Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

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smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:42 am

Oh, and tax. We do a lot of tax this time of year. I think it would help an associate if (s)he came out here already having a knowledge of things like depreciation, 1031 exchanges, etc.

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yossarian
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby yossarian » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:31 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:Oh, and tax. We do a lot of tax this time of year. I think it would help an associate if (s)he came out here already having a knowledge of things like depreciation, 1031 exchanges, etc.


Love your dedication to come back 5 weeks later and post this. Thanks!

kykiske
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby kykiske » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:40 pm

Do you ever get a sense that your peers or certain clients look down on you and/or your firm because it's not a "big" law firm?

During law school at least, the majority of people around me are all about Biglaw, and anything besides that is a failure. Funny enough, my school does not place that well into Biglaw--something like less than 20%.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:03 pm

yossarian71 wrote:
smallfirmassociate wrote:Oh, and tax. We do a lot of tax this time of year. I think it would help an associate if (s)he came out here already having a knowledge of things like depreciation, 1031 exchanges, etc.


Love your dedication to come back 5 weeks later and post this. Thanks!


My sarcasm detector is broken, so let me just say, "you're welcome!" I just thought of this thread with all of the tax clients coming in.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:17 pm

kykiske wrote:Do you ever get a sense that your peers or certain clients look down on you and/or your firm because it's not a "big" law firm?

During law school at least, the majority of people around me are all about Biglaw, and anything besides that is a failure. Funny enough, my school does not place that well into Biglaw--something like less than 20%.


Yeah, I just sort of assume that biglaw lawyers look down on me. That probably betrays my own bias, though, as I tend to have my own opinions of the personalities and egos that, by and large, populate large law firms. I might be making unfair assumptions, but I do suspect that biglaw practitioners figure I practice here as an undesirable alternative only availed of after being passed over by large law firms. I'm sure there are some who think rural practice is a "step below" or whatever, and that we're bottom 50% graduates who lack intelligence.

It doesn't bother me. I practice here for me, not for them. Besides, any assumption that I'm some hayseed from the sticks usually works in my favor, so I would be happy to support it. To the extent that I get underestimated, that ceases when opposing counsel receives my first motion or resistance or when we have our first hearing. I ran circles around an atty representing a Fortune 100 company last week at an MSJ hearing. Her pleadings and motion were sloppy, perhaps because she underestimated me (and perhaps not). When she saw my resistance, she immediately requested more time to respond to the resistance and amend the pleading. But by then it was too late, she got embarrassed in open court over it, and the order in my client's favor is 80% composed of passages taken directly from my resistance. There are a lot of good attorneys out there in large firms, but if they want to take the opportunity to half-ass something because they think it'll be a cakewalk, that's more than fine with me.
Last edited by smallfirmassociate on Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

hdunlop
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby hdunlop » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:28 pm

Thank you so much for this thread. TLS makes me wonder if there's any point in going to law school if I'm that into biglaw. I think the practice of law would be a blast, particularly if I got to work on a ton of different stuff (especially random "dumb" stuff like bull semen) and would readily trade getting rich or saving the world for livable hours. Not a lot of folks in this boat it seems.

Is it possible to do biglaw for a year or two to pay loans and then bounce to a gig like yours or are you sort of segregated at that point culturally and network-wise? How important are ties? What counts as ties -- from there, lived there just before law school, lived in the region?

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yossarian
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby yossarian » Wed Feb 26, 2014 7:35 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:
yossarian71 wrote:
smallfirmassociate wrote:Oh, and tax. We do a lot of tax this time of year. I think it would help an associate if (s)he came out here already having a knowledge of things like depreciation, 1031 exchanges, etc.


Love your dedication to come back 5 weeks later and post this. Thanks!


My sarcasm detector is broken, so let me just say, "you're welcome!" I just thought of this thread with all of the tax clients coming in.


Not at all sarcastic; thanks for assuming the best. Sorry, that was a little hard to read. I really appreciate all the practitioners who come here to answer Qs, but you really went above and beyond to add information. I'm genuine when I say I appreciate it.

Another question regarding network: Are you motivated to gather a large public/private/nonprofit network in your geographic area? I'm interested in political/advocacy work down the road, and one of the huge appeals of biglaw is creating both a powerful and wealthy network.

