It seems so funny to me when people use threats and say things like “take it or leave it.” Really? Well, with an attitude like that, I’m most likely going to leave it– and if we have a case together, then the fun will really begin when you get to see me in court act like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.
Litigators are a modern day version of gladiators, and the court room is our arena. We know the rules, and we know exactly how far we can go to accomplish the outcome we seek. Mercy is rarely in our vocabulary, and the annihilation of someone’s character is indeed a sport. We were gamers from an early age, and our minds were trained to identify weaknesses and strengths at warped speed. Our tongues are sharp, and the weapons we wield have slain many unwitting challengers. Are you getting a good picture of what it’s like to be in court? I hope so.
Now after many years of witnessing scores of blood baths, some of us can grow weary of the pointless battles. The enlightened warriors start to pick their battles more carefully, and some of us branch out into other fields of study to find perhaps more peaceful alternatives to resolving conflict. All my colleagues in the medical and mental health fields have taught me over the last 7 years to become a more peaceful warrior, and I truly have come to enjoy that, but those who for a second think that the feisty fighter in me has died are profoundly mistaken.
Honestly, the main reasons I have spent the last several years lecturing about alternative methods of dispute resolution are: (1) I want to help my younger colleagues understand that going to battle every day is not necessary, and in fact it’s healthier for us and our clients to try and avoid court; and (2) the public needs to know that court is not just costly, but it is a very unpredictable place to be, and a lot depends on your opponent and their war chest. To me, it is simply an issue of being more informed and making smart choices, and obviously the media attention proves there is an increasing demand for options that are not just cheaper, but healthier for our society as a whole.
Sadly, I admit that I still haven’t found that magic wand where everyone will want to play nice and keep things amicable. So, as much as I will continue to promote mediation and settlements out of court, the reality is I will at times still find myself inside the courtroom, where sometimes I’m the one that actually has to give the ultimatums– either take it or leave it. Easy for me to say, however, because I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Ultimatums should be used with extreme caution– don’t say it unless you mean it, and make sure you have complete immunity so that it doesn’t matter to you which answer you get back. Without that immunity, only fools or gamblers make threats they can’t back up. Apparently, there are a lot of those out there. All I can say, is watch out– once hired guns are involved if you fire, there will be consequences.
For every action, there is a reaction, especially with lethal warriors around. If you want peace, avoid the threats, name-calling, and games. If you want war, game on. It really is that simple, and in the end one thing is for sure: you reap what you sow. So watch out for those ultimatums, in my world, they really do come back to bite– with a vengeance.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.