In the aftermath of every seminar I present at, I receive an evaluation of my presentation. Although most of the comments are favorable, there are sometimes one or two comments that are not. Some comments just contain information, as does the following one which is the subject matter of this blog. One of the comments for a seminar I presented last November was “Faye comes across as bitter. I wish her happiness.” I was the last speaker of that two-day seminar, and my topic was ethics in employment law. As this topic had been touched upon by several of the earlier presenters, I decided to focus on the real world of employment law cases, and the ethics, and sometimes the lack of ethics, of lawyers in these types of cases. Apparently my presentation revealed my unhappiness with some of the ethical issues I have encountered in my practice.
Do I consider myself to be bitter? No. The adversarial process is typically disappointing for both employees and employers, who have different perspectives about employment relationships, discipline, and terminations. Often, this causes employees and employers to become bitter during litigation. However, I feel that I am often more disappointed than bitter, because I see the negative side of human nature. In the field of employment law, there is never one totally correct and one totally incorrect side. Lawyers, for both employees and employers, don’t always receive the complete story from their clients, who frequently skew the facts in their favor, so that a lawyer will accept their case. Unfortunately, the true facts of a case may appear late in the process of representation, which is frustrating and disappointing to a lawyer who has advocated his/her client’s case without receiving a complete version of the facts.
The legal process itself is fraught with strife. Even U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, said in a talk he gave to a group in 2010 that “not long ago, we used to have trials without discovery. Now we have discovery without trials.” He was referring to the discovery process in litigation, which absorbs most of the efforts of a legal matter, and creates most of the expense. The discovery process, which was intended to facilitate the exchange of information between counsel and to promote early settlement, has become a Frankenstein living a life of its own. Because of the time and cost associated with discovery, this process has led to many parties being priced out of court. Often, those with the most available resources can prevail by extending the discovery process to the point where the average person cannot afford to continue to participate.
Bitterness and disappointment are not limited to the legal process. Certainly our current political climate, and the most recent Presidential election, has brought out the worst in human nature, with friends and family taking opposing political stances. In my opinion, with the exception of the people who live in Norway, considered the happiest nation in the world, most of us are unhappy about something. This year, America dropped one place on the list of happiest nations, and is now the 14th happiest nation in the world. So in America, this land of freedom and opportunity, something is obviously making us unhappy.