Recently, a client asked me, “when are you going to become a pitbull and attack?” The point, of course, is that my client wanted to see me “go after” the opposing side, to “rip him to shreds,” preferably in an open and public setting like a court hearing or trial.
Such inquiries are not rare, but they represent a misunderstanding of civil litigation and the adversarial judicial system. By definition, litigation involves a dispute, and disputes are often saddled with animosity, hurt feelings, even rage, among the litigants. But, however much animosity exists between the parties, trying to intentionally humiliate or “go after” the other side is not an effective litigation strategy. In fact, such attempts often backfire and hurt the client’s case. And the goal of litigation is not to humiliate or abuse, but to win the case.
With good trial lawyers, the best legal work often occurs in quiet and unspectacular settings. One of my partners recently took the deposition of the opposing party in a contentious lawsuit among emotional litigants. But rather than verbally attacking or abusing the deponent, my partner instead spent a full eight hours methodically asking question after layered question, eventually inducing the individual to admit to several facts which, ultimately, destroyed the deponent’s case against our client. If you were sitting in the conference room when it happened, you may have missed it.
Judges virtually never permit “pitbull attacks” in their courtrooms. The histrionics we see on television are almost never allowed in a real courtroom, and for good reason. But the most important reason for the client is this: it doesn’t work.
At Harris, Winfield, Sarratt, & Hodges, we are committed to representing our clients zealously and to achieving the very best possible results in every case. We never shy away from a fight, but we leave the “pitbull tactics” to television actors and bad lawyers.
– Clay Hodges
 A deponent is a person being asked questions, under oath, in a deposition; a deposition is the taking of a person’s testimony outside a courtroom for the purpose gathering evidence and relevant information in a civil action.