I'm afraid this comes off as too power hungry, so I'll explain. Currently, I volunteer on a committee where we wrote and now advocate for a law in our state senate regarding child welfare. The committee chair and organization leadership are all attorneys doing this on the side (for free). However, they were really only able to get this off the ground because they knew donors and power players in the gov/nonprofit scene.

I would love the opportunity to be so actively involved in my local government down the road, am I giving up some access to this if I forego biglaw?

Note: I understand this question may depend so much upon region and the general prestige of one's "small" practice. I also understand that you just may not have any interest in this stuff, so no worries if you can't speak to it.
Last edited by yossarian on Wed Feb 26, 2014 11:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

kykiske
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby kykiske » Wed Feb 26, 2014 9:54 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:
kykiske wrote:Do you ever get a sense that your peers or certain clients look down on you and/or your firm because it's not a "big" law firm?

During law school at least, the majority of people around me are all about Biglaw, and anything besides that is a failure. Funny enough, my school does not place that well into Biglaw--something like less than 20%.


Yeah, I just sort of assume that biglaw lawyers look down on me. That probably betrays my own bias, though, as I tend to have my own opinions of the personalities and egos that, by and large, populate large law firms. I might be making unfair assumptions, but I do suspect that biglaw practitioners figure I practice here as an undesirable alternative only availed of after being passed over by large law firms. I'm sure there are some who think rural practice is a "step below" or whatever, and that we're bottom 50% graduates who lack intelligence.

It doesn't bother me. I practice here for me, not for them. Besides, any assumption that I'm some hayseed from the sticks usually works in my favor, so I would be happy to support it. To the extent that I get underestimated, that ceases when opposing counsel receives my first motion or resistance or when we have our first hearing. I ran circles around an atty representing a Fortune 100 company last week at an MSJ hearing. Her pleadings and motion were sloppy, perhaps because she underestimated me (and perhaps not). When she saw my resistance, she immediately requested more time to respond to the resistance and amend the pleading. But by then it was too late, she got embarrassed in open court over it, and the order in my client's favor is 80% composed of passages taken directly from my resistance. There are a lot of good attorneys out there in large firms, but if they want to take the opportunity to half-ass something because they think it'll be a cakewalk, that's more than fine with me.


I'm glad to hear you say this.

For me, I do not know if I'd ever feel comfortable half-assing something for a client just because opposing counsel is a solo-practitioner, or with a small firm.

But I may have different experiences than others. I have had many opportunities to observe lawyers in court--both at the trial and appellate levels--and I've noticed that lawyers at any size firm have impressive skills. There was one lawyer who absolutely blew me away. I thought he was with one of the big firms in town; turns out he was with a 7-lawyer shop.

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Devlin
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby Devlin » Wed Feb 26, 2014 10:38 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:
I practice here for me, not for them.

Nicely said.


My school has an "open house" coming up next week where small and mid-sized firms will be on hand to discuss job openings and take resumes.

I would love to hear your advice on how to approach this and be memorable / no screw up. My resume is good to go, I'm more focused on making a good impression with the firms I am targeting there so they will remember me when they sort through the stack of resumes.

Any questions that you think I should ask, should I discuss things on my resume, etc...


Thanks!

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spleenworship
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby spleenworship » Wed Feb 26, 2014 10:49 pm

Thanks for this thread. Your practice sounds pretty close to my heaven.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:23 pm

hdunlop wrote:I think the practice of law would be a blast, particularly if I got to work on a ton of different stuff (especially random "dumb" stuff like bull semen) and would readily trade getting rich or saving the world for livable hours. Not a lot of folks in this boat it seems.


I used to be surprised that more people didn't think like you and me. It took me almost all of law school to realize two things: I am sociable, and I'm creative ... compared to other lawyers (and perhaps only compared to other lawyers). A lot of your peers don't want to spend a lot of time dealing directly with clients, and they don't want a practice that is, for lack of a better term, unstructured and subject to various dynamic factors on a weekly if not daily basis. Something as simple as picking up the phone to call a client, which I do almost as second nature at this point, is a daunting task for a lot of attorneys based solely on their personalities. Different strokes for different folks.

Is it possible to do biglaw for a year or two to pay loans and then bounce to a gig like yours or are you sort of segregated at that point culturally and network-wise? How important are ties? What counts as ties -- from there, lived there just before law school, lived in the region?


