"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.


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I just read an interesting reflection on civility in the legal profession, and a caution against rudeness in dealings with others. It’s a very valid point – even in an oppositional situation you will almost always achieve a better resolution if you both enter into that dialogue with civility and politeness as your guides.

A great example of this is the non-legal divorce approach that has cropped up in the last few years. Rather than huge legal fees and months of anger and acrimony, you negotiate the dissolution of a marriage with a mediator. As a child of divorce, I would have much preferred that approach than what I experienced (with my mom dying still furious with her ex, while my father had moved on).

One comment mentioned the writings of Melody Beattie, who wrote several books on codependence.  I found this gem:

We don’t need to eliminate all our reaction to people and problems.  Reactions can be useful.  They help us identify what we like and what feels good.  They help us identify problems in and around us.  But most of us react too much.  And much of what we react to is nonsense.  It isn’t all that important, and it doesn’t merit the time and attention we’re giving it.  Some of what we react to is other people’s reactions to us.  (I’m made because he got mad; he got mad because I was angry; I was angry because I thought he was angry with me; he wasn’t angry; he was hurt because…)

Some other useful thoughts on civility:

I just say you can’t win fights with skunks. They’re stinkers, and you get some on ya.
– Elsa Rice, Q.C., Scorgie Wilson Rice, Edmonton, Alberta

From the author of the article, Eugene Meehan:

Patience is idling your engine when you feel like stripping your gears.
Accept that some days you’re the statue, and some days you’re the pigeon.  (my favorite)
The harder you argue, the less persuasive you are.

Pig Rule # 1: Never wrestle with a pig—you only get dirty; and the pig likes it.
Pig Rule # 2:Never try to teach pig to dance – it wastes your time; and it only annoys the pig.

The words from the legal profession are wise advice for any profession, be it engineering or the clergy.  The use of personal attacks in a professional context is highly frowned upon in the legal system, and should be treated as equally distasteful in other professions.  I’m as guilty as the next person in forgetting that, because sometimes it feels better to react immediately than to adopt an attitude of peace.  Turning the other cheek is especially challenging when the engagement involves a direct assault on your sense of self

As a final word, this fire investigation court case led to one of the expert witnesses being chastised by the court, and having his rebuttal opinion chucked out.  At issue was whether a commercial building fire was incendiary (that is, deliberately set) or accidental.  It’s a critical question because if the fire was incendiary, and the fire setter was the owner, the insurer may decline to pay.  For his client, who had spent considerable $ obtain his services, I do not imagine that would lead to a satisfied customer.

Number 216 Holdings Ltd. v. Intact Insurance Company, 2013 BCSC 1267 is a cautionary tale when an expert gets personal (paragraphs 333, 334 and 337).  I’ve removed the names, although the case is a matter of public record.
Mr. R’s opinion in rebuttal to Ms. L is difficult to read because of his choice of language which evidences a manifest disrespect for this other expert’s opinion. He chose to describe opinions given by Ms. L as “false”, “nonsensical”, “over simplified” and “nonsense” rather than simply stating a contrary opinion.

R stated in his rebuttal opinion that Ms. L “has no technical expertise to comment on fire progression”, ignoring her many qualifications. Mr. R was reluctant to agree in cross-examination that Ms. L’s professional certification, as Certified Fire Investigator, was listed as the highest possible certification of the International Association of Arson Investigators, an organization of which he is president of the BC branch. Mr. R has not attained this level of certification himself. […]

I find that Mr. R’s reaction to Ms. L’s report was over-the-top, creating the impression that he was furious that this other expert had critiqued his opinions. His choice of language was unwarranted. It has caused me to conclude that he lost professional objectivity in responding to Ms. L’s report and I give very little weight to his rebuttal opinion. Unfortunately this reflects poorly on his open-mindedness and the objectivity of all of his opinions. [Emphasis added]


Written by sameo416

December 9, 2014 at 9:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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