Litigators

The first question people usually ask me when they find out I am a lawyer is: “What kind of lawyer are you?” My response is usually: “I am a story teller.” A good deal of my practice involves helping lawyers tell stories, because no juror ever said, “Well… I’m not really sure that I understand the plaintiff’s point of view completely. Let’s give him $10 million.” I usually advocate for the cyborg approach: part human and part machine. I think you can tell an effective story without a computer, but from my experience, jurors are a reflective part of the population that consciously moved out of the radio era and into CGI-laden-movies era.

I use neat hardware (sometimes cheap hardware), I use neat software, and I almost always use a whole lot of custom graphics. Talking about how to make a great graphic is almost impossible. Most of the good ones are good for unique reasons. Most of the bad ones are bad because they fall into a few general categories. Here are a couple of those categories:

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River House

As we roll into the July 4th holiday weekend, it’s a good time for a Lawyerly Lairs post. What could be more American than great real estate? Great real estate once owned by a great American lawyer, in fact?

The River House is one of Manhattan’s most magnificent addresses. This elegant pre-war co-op, offering incredible views of the East River, has been rightly described as “one of the most luxurious, romantic and private apartment buildings ever built.”

As you can see from the building’s Wikipedia entry, its celebrity residents over the years have included Henry Kissinger and Uma Thurman. Legal eagles like Philip Bobbitt and Kermit Roosevelt [sorry, wrong Kermit Roosevelt] have also made their nests here. And this legal eagle, a Paul, Weiss partner whose penthouse is on the market for almost $15 million, might be the most high-flying of them all….

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I didn’t know what Prezi was at the beginning of the year. I first heard about it at LegalTech New York in February. Since then, I’ve seen it all over the place and heard of lawyers using it in trial. I have since used it a couple of times, so I am going to explain the benefits and the drawbacks and how to use it effectively.

What Is Prezi?

When you start a Prezi presentation, you begin with a big blank slate. You place pictures and text boxes on your blank slate and pan and zoom into them. Instead of going from slide to slide, you pan from focal point to focal point on your big canvas. The cool part about it is the zooming. You can zoom way into something. So, say you are doing a case about blood clotting and you want to show what it looks like on a cellular level, you would do it like this:

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Yesterday we wrote about a managing partner’s abrupt departure from her firm — a departure that the remaining members of management noted in a somewhat snarky email.

At the time, we didn’t know where she was headed. Now we know her destination — and we can understand why some of her former colleagues might be bent out of shape over her leaving.

Where did this prominent partner land, and what might happen to the firm she left behind?

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Here at Above the Law, we love ourselves a good departure memo. If a great one makes its way into your inbox, please feel free to send our way.

People write departure memos so they can frame their farewells — explain why they’re leaving, provide their new contact information, and thank the people who need to be thanked. But what about if a partner — a managing partner, no less, and one involved in a summer associate scandal from a few years ago — just quits without explanation?

In that case, the remaining members of management write her departure memo for her. And oh what a departure memo….

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The ceiling of a Columbia dorm room collapsed on a student, giving her a herniated disk and persistent headaches. She claims the back injury compromised her ability to get a decent night’s sleep and forced her to take muscle relaxants to deal with the pain.

Now the newly minted lawyer is suing the school over her injuries, and the school’s lawyer is suggesting that the victim can’t really have this back injury because she kept getting good grades.

Brilliant legal strategy!

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Jesselyn Radack

I joke that I use drug dealer tactics. It’s a terrible way to work as an attorney, but you have to.

Jesselyn Radack, the national security and human rights director for the Government Accountability Project, commenting on the lengths to which she must go to protect her most famous client’s secrecy.

Radack represents Edward Snowden, and in her dealings with him she has abandoned WiFi — it’s too insecure — and used burner phones and two laptops (one of which is encrypted). She accepts only cash payments and will discuss his case only in person.

“Hey litigators, I’ve got a great tool for you. It runs none of the programs from your desktop computer, has no usb port, does not have a lot of memory, has no expandable memory, but grandparents find them very easy to use. Trust me, it will be so great that people will not stop talking about its great greatness and suitability for the practice of law.”

– All the lawyers with technology blogs.

When people find out that I spend a lot of time incorporating technology into my practice, they almost always ask me, “Oh, what kind of iPad do you have?” I don’t have an iPad. I don’t use them for the same reason that I don’t take a pogo stick to work – because I prefer things that are not severely limited….

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Good bye, sweet Generalist. We hardly knew ye.

I’m a white-collar criminal defense lawyer. I love it. There are times when I think that I’ve won the work lottery. Yet, in this column, I’m going to complain about it.

Normally, I think that being a white-collar defense lawyer means that I represent folks who are under investigation by the Department of Justice, a law enforcement agency that would refer a case to the Department of Justice, or a regulator like the SEC, CFTC, or Office of Inspector General (in some situations — OIG’s both handle debarment and developing a case for DOJ).

But sometimes I’ll do other kinds of work too. Recently, I’ve represented clients in civil litigation. I’ve represented clients in arbitrations. And I’ve negotiated resolutions of disputes where litigation is looming but not yet happening. I’ve gotten really good results for clients in these kinds of cases (and, like any lawyer, I’ve had some cases break bad too). I like to think that if a case comes in that presents a relatively sophisticated litigation problem that doesn’t require a specialist (think of an ERISA case) I would consider doing it. And there are other lawyers in my firm who, to be sure, do primarily civil work.

But, despite that, I identify myself as a white-collar defense lawyer.

Sometimes, even though a potential client is exactly the kind of person I want to represent, presenting myself or being known as a white-collar defense lawyer is a problem.

When is that?

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Isn’t discovery fun?

You sometimes hear Biglaw litigators complain about courts not publishing enough opinions about discovery issues. Discovery (especially e-discovery) is such a major — and majorly expensive — part of the complex litigation in which large firms specialize, but there aren’t that many decisions on the books over such nuts-and-bolts issues as responsiveness, privilege, and work-product doctrines.

So it’s noteworthy that the Massachusetts Appeals Court just issued an opinion featuring extended discussion of the work-product doctrine. Some Boston Biglaw litigators will surely welcome the additional guidance on this subject.

But not all of Boston Biglaw will be pleased by this decision. Certainly not the major firm that could wind up getting hit with sanctions as a result….

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