. No apology for totally going off on me.
So, that seemed to set the tone for the day, and it got me thinking about how easy it seems to be now for people to be rude. Is it because of e-mail? Is it because we can type quickly without needing to face the person or speak with them, or even put pen to paper? Is it just because we don’t care about being civil to one another anymore? Or, is it because so many of us are so overwhelmed with life in general that we are just too stressed to be kind? Whatever the reason, I don’t like it.
I am an attorney, but I don’t like conflict. I enjoy helping my clients reach agreements with the opposing parties. I like when mediation works and we all walk away having won something, and often, admittedly, also having lost something. I like when my clients control the outcome, instead of a judge. I have always been civil with opposing counsel, and they are most often civil towards me. We talk about kids and families, and hobbies and idle conversation and then get down to the issues at hand and try to come to an agreement. I desperately hope that this was just an example of two attorneys having bad days. I hope that this is not where we are headed.