When I was a young boy watching western movies, you could always tell who the good and bad guys were. It was easy. The good guys always wore white hats and the bad guys always wore black hats – well, most of the time anyway. The black hat guys were just plain mean and ornery cusses. They never said “thank you,” would often spit on the ground, seldom shaved, had terrible manners in general, and just seemed to be bent on making most folks’ lives miserable.
When I first got into litigation support service work and was called on to be a testifying expert witness, I had some encounters with some opposing attorneys that I swear I’d seen in one of those western movies I used to watch. Yep, they were the ones wearing the black hats.
In my early days of testifying I had a hard time not wanting to kick a questioning opposing attorney in the shins when they would do everything in their power to make me look incompetent at a deposition or on the witness stand. I used to take it personally. I was astounded that the legal profession would produce such nasty critters – ones who were bent on making my life miserable. I sometimes imagined them spitting on the courtroom floor. I took this perceived animosity against me – a very likeable individual, personally. By that, I mean that after my testimony was concluded I would carry a bad feeling around with me for quite some time about the black-hat-wearing attorney who tried to bushwhack me.
I soon found out that I had the wrong perception about these opposing attorneys. I realized that they were simply just doing their jobs. They were true advocates for their clients – that’s all. They had nothing against me personally. They believed that they had to conduct themselves, and act, in a manner to intimidate opposing witnesses in order to win their cases; and, to let their clients know they were no wimps when it came to litigation. As a matter of fact, I’ve now become so reconciled to the perceived conduct of opposing attorneys against me as not being personal, that I actually have chatted with them on many occasions after my testimony. Oh, not about what they asked me or what I said on the stand, but about their families and practices, for example. I have even become good friends with attorneys that I once thought to be true villains.
By the way, I do not mean to characterize all the opposing attorneys who examined me as black hat wearers. I’ve also encountered some very professional and courteous opposing attorneys who do quite an effective job of litigating cases, thank you.
See ya, pardner!
Don R. Bays, CPA/ABV, CVA, CFF