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« What's Your Motivation as a Lawyer? | Main | Jim Karger: Former Labor Lawyer Finds Happiness in Mexico Helping Homeless Dogs and Counseling Businesses »

Bankruptcy Lawyers at Weil Gotshal Seek to Reschedule Hearings to Accommodate Children's Winter School Breaks

Lawyers who practice with civility typically won't serve their adversaries with papers on Thanksgiving eve. However should an attorney accommodate opposing counsel when there's a conflict with winter school break?

We recently read on The Juggle blog that bankrupcy lawyers at Weil Gotshal representing M&T Bank in a major Chapter 11 case recently asked the judge in the case to reschedule a series of hearings so they could spend time with their children.  The hearings were set for December 18-20, and 27, and the bank's lawyers wrote in their motion to reschedule, “These dates are smack in the middle of our children’s winter breaks, which are sometimes the only times to be with our children.”

Is the opportunity to spend time with his or her children good cause for a lawyer to seek to reschedule court hearings?  On the surface, one might be tempted to say "yes," particularly when the dates of those hearings coincide with the children's vacation time from school.  However, the debtor's response helps to put this request in perspective.

"While M&T Bank seeks to extend the hearing because of their children’s winter break schedules, M&T Bank ignores that the Debtors’ witnesses and representatives also have school-age children and the same is probably true for many parties. The Debtors are cognizant of the burdens a late December hearing places on the families of all stakeholders involved, but all parties were aware of those burdens when the schedule was proposed and approved by this Court." (emphasis added)

Lawyers can, do, and ought to be accommodating to opposing counsel when such accommodations do not prejudice their client and it is reasonable to do so.  After all, a certain collegiality among members of the bar helps cases move through the courts more quickly and more smoothly.  In this case, however, it is unclear whether the request for rescheduling is reasonable under the circumstances; the judge will have to decide that.  Regardless of the merits of this particular motion, it is encouraging to see lawyers talking about the importance of family time and bringing it to the court's attention, even in an $8 billion bankruptcy matter.

While this story is primarily about accommodation and work-life balance, reading the comments to the blog entries here and here offers an object lesson about how far our profession must still go to promote civility among its members.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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