Were there ever such bygone days when a lawyer could walk down the street into another lawyer’s firm just to say hello? Or was there even such a time where after strenuous legal argument in court, opposing counsel could meet for lunch or even play a round of golf the following weekend?
Over coffee Thursday morning with colleagues, the subject of collegiality came up. After listening to one lawyer’s recollections, I wondered if such days are but distant memories or merely the purview of a small town in a rural county.
Look up collegial in any dictionary and it simply means a spirit of warmth and good fellowship with one’s colleagues. Along with civility, most lawyers aspire to collegiality even when its manifestation is more often than not a triumph of form over substance.
After relocating from a rural practice to a large metropolis, the search for such collegiality may be more elusive but it is not unlikely. Evidence of it is found in the simple coffee klatch I took part in this week. Here as anywhere, frankly, you just have to look longer and harder for such accessibly unpretentious fellowship.
One lawyer recalled how years ago, an old-time lawyer who she’d just met, had been kind and helpful to her when she’d relocated from another state. The skeptical might ascribe this old-time lawyer’s friendliness as an exception and not the rule. But nevertheless, the anecdote vindicates my belief that in spite of our geographic and demographic differences, as human beings, we all retain our need for social interaction, especially our capacity to interact socially for positive ends.
Unfortunately, legal practitioners in a big city may sometimes regard themselves as busier than lawyers elsewhere. Or they may even burnish an already healthy self-image by not deigning to deal with anyone unless that contact supports a strong self-interest. As to the former, whether big city lawyer or small town practitioner, we are as busy as we choose to be. But if the latter is the case, I contend that good relations foster enhanced communication and more efficient outcomes. Therefore, cultivating collegiality is ultimately in everyone’s self interest.