Deena Fischer

E-Business Law Group / Just1Group - Managing Partner/ Principal and CEO
Yardley, PA

    Let's Talk About Professionalism

    June 23, 2009

    When you're a service business, all you have is your reputation.  And part of the way that you gain a good reputation is your level of professionalism.

    You would think that this would be common sense to most service businesses.  But it's apparently not.  Not even to lawyers.

    (Then again, the problem with common sense in general is that it's apparently not all that common.)

    Let me tell you a story about what happened with me last week...

    I've been working on wrapping up and dissolving a company for a client where there was no operating agreement (ARGH!) and the parties are no longer on good terms. 

    It's been an arduous process, to put it mildly.

    And to throw another wrench into the mix, the opposing party left the country for several months to someplace where access to fax machines and the internet is sporadic at best.  The other attorney assured me that he would have power of attorney to sign on her behalf and asked me if I wanted a copy.  I said that I did.  You can see my diatribe on powers of attorney on my legal blog post this week here.

    That was nearly a month ago.

    We finally came to an agreement, sent out the copies to be signed and he signed on behalf of his client.  I asked for a copy of the power of attorney before sending my clients' signatures to him. 

    All of a sudden, he started getting cagey about giving me the document.  Now, I've been asking for this document for about two weeks and he keeps assuring me that he'll send it.

    Now that he's confronted, he admits that he doesn't have one. 

    Oh F*&%!

    I was so upset by this that I called the Ethics Hotline (which is a free service for lawyers who are confronted with ethical issues) and was told that not only might this be an ethical violation, but that it was most assuredly a statutory one.

    I wrote him an email explaining this and demanding that he either get a legal power of attorney and resign the document or that he have his client resign the document herself.  I was so concerned about phrasing this email correctly and not overstepping that I waited for my husband (who is also trained as a lawyer, though he works in PR) to get home to read it. 

    When we decided that it was right, I sent it.  It was at about 11pm Thursday night. 

    Now, you think that you've heard the worst of it, but you haven't.  Wait for it....

    At midnight, I got a call on my cell phone from the other attorney SCREAMING his head off at me. 

    No.  Really.

    I won't go in to what was said on our 30 minute phone call, but I assure you that by the end of the call he was sorry that he called me at midnight to yell at me. 

    Here's my point.  I know, it took me a long time to get there, but I'm getting there.

    Losing your head (which is what opposing counsel did) is not professional and makes you look, well, like an idiot...

    When you're confronted with a situation that angers you or upsets you, make sure you take deep breaths. 


    Wait until you're not upset or angry anymore.

    Trust me, there's nothing that can't wait a day.  If you're on the phone, tell the person that you'll have to call them back or send them an email with your response.

    Call your best friend and vent.

    Write a letter to them in Word.  Read it.  Go do something else for an hour and come read it again.  Have someone who's not involved read the letter.  When it's edited to the point where it sounds calm, rational and well thought out, then you can copy it into your email program and send it.

    Think of this quote, which is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

    "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

    Read Deena's other blog entries >

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