I get asked a lot to serve as local counsel on cases for lawyers from LA, New York, Chicago and DC. (I also end up hiring lawyers in those cities.) Sometimes we’re asked to play a minor role – some call this “elbow counsel,” where we’re really just on the case in name only. Generally, though, lead counsel sees that we can offer valuable insight into not just the substantive law but also the local landscape. And I assure you the landscape here in Nashville is much different than it is in larger cities.
Given the sheer size of bigger cities, lawyers there often never appear more than once in front of the same judge and often never interact with the same opposing counsel. With the virtual anonymity that comes with the territory in those jurisdictions, lawyers have every reason to practice scorched-earth litigation. They can be as ruthless as they want – no one knows who they are and, very likely, no one will ever see them again.
Practice here in Nashville is completely different. Although our city is booming, we have only four active U.S. District Judges and only four chancellors at the state court level. In this big small town, everyone knows everyone. And how you conduct yourself in a single case can be remembered for the rest of your career. Although we advocate zealously, we refuse to stab each other in the back. And we know how easy it is to be short-sighted. Given the close-knit relationships here, we still litigate with a Southern gentility, or what the profession calls “civility.” I hope it always stays this way, even as we grow and welcome newcomers from other jurisdictions.