About three years ago, a case caught my eye that still sits in the the back of my mind when looking at our firm calendar or speaking with opposing counsel on a matter. It highlights something that should be self-evident to most attorneys. Yet, as this case illustrates, even routine matters can cause extreme problems.
Booher v. Sheeram LLC was a fairly standard slip-and-fall case. A hotel had been receiving a number of complaints about its slippery bathtubs. The hotel subsequently placed non-skid material in the tubs. Regardless, Mary Booher slipped and fell after the non-skid material had been placed. She and her husband sought to recover damages from the hotel and retained an attorney. Things proceeded along as they do in these matters — discovery plus more discovery — and eventually the hotel filed a motion for summary judgment. After an extension was granted, the deadline for a response from the Boohers’ attorney was set for November 7, 2008.
But Booher’s expert was missing a key document, and was going to be out of the country during the deadline for the motion. And her attorney was about to undergo major surgery. He needed more time in order to properly prepare his brief in opposition. Opposing counsel didn’t mind an extension; these things happen. No one wants to be a jerk regarding scheduling matters.
But Booher’s attorney didn’t follow the rules, so it didn’t matter. And he lost his clients their case, not on the substance, but on a technicality:
I’m closing in on 250 columns at Above the Law, devoting many of them to mistakes that I’ve recently witnessed (or heard about) (or, I should say to protect the privilege, simply ginned up out of whole cloth).
Remarkably, I’ve not yet written about an obvious error that occurs regularly: If you say that you will communicate with someone on a certain date, communicate with the person on that date.
Think for a minute about how often people screw this up, both in-house and at law firms.
In-house, some crisis arises. You take the helm. You send an email to the relevant folks in the organization saying, “I’ll get to the bottom of this, and you’ll know the answer by the close of business my time tonight.”
The close of business comes and goes, and what happens?
My friend Pablo told me that when Monica, a partner, called his home at 9:00 p.m., he knew it couldn’t be good. Why not email? For an instant, he considered letting the call go to voicemail. Taking a deep breath, he answered.
Monica wanted to know “where he was” with the brief Pablo had been working on. She had not given him any particular deadline, so he explained that he expected to circulate the draft for review the following evening. The brief was a motion to dismiss, and he knew the deadline to file was still two weeks away. He was allowing the partner one week to review before she had to send to the client, who in turn would have another week to review.
The partner, however, had a different idea. “I want it on my desk tomorrow by 8 a.m.,” she told Pablo.” “Not a moment later.”
Now another top law school — a top, top law school, one that sends many of its graduates into clerkships — has joined Georgetown in departing from the Plan. And the school’s dean has offered a full-throated defense of the decision to diverge.
Which school are we talking about? And is its argument persuasive?
Last year, the law clerk application process was chaotic — perhaps even more chaotic than usual. The disarray even made the pages of the New York Times.
One of the driving factors behind the chaos was the growing number of judges who do not follow the Law Clerk Hiring Plan (hereinafter “the Plan”). Of course, the Plan is entirely voluntary, as certain judges like to emphasize. But following it — at least by a critical mass of judges, especially feeder judges on the Second Circuit and the D.C. Circuit — can provide some measure of order to an otherwise shambolic process.
This year, look for the disorder to grow. At least two top law schools are not following the Plan….
In case you might have forgotten, a summer clerkship at a law firm is a job. You are expected to be at work during normal business hours, to follow instructions, and to complete assignments. The fact that the firm may take you to concerts and fancy restaurants should not control how you perceive the summer clerkship experience. You must determine your priorities and plan accordingly. By far, the most frequent problems encountered by summer associates are the challenges presented by handling multiple assignments or meeting tough deadlines. This week’s Career Center Summer Associate Tips Series features advice on managing your assignments and deadlines from Lateral Link’sFrank Kimball, an expert recruiter and former Biglaw hiring partner.
Lawyers live in a world of deadlines — depositions must be taken, briefs must be filed, statutes of limitation will run, deals must be closed, and client presentations may be made. Some deadlines change unexpectedly. Others are immutable. Before tackling any assignment, you must understand the relevant deadlines….
If the law firm is a circus, the summer associates are the clowns –- albeit clowns with one heck of a paycheck. I could go on and on with other circus-themed comparisons: the partner is the ring leader, the senior associates are the lion tamers, the junior associates on document review are the shovelers following the elephants to “sort” what comes out. But this post focuses on the summer associates who, like clowns, must learn how to juggle –- and instead of balls or bowling pins, summer associates must learn how to juggle several work assignments simultaneously.
According to Lateral Link’sFrank Kimball, an expert recruiter and former Biglaw hiring partner, one of the toughest challenges for young lawyers is managing their own workload. It is difficult to estimate the time that a project will take, especially since nothing in law school prepared you for the actual practice of law. Not to mention you will be working for several partners and attorneys simultaneously, which places an additional burden on you.
Here are some tips to help you juggle your assignments….
Hey, have you read Above the Law for like one single minute in the past month? If so, you probably know that we’re having this big blogger conference on March 14th at the Yale Club. Yeah, the Yale Club. You’ll be able to recognize me: I’ll be the only big… blogger guy surreptitiously holding a can of crimson spray-paint.
Speaking of coming, you should come. We’ve got CLE and all that. Click here to buy tickets to get CLE credit for listening to bloggers scream about stuff on the internet.
To refresh your memory, details on the panel that I’m moderating — almost entirely sober, mind you — follow.
My panel is called Blogs as Agents of Change, and we’re going to talk about whether all of these spilled pixels are actually making a difference. You know my view… just ask Lawrence Mitchell, but here are the panelists:
So you spent a considerable amount of time courting, selling and maybe even doing some friendly stalking of that attractive lateral partner candidate with a sizable book. After he or she ignored your emails and didn’t return your calls, a few weeks go by and you read a press release in the legal media announcing the recent move to a competing firm.
Rats. Another one got away from you. You cringe when you consider how much time was spent in meetings that did not bear fruit. Your heart aches when recall how you were led to believe this was a marriage made in heaven.
You have been rejected.
The sting of rejection is painful, even for fancy law firms. But you need to find a way that you can turn this disappointment into a legitimate learning experience.
No, this isn’t a pre-party before we come back next fall for the real thing. This IS the real thing. Quinn Emanuel is pushing the envelope on recruiting. The party is now. This is when you meet the partners and associates face to face. This is when we begin the dance that could land you an offer for your second summer BEFORE school starts in the fall.
First: You come to the party. Second: If you like us, you send your resume after June 1, 2014. Third: If we like each other, you get an offer.
We’re not waiting for fall. We’re not doing the twenty minute thing. This party is the real thing!
We hope you’ll join us, and look forward to meeting you.
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