Know Your Opponents by the Cut of Their Hair

Astute attorneys looking for a leg up as they prepare for trial might want to assess opposing counsel’s hairstyles. Sonja Weissman, a managing partner at Reed Smith, mentioned the unusual tactic last night during the Alameda County Bar Association’s annual installation of officers and directors.

Weissman said she discovered what might be styled “the haircut theory? as negotiations wound down in a recent civil litigation suit. All along, the plaintiffs’ lawyers had been posturing for a multimillion-dollar settlement in a case Weissman’s client believed was worth less than $100,000. And thus, Weissman figured the case was destined for trial.

She said members of her legal team were careful to schedule barber shop appointments the week before their first court appearance, because every lawyer knows how difficult it is to get your bangs clipped during a trial. So when the plaintiff’s attorneys showed up looking a little rough around the edges, Weissman realized her opponents weren’t prepared to try their case.

“Usually if people are serious, they show up looking spit-and-polished,” she says. “… like the first day of school.”

And sure enough, the plaintiff’s team called the next day to present what Weissman called a much more “reasonable? settlement offer.

— Matthew Hirsch

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3 Responses to “Know Your Opponents by the Cut of Their Hair”

  1. Denise Howell Says:

    Hi Matthew,

    Now that Sonja’s secret is out, aren’t we just in for a nuclear arms race of lawyerly ill grooming? See: http://bgbg.blogspot.com/2006/01/todays-new-blawg_23.html

    Welcome to the blawgosphere, good to have you! Fun post.

  2. The Litigator » test Says:

    […] Our PR person would have been remiss had he not pointed me toward this post mentioning comments by my colleague Sonja Weissman, Know Your Opponents by the Cut of Their Hair: "[M]embers of her legal team were careful to schedule barber shop appointments the week before their first court appearance, because every lawyer knows how difficult it is to get your bangs clipped during a trial. So when the plaintiff’s attorneys showed up looking a little rough around the edges, Weissman realized her opponents weren’t prepared to try their case." This of course leads to the corollary: when you really want to psych out the other side, you show up to the final pre-trial proceedings looking very bedraggled, but being very prepared. Sounds like something Evan Schaeffer or Jeff Lewis could have considerable fun with… (Also, here’s a tip for anyone who might be playing this game but unfamiliar with the intricacies of female coiffures: where on a short-haired man you’d scan the neck to gauge the time elapsed since the last cut, with women you’d be better served by finding a way to nonchalantly survey your opponent’s roots.) […]

  3. The Litigator » test the extract Says:

    […] Our PR person would have been remiss had he not pointed me toward this post mentioning comments by my colleague Sonja Weissman, Know Your Opponents by the Cut of Their Hair: "[M]embers of her legal team were careful to schedule barber shop appointments the week before their first court appearance, because every lawyer knows how difficult it is to get your bangs clipped during a trial. So when the plaintiff’s attorneys showed up looking a little rough around the edges, Weissman realized her opponents weren’t prepared to try their case." This of course leads to the corollary: when you really want to psych out the other side, you show up to the final pre-trial proceedings looking very bedraggled, but being very prepared. Sounds like something Evan Schaeffer or Jeff Lewis could have considerable fun with… (Also, here’s a tip for anyone who might be playing this game but unfamiliar with the intricacies of female coiffures: where on a short-haired man you’d scan the neck to gauge the time elapsed since the last cut, with women you’d be better served by finding a way to nonchalantly survey your opponent’s roots.) […]

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