Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

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dgroom951
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Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby dgroom951 » Mon Mar 16, 2015 5:33 pm

Brothers, 3L here. I am looking for wise graduates to help me out, if any can spare their limited time. I am trying to figure out how to break into civil plaintiff litigation/which field of civil plaintiff litigation to break into.

All I have so far is:

Firm Size: 10 to 50.

Geographic Location: Growing population. (Reasonably well-educated, for social reasons.)

Practice Area Rank Ordering:

1) Products Liability
2) Medical Malpractice
3/4) Toxic Torts
3/4) Consumer Rights
5) Employment & Labor
6/7) Personal Injury
6/7) Legal Malpractice
8) Civil Rights

Type-of-Advocacy Rank Ordering:
1) Trial Litigation
2/3) Appeals
2/3) Pretrial Litigation
4) Pretrial Investigation
5) Negotiation

Things I Care About Most (in Descending Order):
1) Jury Experience
2) Mentoring/Training
3) Independence
4) In Court Experience
5) Client Contact

Things I Care About Least (in Ascending Order):
1) Work Life Balance
2) Predictable Hours
3) Starting Pay
4) Guidance/Direction/Feedback
5) Collegial Opposing Counsel

What I am looking for, overall and in general, is a balance between substantive in and out of court experience with case sophistication. Ideally, I'd like a field that provides small cases to cut teeth on but branch-out potential later. I want to maximize in-court experience. And, all else being equal, I would prefer a field that is, eventually, more lucrative.

T20 at median. Prelaw WE. One external mock trial win.

What I don't know I could fill a book with. a) Is there a growing field? b) A hot geographic area? c) A field I haven't considered that meets my criteria? d) A field I am considering that does not? e) A firm characteristic that I've failed to consider that is important for my criteria? f) A firm characteristic that I have considered that is not important for my criteria? And of course, g) what to do. h) What not to do. i) How aggressive to be. j) What are reasonably likely outcomes. k) Whether to single-dimple or double-dimple tie or to go sans tie altogether. (k) is joke.)

Thanks in advance, brothers! Any thoughts are welcome and appreciated.

dgroom951
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2015 4:57 pm

Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby dgroom951 » Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:18 pm

Bueller?

BeenDidThat
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby BeenDidThat » Tue Mar 17, 2015 8:14 am

Aside from a few nationally-known shops, the vast majority of plaintiffs' work is done by regional or local firms, so without a defined geographic area, it's hard to advise. Unfortunately, the plaintiffs' bar also has a lot of shady/shitty lawyers, so you really need some familiarity to separate the wheat from the chaff. In order to get help here, you probably need to give a region, if not a state, if not a city.

If you want to go on your own hunt, you should check state bar journals. They do things like report big verdicts. Most big verdicts are won by nobodies, but a write-up of a verdict that was won by a good plaintiffs' lawyer usually goes on to recount other big cases the lawyer won. Good plaintiffs' firms are also often involved in politics and are somewhat infamous.

Finally, if you can talk to a big firm lawyer who does a lot of defense work in the area you want to be, they will know the good plaintiffs firms. Big defense firms have a lot of institutional knowledge of other local lawyers.

dgroom951
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby dgroom951 » Tue Mar 17, 2015 9:49 am

BeenDidThat wrote:Aside from a few nationally-known shops, the vast majority of plaintiffs' work is done by regional or local firms, so without a defined geographic area, it's hard to advise. Unfortunately, the plaintiffs' bar also has a lot of shady/shitty lawyers, so you really need some familiarity to separate the wheat from the chaff. In order to get help here, you probably need to give a region, if not a state, if not a city.

If you want to go on your own hunt, you should check state bar journals. They do things like report big verdicts. Most big verdicts are won by nobodies, but a write-up of a verdict that was won by a good plaintiffs' lawyer usually goes on to recount other big cases the lawyer won. Good plaintiffs' firms are also often involved in politics and are somewhat infamous.

Finally, if you can talk to a big firm lawyer who does a lot of defense work in the area you want to be, they will know the good plaintiffs firms. Big defense firms have a lot of institutional knowledge of other local lawyers.


Thanks BeenThat!

It sounds like reading state bar journals is a great way to get a pulse on the plaintiff bar in a particular geographic area.

I wish my geographic preference was set, but one of the objects of my investigation is which geographic area, if any, is hot for plaintiffs litigation.

Anonymous User
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 17, 2015 9:51 am

Consider applying to your state AG office as well. They often litigate similar issues.

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kings84_wr
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby kings84_wr » Tue Mar 17, 2015 10:01 pm

Go to the the AAJ/Trial Lawyer Association events. I know my state and local groups have luncheons about once every two weeks or so, and they are great networking events. Generally the attorneys in those groups at the events are more likely to be friendly and talk about the practice.

Verdict searches is another great way.

Also check websites - we spend a ton (like hundreds of thousands) on SEO and websites. In the internet age, a good Plaintiff's firm is almost always going to have a great website. It also shows which firms have enough money to invest in other lawyers.

If you want geographic or more data on the specific practice areas, feel free to pm me.

