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Just because you’d like to eat the opposing counsel for lunch doesn’t mean you can’t share a meal with them. In its ongoing crusade to promote professionalism and civility among its members, the litigation section of the Atlanta Bar Association is encouraging lawyers to take their adversaries to lunch this month. Although no CLE credits for professionalism (or civility) are available, participants can win gift certificates ranging from $50 to $200 from the Buckhead Life restaurants in Atlanta. Last year’s grand-prize winner, Lisa R. Strauss, an associate at Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, took L. Lin Wood Jr. to lunch after discovery negotiations turned testy in a matter where Strauss represented the plaintiffs. Wood said he was unwilling to forgo a family vacation to Florida to confer over the case. “It was not the most pleasant of conversations when I told her I was not going to cancel my vacation,” he said. Wood left Strauss what she described as “a heated voicemail — so when [last February] came around, I thought he’d be the perfect candidate,” she said. “He was surprised that I’d asked him, based on our adversarial discussions,” she added — but both said the lunch, at Veni Vidi Vici, went well. “We’re now back to a solid, good-friend working relationship,” Wood said. Strauss agreed, adding that there have been no further “heated discussions.” Having lunch allows lawyers to get to know opposing counsel as “real people instead of just your adversaries,” she said. The junior lawyer on the case, Strauss said she’d never seen Wood outside of court before they had lunch and wasn’t sure he could have even picked her out of a crowd. Strauss has not determined whom to invite to lunch this month. “I haven’t decided yet which of my opposing counsel has been the meanest to me lately,” she laughed. James D. Blitch IV, the previous year’s grand-prize winner, took his adversary, G. Melton Mobley, to the Silver Skillet. The two reported that their lunch also went well. In their case, a breach of contract dispute between homeowners and a termite company, it was the clients who were at each other’s throats, the lawyers said. “[The clients'] emotional energy made it important that the lawyers keep a professional perspective,” said Mobley, a partner at Lokey, Mobley & Doyle, who represented the termite smiters. “It was a pretty contentious little piece of litigation,” agreed Blitch, a partner at Kidd & Vaughan, who represented the homeowners. “Going to lunch opened up avenues of communication that helped the case settle,” he said. L. David Wolfe, who is defending Gwinnett. Ga., dentist Barton Corbin on charges of killing his wife and a former girlfriend, said he didn’t know if there were enough days in the month for lunch with all of his adversaries — and pointed out that the Atlanta Bar had picked a month with only 28 days. He said he’d be glad to have lunch with Daniel J. Porter, the Gwinnett district attorney prosecuting Corbin on the charge of murdering his wife — “as long as there are no knives or sharp objects on the table.” Porter did not return calls for comment. While the contest in the courtroom may be adversarial, said Wolfe, a former linebacker on the University of Georgia’s football team, he rarely takes that attitude outside it. “It’s like in any sport. You take their head off, then laugh with them after the game,” he explained.

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