I hate to invoke a cliché, but “David versus Goliath” captures the challenge a smaller firm faces when litigating against an Am Law 200 firm. A small firm can feel like David when facing a larger firm that can bring more resources to bear on legal research, drafting motions, reviewing documents, etc.
The challenge increases when applied to clients. Many of my firm’s initial clients were startups or emerging companies with limited litigation budgets. Their adversaries often were much larger, established companies with seemingly unlimited budgets. Thus, we faced not only the challenge of litigating against brand-name firms with hundreds of attorneys, but we also initially had clients who simply could not afford to spend as much in legal fees as their well-heeled opponents.
So how can a small firm, especially representing a smaller company, effectively litigate against a proverbial army of lawyers representing a client to whom money is no object?
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:
* In trying to resolve the Texas redistricting problem, the Supreme Court has come to a realization: everything really is bigger in that state, including its congressional delegation. [Los Angeles Times]
* Talk about a crappy ROI. Alison Fournier, a former i-banker, is Gloria Allred’s latest litigant. She claims that a drunken pervert groped her abroad thanks to Starwood’s lax hotel security. [Reuters]
* 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.
Tonight at sundown, the members of the tribe are going to party like it’s 5772 because it’s Rosh Hashanah. For the rest of you, that means that we’ll be celebrating the Jewish New Year. If you’re still confused, you can check out this handy-dandy Jew FAQ.
Anyway, tomorrow Jews around the world will be celebrating the holiday with apples in dipped in honey, cheeks squeezed by bubbies, kugel and challah being eaten, and more motherly nagging than can possibly be described in words. Most of us won’t be at work, if only because in some states the courts will be closed in observance of the holiday.
That’s why we found it strange that one law firm in Florida was pretty much demanding that a deposition take place tomorrow. This is one of the handful of holidays that most Jews celebrate, and here comes this law firm trying to ruin it like we’re actually going observe one of the 500 other holidays we have.
It’s a good thing we have judges to tell these goyim to stick it in their shofar and blow it….
When you talk to a prospective lateral about your firm during their first meeting, the conversation can go deep, sideways, and in circles. There is so much to share and discuss. What path of a dialogue can you follow to get better odds of a favorable conclusion?
Consider this template as a model you can use to discuss your firm’s opportunity. This simplifies the conversation and gives you a mental framework so the discussion is meaningful, relevant and moves things forward.
The Four P’s
In my transition from retained corporate executive search to legal search, I saw that there were many levels of complexity in the move of a partner transitioning from firm A to firm B. In placing an executive in a corporation, it was simple because of the linear nature of relationships in corporations. In a law firm, because of the multi-layered aspect of the interdependent relationships that each partner must manage with others, the dialogue is much more involved.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
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