It may be unpopular and politically incorrect in this age of professional civility, but I believe, if we fulfill our role as advocates, we are very likely going to make enemies. The late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once wrote about this fact when he said:
“You have no enemies you say.
Alas my friend the boast is poor
Those that mingle in the fray
That the brave endure must have made foes.
If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve smote no traitor on the hip
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip.
You’ve never changed a wrong to right.
You’ve been a coward in the fight.”
If we are dedicated to protecting our clients interests in the professional world of legal competition, conflict is a big part of our work. We are going to make others unhappy and even dislike us. So, how do we deal with the fact people may not like us and some even hate us as well? We should take the advice of attorney Abraham Lincoln who said:
“If I were to try to read, much less answer all the attacks, made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If the end brings me out wrong, then ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”
The late Robert Mitchum was interviewed in 1994. He correctly observed “There are always people who will object. If you are short, tall people will diminish you. If you are tall, shorter people don’t like you. If you’re alive, people wish you were dead. I do the best I can for the most I can and if it displeases somebody, I’m sorry. I take what came and did the best I could with it.”
One day in the House of Commons a Socialist member made a verbal personal attack on Winston Churchill. When it was over, Churchill rose and said to the assembly “If I valued the opinion of the honorable gentleman, I might be offended.” What is important is that we are acting honestly, ethically and professionally. We should try to avoid unnecessary conflict and personal disputes, but it is virtually inevitable in our work. What does count is how we react.
In spite of the fact we may be unpopular, we make be disliked or even worse, remember we took an oath to represent our clients with courage in spite of the consequences. It has been written by the Sultan of Mysore in 1750, Tipu Sahib, that “In this world I would rather live two days like a tiger, then two hundred years like a sheep.”
Be strong. Do not be intimidated and do not act out of concern about being liked. Instead, do your job like a professional football player or athlete paid to perform to the best of their ability.