Why do so many people think that you must be a blowhard to be an effective litigator?
I’ve recently heard several tales of business folks (or in-house lawyers) worrying that outside counsel is not aggressive enough. What prompts the concern is the lawyer’s performance during a conference call or at a meeting: The lawyer is civilized. The lawyer speaks quietly, asks probing questions, gives intelligent advice, and appears to be an effective advocate.
After the meeting, one of the participants says: “Are you sure we should use that guy? He doesn’t seem very aggressive.”
Remarkably (at least to me), I’ve heard the same thing at law firms. I’ve heard transactional lawyers wonder about litigators who are calm and intelligent at the lunch table: “He’s such a nice guy. I’m not sure I’d trust him in court.”
What’s my reaction? On the one hand, we can’t ignore perceptions. If a lawyer is so low-key that he doesn’t inspire confidence, then that is a legitimate concern. If I don’t trust the lawyer who’ll represent me at trial to defend me during a vigorous cross-examination, then that’s a real issue; we shouldn’t hire that lawyer. Confidence matters.
On the other hand, if the concern is simply that the litigator is not a blowhard — the lawyer speaks quietly and intelligently during business meetings, where there’s no need for bluster — then I have a very different reaction. In fact, I have three reactions:
* Jamin Soderstrom, a (rather cute) former S&C associate and current Fifth Circuit clerk, has written a book (affiliate link) analyzing the qualifications of presidential candidates and the relationship between résumés and presidential success. [Tex Parte Blog]
Well, we’ve got somebody who should be a late entrant into our Lawyer of the Year contest. He is Houston attorney Paul Waldner. He’s a partner at Vikery, Waldner & Mallia, which is an arm of Justice Seekers in Texas. He is a man who brings the funny with him to the deposition room.
Paul Waldner is a man who asks questions like: “So, your jurisprudential hymen is being ruptured?”
Oh, you think I’m joking? No sir, I have video!
And really, the witness’s answer might have been better than the question….
A story I often tell is about the first time I took a deposition. I got there early, and I thought that the most important thing was to control the witness. I didn’t realize the first time around that the way you control somebody is not by intimidating them. But I adjusted the chair that I was sitting on so that I’d be really tall, and could look down imposingly on the witness. But I raised it so high that as soon as I sat down, I toppled over and fell backward.
When is a litigator thinking most keenly about a specific witness’s testimony?
There are two days: The day you’re taking (or defending) the deposition of the witness, and the day — months or years later, if ever — when you’re examining the witness at trial. So when should you be making notes about the witness’s testimony and your reaction to it? That question answers itself: You should make quick notes of key points during the deposition, and you should write notes to yourself immediately after the deposition ends. “Immediately after”: Not later in the week; not the next morning. Now, when your brain is fully engaged.
Those notes don’t have to be comprehensive, but they have to memorialize the things that you noticed during the deposition that you’re likely to forget by either the next morning or the day, a month later, when you’re reviewing the transcript. The notes are quick and easy. Write an e-mail to yourself that says: “Today I took Smith’s deposition. These were the highlights: (1) He admitted A; (2) He denied B; remember to create some other admissible evidence on that point; (3) He evaded on C; there’s something fishy going on there; (4) Opposing counsel started interrupting when I got near D; we should press harder on that point; (5) His testimony opens up issue E; let’s do some legal research.” There might be a half dozen points; there might be a dozen. But the key is to record immediately the fleeting ideas that you had while your brain was most in gear.
During the deposition, you’re as attentive as you’ll ever be. Don’t lose the moment; capture it.
You do not want to mess with Judge Sam Sparks, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. We recently wrote about Judge Sparks accusing a lawyer appearing before him of incompetence — in a harshly worded order that pulled no punches.
Judge Sparks has been doling out stinging benchslaps for years, and he’s gotten pretty good at it. In particular, His Honor has little patience for discovery disputes. In 2007, for example, he smacked down some lawyers squabbling over a deposition — in rhymed couplets, no less.
Last week, Judge Sparks lit more lawyers on fire….
Have you ever been to a deposition that got physical? Maybe some fisticuffs, or a little shoving? No? Well, obviously you’ve been hanging out in the the wrong conference rooms.
A complaint filed in Santa Monica Superior Court and reported on by Courthouse News Service accuses a Drinker Biddle partner of “robust, unlawful force” that resulted in opposing counsel breaking his wrist. The alleged assault happened at the Beverly Hills office of the Excelus Law Group, a small law firm based in southern California. Attorney William W. Bloch claims that Drinker Biddle’s Henry Shields refused to leave his conference room after a deposition, and then assaulted him — with “some kind of martial art move.”
Shields and other Drinker Biddle attorneys who were there deny all of these allegations. And affidavits submitted by Drinker Biddle attorneys, as well as the actual deposition transcript, seem to paint a different — and much more hilarious — version of events…
One morning last week, I walked past dozens of loyal Apple customers lined up to buy the new iPad 2. I scoffed as I walked by, my old, beat-up iPod nano playing in my ears. I also had the misfortune of walking past the same store later in the evening.
A sign in the doorway said something like, “Sorry, you’re too late. We’re sold out, na na na na.” Of course sample iPads were spread across the tables for gullible saps like me to play with, and I couldn’t resist. I really wanted to be able to legitimately say the gadget is silly and excessive, but — curse you, Steve Jobs — that thing is really cool.
It’s been, obviously, an exciting week for the company, but coincidentally (or not?) the Apple legal team has probably been working overtime too. Apple is no stranger to litigation, and we’ve covered Apple’s legal wrangling before.
Details about Apple’s hyperactive legal week — why Steve Jobs got deposed, who owns the phrase “App Store,” and a company that claims Apple stole intellectual property — after the jump.
* Still more benchslappery, this time from the Second Circuit. Professor Nita Farahany wonders whether Judge Gary Sharpe “may have missed a few important days of his genetics class in high school or in college.” [Law and Biosciences Digest]
* In other federal judicial news: I’ve never bought into the silly claim that Clarence Thomas is the jurisprudential puppet of Antonin Scalia — and Linda Greenhouse’s analysis of the Term thus far confirms CT’s independence from AS. [Opinionator/ New York Times]
Average law school debt for graduates of private universities hovered around $122,000 last year. With only 57% of new attorneys actually obtaining real lawyer jobs, recent graduates have a lot to consider when it comes to managing their student loan payments. Thanks to our friends at SoFi, today’s infographic takes a look at student loan debt, including the possible benefits of refinancing for JDs…
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.
The JOBS Act created new tools for companies to publicly advertise securities deals online. As a result, thousands of new deals have hit the market and hundreds of millions in capital has been raised, spurring a wealth of new business development opportunities for attorneys.
Fund deals, startup capital raises, PIPE deals and loan syndicates are just a handful of the transactions benefiting from the JOBS Act. InvestorID FirmTM is a platform designed to help attorneys equip their clients with the workflow, marketing and compliance tools to publicly solicit a securities offering online. By providing clients with the tools to painlessly navigate the regulatory landscape of general solicitation, InvestorID FirmTM helps attorneys add value above just legal services.
The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) went into effect in 2013 and permits Regulation D offerings of securities to be advertised publicly. This means that funds and companies can now use social media, emails and web sites to market transactions to new “accredited” investors.
However, with these new powers come new pain points. InvestorID FirmTM provides a secure, fully hosted, cloud-based platform with a breadth of tools for your clients, including: