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Good Cop/Bad Cop

On Behalf of | Jul 9, 2012 | Opposing Counsel

There are a couple of attorneys I know who are nearly inseparable.  We’ll call them Frick and Frack.  They don’t have a firm together, they aren’t partners in the legal sense, but they handle every case together.  One doesn’t make a move without the other knowing.  Meetings with opposing counsel are handled jointly. All calls are made together. All Court appearances are, you guessed it, together.

One of the attorneys is as nice as he can be.  He is a gentleman of heretofore unquestioned repute.  He’s the kind of guy who walks into a room and everyone is glad to see him.  The other fellow is quite the polar opposite.  He is ill tempered, nasty, sharp tongued.  Every contention in every case is personal to him.  He is, to use the British phrase, quick to get his knickers in a twist.

Here’s what bugs me.  The nice guy likes to play mediator.  “Now guys,” he’ll say in the midst of his raging partner’s diatribe, “I’m sure we can work something out.”  But the nice guy act is really only the flip side of their collective coin.  The nice guy can’t honestly wear that mantle because he enables, he relies upon, he profits from his partner’s boorish behavior.  I think the “nice guy” is equally culpable of the nasty guy’s vitriol.

As the southern idiom goes, “You lay down with a dog, you’re goin’ to get fleas.” I think the “nice guy” has acquired many fleas.

The “nice guy” has lost his lustre in my book.  I no longer hold him in high regard. When we litigate against this tacky tag team we hold them at a distance and do not fall prey to their game of good cop/bad cop.  I remind the “nice guy” that he is now all too tarnished every chance I get, that his cynical game is known.

Many people play this game.  One will be a good guy, above the frey.  But he benefits from his partner’s dark antics.  This is an age-old method of persuasion. We recently even observed this tactic in use by an opposing counsel and his client against our client, before she had the good fortune to retain us.  

So what do you do when faced with the good cop/bad cop strategy?  You have a choice.  My first choice is to call it for what it is.  Tell the good cop that you know his game and watch the fireworks; for once exposed, the good cop will rapidly descend to a dark and angry place.  The other option is to provide disinformation and give the tag team what you want them to hear.  To be successful with this approach though, you need to know your long term objectives and calculate how your disinformation serves your greater purpose.

Frick and Frack, the good cop/bad cop, are everywhere.  The game continues because, when undiscovered, the game is successful.  Look for it.  Find it. Expose it.  Then you shall be free from it.