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Put it in writing

Early in my career I would treat any outlandish allegation an opposing counsel would make regarding my client as serious.  Upon being informed via telephone of some wacked-out claim–my client was having sex with a German Shepherd puppy while snorting cocaine off of a 16 year old girl’s buttocks while the children were in an adjoining room–I would immediately call my client and question him or her about the allegation: “Is it true that you were having sex with a German Shepherd puppy while snorting cocaine off of a 16 year old girl’s buttocks while the children were in an adjoining room?”

Such questions tended not to go over well with my clients–some version of WTF would be on the polite end of the response spectrum–and who can blame them?  Upon informing opposing counsel that the allegations weren’t true, I would hear nothing further on the matter and opposing counsel wouldn’t mention the allegation again.  Meanwhile, my clients would gradually lose trust in me, thinking, quite naturally, why is their attorney making such heinous allegations against them with no evidence to substantiate these claims?  Rather than strengthening my client’s case by refuting the other side’s crazy allegations, I was weakening the case by wasting my client’s money responding to outlandish claims and reducing my client’s confidence in me.

Then I had an epiphany: PUT IT IN WRITING.  Opposing attorneys can make any outlandish claim they wish and I will respond so long as they put it in writing and provide me their evidence supporting the allegation.  Often opposing counsel will simply drop the issue.  Opposing attorneys may whine that I don’t take these outlandish allegations seriously but if they are unwilling to commit their allegations to writing (so I can prove these allegations were made), and provide me their evidence, why should I ask my client to spend time and money having us  respond?  Further, when opposing attorneys are willing to put these allegations in writing, and my client refutes these allegations, I can later show the court the outlandish and false allegations the opposing party has made against my aggrieved client.

Once I started requiring opposing attorneys to put their allegations in writing, I had to respond to many fewer such outlandish claims and was able to use these allegations to my client’s advantage (assuming they were false).  So the next time some opposing counsel informs you that your client is sponsoring cockfights in his kitchen, smoking weed with the parties’ teenage son, is storing his lover’s breast milk in the family freezer, or another similarly outrageous tale of parental irresponsibility, tell that attorney to put it in writing.

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