Trial lawyers

I was a trial lawyer and most of the trial lawyers who I knew spent about 3,000 hours a year trying to find ways to get good results for their clients. The long hours created stress for lawyers and their families. In return, lawyers used to be revered and respected members of the community.

Laurence F. Valle, in a letter to the Wall Street Journal discussing falling law school enrollment. Valle must be much older than his bio’s photo would suggest if he was around before Shakespeare was earning laughs with his “kill all the lawyers” line.

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories, brought to you by Lateral Link. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.

Jeffrey E. Stone is Co-Chair of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and Chair of the Firm’s Management Committee. In addition to his management roles, Jeffrey is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He concentrates his practice in the areas of white-collar criminal defense, complex commercial litigation, internal investigations and RICO. He represents corporations, boards of directors, senior executives and other individuals in a variety of complex civil litigation and criminal prosecutions, involving a broad range of industries, including health care, manufacturing and financial services. He has tried more than 40 cases to verdict before juries in federal and state court.

Jeffrey has served as National Chairman of the Stanford Fund (responsible for all annual giving to Stanford University), as a National Trustee for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, as outside counsel to the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, as a board member of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and as president of the Jewish Family and Community Services agency. He currently serves as a member of the national Board of Governors for the American Jewish Committee.

1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?

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In the crazy world of cyberspace, personal injury lawyers are a dime a dozen. By now, we’ve gotten used to their crazy antics and low-budget commercials.

But not all personal injury firms are created equal. For the Law Firm of Gary, Williams, Lewis, and Watson, P.I., “low-budget” is a concept that just doesn’t exist. To the contrary, the firm wants to make it clear just how baller the life of a private injury attorney can be.

Dubbing himself “The Giant Killer,” the firm’s larger-than-life head partner, Willie E. Gary, never misses an opportunity to make his wealth and success known. Touting hundred-million-dollar verdicts and rubbing elbows with celebrities, Gary is on a one-man mission to prove that chasing ambulances is much easier when you’re driving a Bentley….

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Ed. note: This is the latest column by our newest writer, Anonymous Partner. In case you missed his prior posts, they are collected here.

I want to a be a Biglaw trial lawyer. If you could care less about trial work, but are in Biglaw, feel free to substitute whatever word you want for the word “trial” in the previous sentence — M&A, IPO, appellate, etc.

Why trial work, other than it seems like a good way to put my lack of nervousness when speaking publicly to productive use? Because I have always enjoyed days spent in court, and no matter how much fun it can be to take a contentious deposition or argue a motion, there is simply nothing like the atmosphere, teamwork, and total focus that a trial commands. Toss in the ability to avoid unpleasant obligations by saying “I am prepping for trial,” and the chance for a long vacation afterwards, and you get a great deal Biglaw-wise.

Since Biglaw is not the ideal training ground for trial work, I realize that I need to very flexible and patient if I realistically hope to have a trial practice down the road. In the meantime, I will continue looking for opportunities to work on trials, and I am willing to do some unorthodox things to accelerate my current pace of one trial every five years.

But first, some context….

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John Keker

I like it when everybody says, ‘This is the worst person in the world — let’s kill him!’ I love to stand between an imperfect human being and the full weight of the hypocritical, holier-than-thou masses.

– Trial attorney John Keker, in a fascinating profile of the man who has represented the likes of Dickie Scruggs, Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, Warren Hellman, and George Lucas.

Tom Wallerstein

This post is dedicated to William A. Rutter, who passed away last week. If you’re not a lawyer in California, you might not recognize the name. But at least in my world, Rutter is the guy who produced the invaluable and ubiquitous Rutter practice guides, covering a wide range of practice areas and procedures.

If you’re not from California, you might be more familiar with other Rutter creations, like the BAR/BRI prep course he founded, or his Gilbert Law Summaries for law students.

My firm, like most firms in California, has a series of Rutter guides on our shelves. And even though we run a virtually paperless office with Lexis, Westlaw, and other electronic research options, I still love my printed Rutter guides. We even have a joke about Rutter. Whenever a colleague questions their ability to handle a particular matter or solve a particular issue, we joke, “I’m sure there’s a Rutter Guide for that.”

The joke has a serious point, namely, that the basics of most practice areas can always be learned. And if it’s easy enough to learn a practice area, why shouldn’t a lawyer forming a solo practice or small firm become a true generalist, handling everything from family law, wills and trusts, civil, criminal, and essentially whatever walks in the door?

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As a lawyer, you’re probably looking for a way to cool down after the work day is over. You’re probably looking for a way to rid yourself of all of the pent up angst and aggression that you’ve accumulated throughout the day in the office.

Put down the bottle, alkie, because we’ve got a different solution for you. Maybe you should consider taking this lovely litigatrix’s lead, and join the local roller derby team. After all, you get to “slam into people,” and that’s what sold her on the crazy idea.

Let’s take a look into the life of Amy Dinn, a partner at Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, who goes by the “Prosecutor” when she’s in the rink….

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Ya ni panimayou?

* Time to separate the men from the boys (but don’t tell Sandusky). An accuser has hired Jeff Anderson of clergy sex abuse fame, and he wants damages. [Wall Street Journal]

* RajRaj is trying to stay out of jail. He thinks he’s got a shot at getting his Galleon convictions vacated, but he’s probably got a better shot at curing diabetes. [New York Law Journal]

* And speaking of Galleon, lawyers, take note: “you don’t get a pass.” Ex-Ropes & Gray attorney Brien Santarlas was sentenced to six months in jail yesterday. [Bloomberg]

* Emory Law has invented a new way to throw loan money in the garbage. At the bargain basement price of $45K, how could you resist? [National Law Journal]

* Twenty people have been charged with luring illegal, eastern European beauties to work in New York strip clubs. Prepare for some new job listings from the NYU Law career services office. [CNN]

* Police suspect that a client may have been the one to plant a bomb in attorney Erik G. Chappell’s car. Stay far away from family law, folks. [New York Daily News]

* “How come there’s not a school where people can go if they want to become trial lawyers?” How come you don’t know we already have 200 other law schools? [National Law Journal]

* I hope they signed a prenup, because AT&T and T-Mobile have added two more firms to their huge Biglaw wedding party — O’Melveny and Kellogg Huber. [Am Law Daily]

* “A lawsuit has been filed . . . by a female law clerk who alleges that [a] judge slapped her in the buttocks with a legal file.” And Lat wonders why law clerks hate their jobs. [Billings Gazette]

* LiLo may be behind on her court-ordered service hours, but surely she should be credited for the community service of wearing low-cut tops. [New York Post]

* Ninth Circuit Judge Pamela Rymer, RIP. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the day a little-known heroin addict called Russell Brand turned up for work dressed as Osama Bin Laden, and was promptly fired by his then-employer, MTV.

After some ensuing years knocking around the lower echelons of British light entertainment, Brand got himself together and landed a role presenting the VMAs — from which he launched himself into mega-stardom when he branded George W. Bush a “retarded cowboy fella.”

Now, you don’t get career paths like that in law. Having said that, I do know of a London Biglaw associate who was once asked to replace his brightly-coloured socks with a more sober pair in advance of an important client meeting, in which he performed impressively.

Please don’t interpret that as a snarky suggestion that all lawyers are boring. As legal market-watchers well know, many attorneys — especially the litigators — are often anything but. They’re just good at hiding the madness. Usually, anyway….

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