The Morning Fight


Layla Kamm
by Layla Kamm

Some days Tea House Diaries inevitably turns into Court House Diaries.

Years ago when I was a young lawyer (well, I am still young but when I was a naïve lawyer I shall say), I appeared in Orange County Superior Court before the Honorable Andrew Banks on a small matter where we were requesting to continue the trial date on a case. Very simple issue, not much factual or legal dispute involved. The opposing counsel who did not want to continue the trial date and disagreed with our motion. So he first got angry when I presented him with our paperwork, then he threw the documents on the ground after which the bailiff gladly escorted him outside the courtroom where he could cool down before the judge took the bench. As you can imagine by this point, I was also enraged at his unpleasant reaction. Let’s just say by the time we actually appeared before Judge Banks we were both yelling and screaming. All of it over a mere date.

And this is when the wise old man sitting up on the bench looked at us and said, rather kindly like a caring father, “Counsels, you both better settle down because on a scale of one to ten this issue is a zero!”

And believe it or not, this simple sentence hit the right nerve and then we both quieted down. Somehow over the years, this little piece of advice has stuck with me so that every time I appear in court and feel the emergence of a fight with the other attorney—over nothing—I remind myself of it.

This morning was of those mornings. I had an appearance in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, down town Los Angeles. We had prepared paperwork to submit to the judge regarding an agreement with the other counsel. When I get there, the much younger and more naïve attorney who showed up for the opposing side refused to sign the stipulation contending that it did not comply with our oral agreement, that the language was not specific enough, that instead of an “and” we need to say “and/or”…and whatever other excuse a young attorney can come up with to start a fight at 8:30 in the morning, to claim his power in this world…to feed his ego.

Well he was lucky that I am now a much calmer, wiser lawyer and that I can actually discern between an issue and a “non-issue”. Plus, I can’t really put up a fight before having had my morning coffee, which I no longer drink by the way before appearing in court since it makes me even more nervous than I already am.

So we go before the judge, who seems really nice, and resolve our little dispute orderly and in a civilized manner. When I tell the judge that counsel refuses to sign my stipulation because he disagrees with my wording of it, the nice judge turns around and tells the young man:

“Counsel, why don’t you draft the stip the way you want it worded?”

Easy and done. We were out of there in exactly five minutes saving judicial resources.

When I am saying bye to the young attorney I really want to tell him that he should settle down, and recognize the zero to ten scale before staring a morning fight. I also want to say to him to relax and come and have a cup of coffee with me at the corner café. But then I just let it go and let him go back to his own ego-driven world where he needs to learn a few things on his own before he can settle down and have a cup of coffee.

At the end of the morning, I am just glad that a legal career brings about so much material for a writing career.

Today’s Healthy Living Tip: Before losing your mind over nothing, take a step back and evaluate the seriousness of your issue. After you do that, relax and have cup of coffee. Then go about the rest of your day. And every time you start freaking out, ask yourself: on a scale of one to ten, where does this fall?




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Anahid Hojjati

Thanks Layla, this was a good read.

by Anahid Hojjati on

It is always interesting to read about issues in other people's work lives. Your blog is a window to know about one kind of issues trial lawyers face. thanks for sharing.