We’ve all heard about folks who want to hire a real “bulldog” to represent them in some lawsuit. The reason most of these folks want a bulldog is because they believe that their interests will be better served by having such an “aggressive” attorney “on their side.” Usually, it is not hard to find bulldogs. Their reputations usually precede them. Bulldogs are a marketable commodity due to a demand which is largely premised upon the belief that such lawyers are effective advocates for their clients. But is that actually the case? Do clients who hire attorneys who have built a reputation on being aggressively adversarial obtain better results? As a practicing litigator for nearly 30 years, I would like to argue that clients who hire bulldogs not only don’t get better results, but they are often themselves victimized by that hiring decision.
The belief that an attorney who turns everything into a fight or is opportunistically adversarial obtains better results is naïve. There is a great deal more to being an effective advocate than simply being adversarial. It may be true that the bulldog can occasionally scare off opposition and have the other side simply cave in out of fear, but that is the only occasion when hiring a bulldog would work. And that is the exception rather than the rule to how most law suits really work. What actually happens in the vast majority of cases is that the other side is competently represented and thus does not simply cave in out of fear. When that happens and the other dog doesn’t simply run away, the result is, as would be expected, messy, painful and expensive – not just for the other side, but also for the client who hired and set their bulldog in motion. When you hire a bulldog you will be paying that dog for all the fighting he’s doing in your case, and bulldogs usually fight about anything and everything. That’s gets very expensive very quickly.
There are certain types of disputes that I have handled over the years involving similar facts and legal issues and where the main thing that is different is the attorney representing the other side. When that’s been a bulldog, the only difference in the result is that everyone, including the other side, pays far too much and waits a lot longer for the result. Ultimately, bulldogs can’t change the facts or the law and their overly oppositional approach only means that the parties end up fighting (and consequently spending money on attorneys) over all kinds of things that don’t matter. Bulldogs as lawyers are, in general, a very costly pet to own.
DISCLAIMER: The writer wishes to make absolutely clear that he means no disrespect to our canine friends by comparing them to lawyers. Moreover, any resemblance between any particular attorney, living or dead, and any canine American, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
John B. Simpson, the author of this post, is an experienced trial attorney, Charlottesville Commercial Litigation Attorney, and Charlottesville Divorce Attorney with the Charlottesville, Virginia office of MartinWren, P.C. For more information about John’s services, please call him at 434-817-3100 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.