Clients, attorneys, and a couple of other people complain a lot about the lack of civility in the legal profession and in the world generally. It’s worth complaining about, but lawyers have options to counteract the negative perception of an uncivil professional environment. Having a Lebowski-driven practice could be one way. Practicing wuss law may be another. One innovative approach, however, involves the adoption of a collaborative aggression focus for case resolution. If collaborative aggression seems moronic, well, yeah, it is. But who are we kidding? With the rise of Ultimate Fighting Championship and the incredible profitability of reality television, why not up the zealous advocacy schtick and bring in some some serious cash? Growing concern about incivility in the profession? Whatever. It’s all chedda, baby.
If you are not sure about building collaborative aggression into your practice we can help. First, a quick definition. Collaborative aggression is an agreed-upon legal process that could involve two-by-fours but could also include any non-lethal beat down between counsel. The key terms are “collaborative” and “beat down.” And it involves only the attorneys in a case, though clients can watch and, if appropriate, the court can agree to referee. Importantly it is not a fight between clients, nor is it a absolute free-for-all. It’s simply an aggression pact between attorneys, with an agreed upon prize on the line.
With that settled, take stock of your fighting and wrestling skills before considering collaborative aggression. How good is your Reverse Frankensteiner? When’s the last time you practiced a running stomach headbutt or even threw a chair? Do you even know what moQ’bara is? Been a few years, hasn’t it? Luckily, local gyms are available to help attorneys who wish to hone their collaborative aggression skills. Ask around and be specific in your requests. If a gym or an alleged collaborative aggression program does not know at least five different piledrivers or has never heard of Rex Kwon Do, look for a different training regimen. Good programs are out there, but be careful that you are not snookered into an “aggressive advocacy” program that focuses on words and persuasive techniques. A sharp kick in the head is all you’ll need to realize you chose the wrong training program.
Once you feel you are trained and ready, consider the type of collaborative aggression to practice. Ask around to find attorneys who may be practicing with a similarly aggressive skill set. But don’t get mismatched. It would be disaster to agree to collaborative aggression in which you choose lightsabers and opposing counsel specializes in kicking your ass with nunchuks. Don’t go there, no matter how much you think The Force may be with you.
You are not limited to the type of collaborative aggression to use, so long as it is agreed upon and the rules of the contest are in writing and also signed by the clients. Some popular forms include Judo, Rex Kwon Do, Kung Fu, Turkish oil wrestling, Muay Thai, and cage fighting. Less frequently seen forms include Capoeira, jousting, melee (typically only available in a class action), and Shaq Fu. Despite intense lobbying from the Vermont Bar Association, non-aggressive models such as thumb-wrestling are not part of the collaborative aggression framework. In addition, one of the early predecessors to collaborative aggression, the pistol duel, is strictly prohibited.
In the end, our best advice is to look at collaborative aggression carefully as a way to extend your practice to respond to today’s changing client expectations. With the right moves and a solid training base, you can develop a profitable practice based on this new focus area. You may even garner envy and fear from colleagues.
Jr. Assistant Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of posts about the revival of collaborative aggression as a law practice focus. We’ll visit other topics in the near future, such as effective moves to consider, best areas of law to submit to collaborative aggression, and how to debride flesh wounds.