Attorneys who are tough, who “go for the jugular”, are sometimes seen as the good guys. In fact, frequently the most likeable, most easy-going partner is known as a barracuda in the conference room. Corporate America will always value an attorney with a laser-sharp focus who can hammer out airtight contracts.
And, in the courtroom, this would also be the case when universal wrongs are righted. During those times, you’d like nothing better than a lawyer who’s discerning and no-nonsense. At times, the wrongs that are righted concern workplace rights and workers whose toes have been stepped on. Such case represent the penultimate in our perspective of justice.
But, according to a recent post in the new workplace blog hosted by David Yamada, professor of law at Suffolk University Law School, a few bad apples in management-side legal representation can threaten to upset the whole cart. There are, Yamada has noted in “Minding the Workplace”, employer-side lawyers who are “heartless” and “iron-fisted” when defending claims against their employer clients.
These bad apples, Yamada notes, practice unsavory tactics aimed at manipulation and intimidation. “Because they have superior numbers and resources to defend claims against their clients,” these attorneys distort and delay. They will make mountains out of molehills on the part of workers who blow the whistle on their employers. They will also help their clients ignore or dismiss workplace behavior that should not be tolerated.
The professor claims that complainants are the “disruptive Other” to these attorneys; those who, by their complaints, threaten the clients who so handsomely reward them.
It’s easy to see how attorneys can be conditioned to develop such a work ethic. It’s a case of nurture, not nature. “Their natural loyalties”—after years of being primed to not be in the minority—“are to the Establishment; hence, the clients they are drawn to represent.” Workers are commodities, Yamada states. And feelings don’t count. In fact, notes Yamada, “[these lawyers] become remarkably unreflective about the consequences of their actions, because in their top-down worldview, people on the receiving end simply count for less.”
Yamada admits these are harsh words, and he does call out the exemplary attorneys whose actions make them worthy of emulating—those who provide wise counsel and play fair. These sorts of lawyers will “vigorously contest” a claim without merit and believe that, in the long run, an unjust situation that’s been brought into the light (and perhaps settled) will benefit everyone.
Additionally, speaking from a purely practical point of view, these worthy attorneys have the common sense to realize that, if a company mistreats their employees, it’ll negatively affect their bottom line.
But in complainant cases where careers stand to be ruined and morale diminished, philosophizes the author, it’s worth striving to stay within moral grounds at all costs…whether the action is technically within the bounds of law’s ethical rules, or not.