* 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]
This column comes from a narrow perspective — that of a litigator and, in particular, an in-house head of litigation.
I suspect that in-house SEC lawyers, or M&A lawyers, may have entirely different perspectives on this topic. But as a litigator, I pay a lot of attention to briefs and other written work. Why is that?
Because I can.
When I was a partner at a firm, I’d let junior lawyers argue motions. For significant matters, I’d chat with the lawyers beforehand, to discuss how to approach an argument. But I almost never attended those arguments. Maybe I should have (for reasons of associate training and evaluation), but I generally viewed sending myself as an observer to be over-staffing an event. I thus rarely saw associates on their feet in court.
I also didn’t double-staff depositions. In mass torts (which was a lot of my practice, way back when), senior lawyers typically defended depositions, and more junior lawyers typically took them. This is partly driven by the nature of mass torts; in that environment, deposition defense is critical. If the senior VP of research and development gets her clock cleaned in deposition, that testimony will come back to haunt the client in hundreds of later cases. In mass torts, senior lawyers play deposition defense….
A pair of motions are bouncing around email inboxes this week, thanks to the “foot-tapping lawyer.” (This has nothing to do with Larry Craig, so read on without fear.)
It all started in July, when Florida law firm Rasco Klock sent a paralegal to Wilmington for a deposition. The firm is representing a plaintiff suing an insurance company, but one of their lead attorneys, Juan Carlos Antorcha, had to remain in Miami and conduct the deposition by video, with the paralegal handling the exhibits in person.
During the deposition of a witness for the defense, a strange noise caught the attention of the Perceptive Paralegal. After hearing clicking, he peeked beneath the table and saw a defense attorney’s foot tapping the foot of the deponent. He snapped a photo with his smartphone and sent it to Antorcha, who confronted the defense and halted the deposition. Rasco Klock then filed a very angry motion for sanctions, accusing the defense attorney of coaching the witness through foot tapping.
From the motion:
Before accusing a lawyer of acting in an unethical and unprofessional fashion, a fellow lawyer must think long and hard. Was the breach intentional? What were the circumstances? Was there any sense of contrition? Could the offending lawyer believe that his conduct had been appropriate?
The lawyer accused of foot-tapping is Brown Sims shareholder Kenneth Engerrand. On every single page of the 13-page motion for sanctions against him is the incriminating footsie photo…
One of our finest moments in private practice took place during a deposition. We had been up the entire night before, along with the paralegal on the case, pulling documents and preparing deposition outline material for the partner.
It was a critical deposition: the deposition of the plaintiff, a billionaire businessman (on the Forbes 400 — although not as high as Bruce Kovner). The questions were being asked by the partner, but we were on hand to watch and assist.
Several hours into the deposition — due to our sleep deprivation, coupled with less-than-scintillating testimony — we started to nod off (as did the paralegal). The plaintiff noticed. After the partner asked a question that was very similar to a prior question, the plaintiff exploded: “You already asked me that. Your questions are so boring and repetitive, YOUR OWN COLLEAGUE IS FALLING ASLEEP!”*
But if we had been attending this deposition, we wouldn’t have fallen asleep. Here’s a bit of context for the video clip, contained in the email that forwarded it to us:
The attached deposition excerpt will underscore the importance of good witness preparation and steady questioning technique when taking. (Pay special attention to the defending attorney’s studied silence on the tape because the witness obviously was in firm control.) Also, note the excellent follow-up question at the end by the questioning attorney.
Click on the video clip below to play — and be sure to listen through to the end, ’cause that’s where the best stuff is. Enjoy!
(Our “preemption check” was cursory, so if this video has been previously discussed on another website or blog, we apologize.)
* You’re probably wondering what happened to us, after we fell asleep during the most important deposition in the case, and got made fun of — on the record — by the billionaire plaintiff.
No, we didn’t get fired. In fact, the partner was very gracious and understanding. In the elevator after the deposition, he told us: “I know you and [the paralegal] were up all night. So don’t worry about it. When I was an associate, I fell asleep during a deposition too. The problem was, I was taking it!”
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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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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