Professionalism and advocacy are terms frequently used by attorneys, but the question remains—how does one be professional while remaining an advocate? Before we become lawyers, most of us see lawyers portrayed in movies, television or other media. From that perspective, lawyers are often aggressive, ruthless, and adversarial, to name a few common characteristics. Also, as we become lawyers, we are told that attorneys are zealous advocates for their clients. We are primed to have these characteristics before our first day working as an attorney, yet we are also required to maintain a level of professionalism. In my first five years of practicing, all in civil litigation, I have learned a few helpful lessons to help answer the question “how does one be professional and an advocate at the same time” because these terms are not mutually exclusive.

  • Lesson No. 1: Develop a working relationship with opposing counsel

One of the common themes in movies and television series concerning lawyers is that we are supposed to dislike opposing counsel. While this makes for entertaining content, such an adversarial relationship with opposing counsel generally is not conducive to the efficient and effective handling of a legal case for either side. In addition to how lawyers are commonly portrayed, many believe that their clients would not want them to have a good relationship with opposing counsel.

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