Biglaw

In last week’s column, I discussed the importance of effective deposition defense, with a focus on the client-facing aspects of the process. Now it is time to focus on the true star of the show, the witness.

Yes, some witnesses will be important, perhaps even a senior executive at a client. Or a technical expert, on whose testimony your case rides. And other witnesses will be more tangential, like the IT guy you need to defend with respect to e-discovery issues.

Yes, I understand that every witness is critical, especially when it comes to e-discovery. Human nature, however, is to treat “important people,” like executives and experts, with an extra level of care. As a lawyer, the key is to treat every witness you are preparing for deposition with respecr — while remembering your role as an advocate, tasked with winning your client’s case. Effective defense of depositions goes a long way towards achieving favorable litigation results.

Here are some tips:

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Here’s the rule: Make it perfect; then send it to me.

(Yeah, yeah: That’s a slight overstatement, and there might be occasional exceptions to the rule. But let’s explain the rule first, for the benefit of the slow students. We’ll teach the exceptions to the advanced students next semester.)

The old guy — the curmudgeon who’s heading up the team — has been playing this game for decades. He’s been marking up crappy drafts since before you were born. He’s been receiving bad drafts at 6:30 p.m. on Friday (“so that you can have the weekend to look at it”) since God was young. That crotchety old coot really, really, really is not interested in seeing more bad work. (Put yourself in his shoes for a minute: Why would he possibly want to see your appalling first draft?)

Make it perfect; then give it to him. Why should he bother looking at anything other than your best work?

That’s the rule. Here’s a corollary . . .

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The source of the Supreme Court’s tech problems?

Ed. note: In honor of Columbus Day (and Canadian Thanksgiving), Above the Law will be on a reduced publication schedule today. We will be back in full force tomorrow.

* The Supreme Court’s new Term is off to a great start: Thanks to a copy machine’s error, we almost missed the surprise cert denials in the gay marriage cases. What kind of screw-ups will this week bring us? [National Law Journal]

* On the other hand, in what’s considered an unsurprising move following its cert denials en masse, the Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriage to begin in Idaho. Congrats to the Gem State. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Jenner & Block’s data privacy practice is making waves in an “uncharted but lucrative field,” and its leader thinks that the “Internet of Things” will help heat up her work soon. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* A future Law & Order: SVU episode? Sanford Rubenstein, a personal injury and civil rights lawyer who’s been described as “[f]lashy, brash and always camera-ready,” is now being accused of rape. [ABC News]

* Yale Law’s most interesting student goes to all of his classes, but never has to study or take any of his finals. It’s not because he’s lucky — it’s because he’s a 93-year-old course auditor. [New Haven Register]


Lindsay Lohan

* This just in: Now that the Fifth Circuit has refused to hear the Texas abortion case en banc, it looks like we may see a viable case about a major social issue being brought to Term before SCOTUS after all. [National Law Journal]

* Skadden came out on top of the Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, and Mergermarket league tables for the highest transactional value of its mergers and acquisitions deals in 2014. Congrats on kicking the competition’s ass. [Am Law Daily]

* Per HBR Consulting, clients are winning the war when it comes to getting legal services on the cheap. Consider this a “call to action for law firms to reconsider the way they do business.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* The Elon University School of Law is completely revamping its academic offerings in order to offer a law degree that can be earned in 2.5 years, and for about $14,000 less. Nice work! [Triad Business Journal]

* Lindsay Lohan’s attorneys filed an amended complaint in her case against Grand Theft Auto’s publisher, this time going so far as to spell their client’s name correctly. [Hollywood, Esq. / Hollywood Reporter]

In the simplest terms, it is fair to say that law firm starting salaries are flat. The fact that the incidence of $160,000 as the starting salary at the largest law firms is less than it was before the recession is really more a reflection of the changing contours of the large firm market, not the fact that law firms are paying entry-level associates less than they used to. Many law offices that are part of large firms, particularly those in the largest markets, continue to pay $160,000, but the data since 2009 clearly show that the large firm market now also contains many firms that do not pay $160,000. In some ways the data simply reflect the growing cohort of large firms, and it shows that they are not a monolithic entity. In many markets starting salaries of $145,000 or $135,000 or even less are the norm.

