At a recent mediation concerning a real estate dispute, counsel for the plaintiff showed up wearing tennis togs; shorts, tennis shirt, and sneaks. I kid you not! I bit my lip and said nothing. Coming from a background of the very traditional Philadelphia Bar Association, I found this astonishing. Having lived here in south Florida for over twenty years now, I still find it hard to understand.
Recognizing the more relaxed atmosphere of the practice of law here in Florida, I posit the question: Should fashion make a difference in the courtroom or mediation scenario?
My answer – Yes!
A couple of examples for you to think about: A recent mediation dealt with a serious personal-injury case. The Plaintiff was a professional woman who appeared as a professional would be expected, a beautifully tailored suit, hair styled, etc. Also present was the adjuster for the defendant who was clearly impressed with Plaintiff’s demeanor, appearance and articulation of her case. I am certain this went a long way towards the eventual high six-figure settlement. The adjuster and defense counsel appraised how a jury or judge would be impressed by the credibility of this witness. You can conjure a dozen scenarios if you flipped the facts.
In the previous case with our tennis player, do you think his client felt that his attorney was taking the mediation seriously? How do you think opposing counsel reacted?
As your mediator, if I came to the table dressed in jeans or shorts, unshaven, etc., do you think I could demand the same respect for parties and counsel when inquiring during caucus or when trying to control the room in general? I appreciate your feedback. Perhaps I am too mired in the old-fashioned way of doing this.
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