Be Tough, Not Uncivil

Be Tough, Not Uncivil -- LEE LEGAL -- DC VA MD litigation attorney

Litigation isn’t for the weak of heart. Opposing counsel will seek any advantage to exploit, and a case can be won or lost by small margins. But you do not need to be rude when litigating a case. You must be tough, not uncivil.

Be Tough, Not Uncivil -- LEE LEGAL -- DC VA MD litigation attorney

Let the facts rule

Get your story straight and let the facts tell the story. When you’re sure about what happened, there’s no reason to be discourteous. Let the story tell itself. 

Let your lawyer do his job

If you are the client, be the client. Let your lawyer decide how best to litigate your case. After all, that’s what you’re paying him or her to do. Asking questions is smart, but second-guessing which arguments to make or how to interpret the law will force counsel to withdraw.

If you are called to testify, use your own words. Do not try to speak “legalese” or gratuitously complicate the matter. This usually does not help your cause and simply wastes the court’s time.

The same is true for written pleadings. In most cases, less is more. Get to the point quickly.

Act respectfully at all times

Your lawyer deserves your respect. Opposing counsel deserves your respect, regardless of what you believe of your opposing litigant. Treat everyone in either law office with courtesy. 

When you enter a courthouse, be respectful of everyone you encounter, from the security guard, to the bailiffs, to the clerks, to the judge. To act otherwise is not only unnecessary. It could also be detrimental to your case. 

In addition, respect is costless. You surrender nothing by respecting others.


If you miss a deadline, you may be out of luck. Court procedural rules are ruthless for a reason: they even the playing field between litigants. Missed deadlines are usually the result of a lack of preparation. Civility requires diligence: be prepared and be on time.

Be tough, not uncivil

Everyone who comes into court wants to win. Some cases are easier than others, but most serious litigation requires a degree of intestinal fortitude. But you can be tough without being impolite. If you win, you want to win graciously. If you lose, you don’t want to be a sore loser. 

About Brian V. Lee 380 Articles
Brian V. Lee provides bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, business turnaround, and litigation services to clients in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland. Brian was the Washington, D.C. state chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys from 2016 to 2018.