The first question is very difficult to answer. I know that our firm doesn't actively recruit laterals. It would rather pull someone straight out of school. We do have one attorney who lateraled, but she was originally from the area and took a huge pay cut to become an associate here and worked her way up from the bottom. I'm not saying it would be a scarlet letter to work at a big firm, but you'd have to make the firm comfortable with your reasons for wanting to lateral, and you'd have to understand that you won't come in at partner, because it's really a different skill set here and the firm will want to see for itself if you can hack it.

Ties are a small factor. If you have family from the area or a history of living in the general area / state, it might help the firm believe that you're in it for the long-haul. This is less important than your ability to relate to clients, though. So ties are most useful if they show you understand the local culture.
Last edited by smallfirmassociate on Thu Feb 27, 2014 4:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:28 pm

yossarian71 wrote:I would love the opportunity to be so actively involved in my local government down the road, am I giving up some access to this if I forego biglaw?

Note: I understand this question may depend so much upon region and the general prestige of one's "small" practice. I also understand that you just may not have any interest in this stuff, so no worries if you can't speak to it.


You would be entering a different political sphere, and the answer that follows definitely varies by the state you're in. Where I practice, there is a lot of power in grassroots organization and connections. You don't have to live in one of the big cities to gain power. You can get inertia locally, sit on committees, make connections, run for local or state office, etc. Just by virtue of being a successful practicing attorney at a reputable firm, you'll carry some weight even in "bigger" circles. A lot of senior political figures in my state grew up in rural areas, including the three most powerful people in the state.

You won't be brokering deals for the biggest five employers in your state, so sure, that's a missed opportunity. On the other hand, the barriers to entry into politics are MUCH lower. You could be elected county attorney basically right out of law school. You could be elected state rep without needing monied backers, etc.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:34 pm

kykiske wrote:But I may have different experiences than others. I have had many opportunities to observe lawyers in court--both at the trial and appellate levels--and I've noticed that lawyers at any size firm have impressive skills. There was one lawyer who absolutely blew me away. I thought he was with one of the big firms in town; turns out he was with a 7-lawyer shop.


Some of the best trial attorneys out there run solo shops, sometimes with a couple of associates to help out. Hell, Gerry Spence's firm has fewer than twenty attorneys, but you don't want to go up against them at trial.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:41 pm

Devlin wrote:
smallfirmassociate wrote:
I practice here for me, not for them.

Nicely said.

My school has an "open house" coming up next week where small and mid-sized firms will be on hand to discuss job openings and take resumes.

I would love to hear your advice on how to approach this and be memorable / no screw up. My resume is good to go, I'm more focused on making a good impression with the firms I am targeting there so they will remember me when they sort through the stack of resumes.

Any questions that you think I should ask, should I discuss things on my resume, etc...

Thanks!


Quiet confidence, with the emphasis on quiet. Think about it this way: A partner at a big firm wants a young (preferably single), driven, intelligent person who has an ego the size of Texas. That combination means that associate is going to work his ass off every day because he wants to make partner / "succeed" / stand out in the crowd. While personality matters some, the person hiring you won't be talking to you very much at work, so he doesn't care a lot if you're a total obnoxious prick. (Disclaimer: I'm not saying biglaw lawyers are all total obnoxious pricks! Two of my close friends are at biglaw, and one is a non-obnoxious hipster prick, and the other is a non-obnoxious passive aggressive soccer mom prick. :mrgreen: )

So what does a partner at a small firm want? Young? Eh, maybe, but out here in the land of significant client contact, clients don't want a lawyer who looks like he's in high school. Driven? To an extent, but they don't want you to jump ship as soon as something "more prestigious" comes along. Intelligent? Yes, definitely. Ego? Not so much. It's off-putting to clients, and the partner who is hiring you will actually be working with you on a regular basis! Now, as lawyers we almost all have big egos. We're think we're smart, and we're good at what we do. That's fine, but be somewhat humble about your awesomeness in your interviews and you'll be fine.

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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby Bigfish41 » Thu Feb 27, 2014 8:13 pm

Thanks for taking questions.

If you had to do it all over again and start from a clean slate, would you pursue a different career altogether?

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yossarian
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby yossarian » Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:14 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:You would be entering a different political sphere


Thanks for the answer! Appreciate it.

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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Tue Mar 04, 2014 4:45 pm

Bigfish41 wrote:Thanks for taking questions.