James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), commenting on the shrinking prevalence of $160,000 starting salaries for first-year Biglaw associates in NALP’s 2014 Associate Salary Survey.

(What other information can be gleaned from the 2014 Associate Salary Survey?)

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Nobody will be shocked that Wachtell Lipton placed on top of our first-ever ATL Power 100. Yet a full look at ATL’s inaugural law firm rankings does contain some surprises.

How did your firm do?

See the complete ranking (and methodology) here.

* Thanks to a partner from K&L Gates, victims of revenge porn will be able to rely upon the assistance of the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project to guide them through the courts pro bono. [National Law Journal]

* The latest Princeton Review rankings are out, and now you can find out if you attend a law school that has some of the best professors in the country. Spoiler alert: Yale Law isn’t No. 1. [Huffington Post]

* Calling all lawyers and law students! If you bought a Red Bull in the past 12 years to get through an all-nighter, then you’ll be able to make some quick cash from this class action settlement. [BuzzFeed]

* It seems Madam Justice Lori Douglas, the Canadian judge whose nude pictures were leaked online, is no longer facing sexual harassment charges. That must be nice for her, all things considered. [CBC News]

* Per federal prosecutors, if you’re not too high to suck at playing games on Xbox, then you’re not too high to forget about friends of the accused Boston bomber removing evidence from your room. [Bloomberg]

* Adrian Peterson’s felony child abuse trial is supposed to begin in December, but it could be delayed because the judge may have to recuse. That’s what happens when you call lawyers “media whores.” [CNN]

Sometimes, firm publicists need to understand that it’s more about shoulda than coulda. Sure, you could put your entirely capable but not necessarily media-trained new chairperson in front of a camera to film an awkward welcome video, but that doesn’t mean you should. The buzzword-driven types probably shouted “New Media!” and “Video is the Future!” or some such and cajoled this lawyer in front of the camera.

What we ended up with are some of the worst line readings since Attack of the Clones….

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Justice Joan Orie Melvin

* How are Nevada and Idaho officials reacting to yesterday’s Ninth Circuit ruling striking down gay marriage bans in those states, and how soon might marriages get underway? [BuzzFeed]

* In other LGBT legal news, New York City is likely to make it easier for transgender individuals to amend their birth certificates. [New York Times]

* Good news for Joan Orie Melvin, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice turned convicted felon: her unorthodox sentence has been stayed (again). [How Appealing]

* Eduardo Leite, who has led Baker & McKenzie since 2010, gets another two years at the helm of Biglaw’s biggest firm. [American Lawyer]

* Cravath associate Micaela McMurrough scores a victory in tax court for artists. [New York Times]

* The ABA has issued a new opinion addressing ethical issues raised during the sale of a law practice. [American Bar Association]

* Why do lawyers blog? Tim Baran of Rocket Matter talks to 23 of us. [Legal Productivity]

Biglaw litigators may enjoy healthy pay, but they are also the target of some ribbing — particularly from the trial-lawyers bar. Anyone who has practiced litigation in Biglaw has heard that they are at best a “deposition lawyer,” better suited for churning out endless motions than for performing in front of a judge or jury. There is no doubt that for the majority of Biglaw litigators deposition experience is much easier to come by than trial experience. And while trials are definitely more intensive and fun, in my experience preparing for a critical deposition in a patent case is in a way more difficult. Unlike at trial, where nearly all of the direct and cross examinations are scripted, there is an element of the unknown at a deposition.

When it is an important witness, such as a technical or damages expert, everyone involved in the case knows that a deposition can be a make-or-break event. In fact, one of the things that makes preparing for trial testimony easier than preparing for a deposition is that when we prepare for trial, we rely heavily on prior testimony in the case. The best source for that prior testimony? Deposition transcripts. But going into a critical deposition, there is much more uncertainty. Everyone on the team worries if the witness will hold up. Does not matter how experienced the expert is, or how senior a business person. The wrong answer can doom a case.

While it may seem like deposition defense is a thankless job, it also provides a priceless opportunity to “hear” your opponent’s approach to important issues in the case. And that can be even more valuable than trying to extract information from a well-prepared witness at a deposition you end up taking at another point in the case.

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