I watched this strategy play out in a hearing over which I was to preside as the arbitrator. When opposing counsel arrived, the attorney asked to meet with their counterpart while I waited for a few minutes. The two attorneys had a private conversation, then reentered the room after clearly having had a productive and collegial conversation. They stipulated to a delay of the proceedings until they could gather further information and properly prepare their respective cases for arbitration.
In an era in which civil dialogue seems to be increasingly difficult to find anywhere, this was a remarkably refreshing experience. Although the two attorneys’ perspective on both the facts and the law may differ, that did not preclude them from acting like the colleagues they are.
Those of you who read my newsletter or follow my blog know that I have written about the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and its corollary winning strategy of “Generous Tit for Tat” previously. Here it is in action: Lead with trust and see what happens.
If trust is reciprocated, our own experience of – and more importantly, our clients’ faith in – the legal system as a robust and functional dispute resolution mechanism is strengthened. As an added benefit, attorneys may enjoy their interactions with their colleagues, rather than dreading them as adversaries, and can focus on the singular pleasure of debating the law.
Although I am no longer a practicing litigator, I remain a member of an ancient and noble profession. Interactions such as the one I observed in this arbitration hearing make me proud to be an attorney. More importantly, they give me hope that our professional spirit of collegiality and collaboration will always prevail.