If you had to do it all over again and start from a clean slate, would you pursue a different career altogether?


No, but I had that figured out by the end of my 1L summer, if not before. I would never advise someone to go to law school (or to return for a second year, for that matter) unless she was all but completely sure that she wanted to practice law. Not in some theoretical way, but with a true understanding of what you will actually be doing for 30-60+ hours per week. Researching, writing, talking to clients, negotiating with other attorneys, trial prep, depositions, etc. My advice to a prospective law student is to understand what exactly those activities entail down to a somewhat detailed level, and think/reflect for some time on whether those activities appeal to you.

Yes, there are other things I would like to do in life, but a lot of those I can do on the side since I don't work very much. As for other careers, well, I can still run off and do them if I want, although it would make my law school debt look like a pretty bad value.

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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby kykiske » Tue Mar 04, 2014 5:46 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:
Bigfish41 wrote:Thanks for taking questions.

If you had to do it all over again and start from a clean slate, would you pursue a different career altogether?


No, but I had that figured out by the end of my 1L summer, if not before. I would never advise someone to go to law school (or to return for a second year, for that matter) unless she was all but completely sure that she wanted to practice law. Not in some theoretical way, but with a true understanding of what you will actually be doing for 30-60+ hours per week. Researching, writing, talking to clients, negotiating with other attorneys, trial prep, depositions, etc. My advice to a prospective law student is to understand what exactly those activities entail down to a somewhat detailed level, and think/reflect for some time on whether those activities appeal to you.

Yes, there are other things I would like to do in life, but a lot of those I can do on the side since I don't work very much. As for other careers, well, I can still run off and do them if I want, although it would make my law school debt look like a pretty bad value.


I want to take this exact post, and show it to a guy from my section from 1L year.

This particular person said some pretty stark things. For example, he boldly claimed at least once a week about how he "was going to make $5M/year within 5 years of graduating from law school." And that he would only take on high-end plaintiffs' work. He would be achieving this incredible success by suing massive medical device and pharmaceutical companies. The kicker, however, was how he planned on never doing any legal research or writing; he hates legal research, and hates writing even more. He'd only engage in trial presentations. No depositions, brief-writing, or discussions with opposing counsel for this person.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Thu Mar 06, 2014 7:01 pm

kykiske wrote:I want to take this exact post, and show it to a guy from my section from 1L year.

This particular person said some pretty stark things. For example, he boldly claimed at least once a week about how he "was going to make $5M/year within 5 years of graduating from law school." And that he would only take on high-end plaintiffs' work. He would be achieving this incredible success by suing massive medical device and pharmaceutical companies. The kicker, however, was how he planned on never doing any legal research or writing; he hates legal research, and hates writing even more. He'd only engage in trial presentations. No depositions, brief-writing, or discussions with opposing counsel for this person.


If only he knew how bad trial week actually sucks...

There are three enjoyable things about trial: the moment you take the case and think you're going to win a trial or settlement, the moment you win (if you win) and having a happy client, and the moment you get paid. Nobody gets a hard-on over doing motions in limine and exhibit lists.

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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:13 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:
kykiske wrote:I want to take this exact post, and show it to a guy from my section from 1L year.

This particular person said some pretty stark things. For example, he boldly claimed at least once a week about how he "was going to make $5M/year within 5 years of graduating from law school." And that he would only take on high-end plaintiffs' work. He would be achieving this incredible success by suing massive medical device and pharmaceutical companies. The kicker, however, was how he planned on never doing any legal research or writing; he hates legal research, and hates writing even more. He'd only engage in trial presentations. No depositions, brief-writing, or discussions with opposing counsel for this person.


If only he knew how bad trial week actually sucks...

There are three enjoyable things about trial: the moment you take the case and think you're going to win a trial or settlement, the moment you win (if you win) and having a happy client, and the moment you get paid. Nobody gets a hard-on over doing motions in limine and exhibit lists.


TBF, as a clerk at a small firm I occasionally get a hard on writing or responding to MILs, provided I'm almost certain I'm going to win. Imaging the look on their face is so priceless.

That said, watching my bosses prep for trial has made me realize how much work it is, especially at a small firm where there isn't enough hands and brains to get it all done.


Sorry for the interjection. Carry on.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:37 am

Anonymous User wrote:TBF, as a clerk at a small firm I occasionally get a hard on writing or responding to MILs, provided I'm almost certain I'm going to win. Imaging the look on their face is so priceless.

