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March 14, 2014


Friday 5: Passive-Aggressive Phrases Used in Communicating With Opposing Counsel — Translated!

by contributor
passive agressive
Are you guilty of any of using any of these phrases?

passive agressiveRead the full “Top Ten Passive-Aggressive Phrases Used in Communicating With Opposing Counsel — Translated!” in the March issue of NWLawyer!

Though our first instinct may be to communicate with flaming arrows and war chants, our professional responsibility requires us to correspond with opposing counsel in a polite and courteous manner. Accordingly, some attorneys have spent careers honing their skills in the fine art of passive-aggressive communication, which I like to think of as “being mean in a nice way.” Below are 5 of the most popular passive-aggressive phrases I have seen used (and, admittedly, have on occasion used myself) in correspondence between attorneys — translated for those new to the craft.

1. “Thank you for your letter.”

Translation: “Your three pages of text, sprinkled with a few legal citations, do not change my client’s position. If they did, I would have picked up the phone instead of responding in writing.”

2. “In my ____ years of practicing law…”

Translation: “I have more experience than you and I am hoping that intimidates you.”

3. “I am not aware of any legal authority supporting your position. If you have any such authority, please forward it to me.”

Translation: “I am calling your bluff. Also, I am too lazy to do the legal research myself to find out whether your position is correct.”

4. “You make an interesting/creative/thoughtful argument.”

Translation: “No judge would buy that argument and we both know it.”

5. “Please let me know if I understand your position correctly.”

Translation: “By paraphrasing your position, I am putting words in your mouth that I plan to use against you later. This is my attempt to nail you down on those words.”

Alternate Translation: “I am a smart lawyer who deals with complicated issues every day, and your argument is so convoluted that even I need help making sense of it.”

Want more? Read the full “Top Ten Passive-Aggressive Phrases Used in Communicating With Opposing Counsel — Translated!” in the March issue of NWLawyer!

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