That said, watching my bosses prep for trial has made me realize how much work it is, especially at a small firm where there isn't enough hands and brains to get it all done.

Sorry for the interjection. Carry on.


No need to apologize for the interjection. Chat is welcome. I actually don't mind motions practice, but I'm the exception. I will say, though, that writing a motion you know you're going to win seems cool at the time, but in truth the other attorney is probably smart enough to know he is likely to lose, so it's not really a big victory celebration when the order comes out. I would say maybe 30% of motions/resistances in my practice area are truly contested, to the point that the judge has any significant chance of going either way. The other 70% fit into various categories including motions that are a wing and a prayer, or just running up attorney fees, contributing to stall or annoyance tactics, etc. No big deal; it's all part of the game.

kykiske
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby kykiske » Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:51 am

smallfirmassociate wrote:
kykiske wrote:I want to take this exact post, and show it to a guy from my section from 1L year.

This particular person said some pretty stark things. For example, he boldly claimed at least once a week about how he "was going to make $5M/year within 5 years of graduating from law school." And that he would only take on high-end plaintiffs' work. He would be achieving this incredible success by suing massive medical device and pharmaceutical companies. The kicker, however, was how he planned on never doing any legal research or writing; he hates legal research, and hates writing even more. He'd only engage in trial presentations. No depositions, brief-writing, or discussions with opposing counsel for this person.


If only he knew how bad trial week actually sucks...

There are three enjoyable things about trial: the moment you take the case and think you're going to win a trial or settlement, the moment you win (if you win) and having a happy client, and the moment you get paid. Nobody gets a hard-on over doing motions in limine and exhibit lists.


I'm continuously baffled at how so many law students are completely oblivious about what they'll actually be doing as a lawyer.

Seriously, a future lawyer who hates writing and research? COME ON MAN!

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Associate at Small Firm Taking Questions

Postby smallfirmassociate » Fri Apr 10, 2015 1:08 am

I've been in trial for what seems like half of the past month. I finished one trial today and have another tomorrow, and I took a break in preparation to write something. Mostly to myself, who knows--I don't have a blog. It's weird to post long shit on Facebook these days. So I'm dumping it here, in a thread targeted to people who might have any interest whatsoever in reading about the life of a small firm litigator:

When I finished cross-examining the state's first witness--a sheriff's deputy--my client leaned over to me, put her hand on my forearm, and said with equal parts relief and excitement, "You're good!" Clients aren't always the best judges of their lawyers' abilities, but she's a particularly sophisticated client whose feedback I appreciated. Putting the ego-stroking aside, what struck me in that moment is that when a client retains a lawyer, she might like the lawyer's personality, think he's smart, vaguely know that he has a good reputation, but she still makes a sobering leap of faith that the lawyer can actually perform in the courtroom until she sees it firsthand. Only then does she know whether her fate as a free person is in good hands.

It's a daunting exercise in empathy when you think about the financial and emotional wager a person makes up front in hiring an attorney, and about the fact that the client doubles down on that risky bet when she decides to reject a plea offer and trust her attorney at trial. Tilting the house odds in my client's favor is where I earn my keep and derive my self-worth in what I do. I've played my share of sports, made my share of public speaking engagements, been in my share of fistfights, but there is nothing quite like the drama and intensity of suiting up and hitting the courtroom stage. Whether it's a week-long jury trial or a two-hour bench trial, this is undoubtedly a game for adrenaline junkies. You dread trial a week or two out, but once one trial is over, you're hooked and craving the next one. Your brain goes manic, and you wish you could be in trial right now, and forever. A day or three later, you're back down to earth, dreading your next trial...

There's no rest for the weary. I'm back in trial tomorrow at 9 a.m. Back to that familiar feeling of being unprepared, even when I'm prepared. Back to being "on" every second of the day, to finding brilliance in fleeting moments of minutiae, to tilting the scales by manipulating the recesses of human psychology, navigating the politics of the courtroom, identifying and polishing that one prevailing argument, being a big fish in a small creaking oak pond of a courthouse in some forgotten county, some laughingstock of law practice among the big city lawyers, back to silently and diligently representing my clients, then going home to my family for the weekend. Back to dreading my next trial, but knowing it'll all turn out fine in the end, for no good reason whatsoever other than it always has before.




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