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kings84_wr
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby kings84_wr » Tue Mar 17, 2015 11:36 pm

Just to add on to my prior post - some growing areas of Plaintiffs' Litigation:

1. Qui Tam- against both defense contractors and Medicare billing. These cases are fairly complicated and take a lot of time (thus the firms tend to hire more associate attorneys to do the grunt work). This area has absolutely exploded in the last 10 years.

2. Pharma/Product liability MDLs - right now the hot cases are Xarelto (blowing up because of how well Pradaxa turned out), Testosterone, Risperdal, Laparoscopic Power Morcellator, and Corn Farming. The big players will be investing and marketing these cases - just takes a google of those phrases really to see who is spending money. This is generally where the Plaintiffs firms invest most their money.

3. The more favorable PI areas - i.e. Jones Act, FELA, Maritime/Admiralty, Big Rigs - anything thats Plaintiff friendly or has significant insurance. Even if your practice is not near the ocean, Maritime cases happen all the time (and are mis-analyzed by lawyers). Maritime is a very very lucrative area to practice in.

4. Class actions - This area is very lucrative if you are at the top of the firms that get the fees, but class actions tend to be very very different then a trial lawyer practice.

5. Toxic exposure - Meso cases tend to be dying off, but there are still a lot of toxic exposure cases out there (I can PM more about my specific cases in this area).

6. Insurance Bad Faith - Underrated practice area that just about every good Plaintiff firm will advertise. Anytime there is a hurricane or hail storm, these cases blow up.

dgroom951
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby dgroom951 » Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:28 pm

This is AWESOME info. Thanks Kings.

PMing you now.

smallfirmassociate
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby smallfirmassociate » Wed Mar 18, 2015 2:17 pm

Use Westlaw to search cases from a few jurisdictions where you may practice. You can use headnotes or use related cases under statutory searches for causes of action you are interested in to bring up cases, then see which firms represented the plaintiffs. If you look at enough cases, you'll get an idea of the prominent firms. You can also glance at outcomes.

If you put a few hours into that, you'll have some targets. A bit tedious, but still probably faster than other methods.

As you do this, if you find there is just one or are just a few firms that represent defendants who often get sued in these cases, do a search for the defense firm and see who was on the other side in their cases.

dgroom951
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby dgroom951 » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:22 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:Use Westlaw to search cases from a few jurisdictions where you may practice. You can use headnotes or use related cases under statutory searches for causes of action you are interested in to bring up cases, then see which firms represented the plaintiffs. If you look at enough cases, you'll get an idea of the prominent firms. You can also glance at outcomes.

If you put a few hours into that, you'll have some targets. A bit tedious, but still probably faster than other methods.

As you do this, if you find there is just one or are just a few firms that represent defendants who often get sued in these cases, do a search for the defense firm and see who was on the other side in their cases.


Thanks smallfirmassociate! What kind of law do you do?

I wonder how specialized a trial lawyer or plaintiffs' firm has to be by practice area. How much does marketability, learning curve on the area of law, and capital requirements keep firms and attorneys specialized in a particular cause of action. How do you chose the cause of action that's right for you? (Something I never thought I would ask until law school . . . .)

I note from Kings list above that some of the causes of action seem pretty different. For instance, Insurance Bad Faith and Qui Tam seem like Contract Law and Jones Act, FELA, and Big Rigs seem like a hybrid of Regulatory and common law Negligence. Thought, Kings noted that a lot of Plaintiffs' firms will do Insurance Bad Faith even if they focus on other causes.

Anonymous User
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 18, 2015 11:01 pm

For the best national plaintiffs firms (largely class action), look to the NLJ Plaintiffs Hot List. You generally have to look at a couple of years to get a sense, but you'll see firms coming up again and again. Multiple appearance in the Hot List (3+) are a pretty good indication of a firm's strength.

Off the top of my head, I'd look at Lieff Cabraser (SF), Grant & Eisenhoffer (east coast), Dickstein Shapiro (both coasts), Korein Tillery (Midwest), Bernstein Liebard (NY), Cohen Milstein (east coast), Hagens Berman (Seattle), Hausfeld (east coast), Labaton (NY), Motley Rice (east coast and south), and Robbins Geller (NY mostly I think). These firms do a wide range of different types of class action work, but it's probably most concentrated in consumer protection, securities, antitrust, and qui tam. Some focus largely on only one type (Lieff and consumer protection, Robbins Geller and securities) while others do more of a mix (like Korein Tillery and Cohen Milstein).

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kings84_wr
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby kings84_wr » Wed Mar 18, 2015 11:46 pm

dgroom951 wrote:
smallfirmassociate wrote:Use Westlaw to search cases from a few jurisdictions where you may practice. You can use headnotes or use related cases under statutory searches for causes of action you are interested in to bring up cases, then see which firms represented the plaintiffs. If you look at enough cases, you'll get an idea of the prominent firms. You can also glance at outcomes.

If you put a few hours into that, you'll have some targets. A bit tedious, but still probably faster than other methods.

As you do this, if you find there is just one or are just a few firms that represent defendants who often get sued in these cases, do a search for the defense firm and see who was on the other side in their cases.


Thanks smallfirmassociate! What kind of law do you do?

I wonder how specialized a trial lawyer or plaintiffs' firm has to be by practice area. How much does marketability, learning curve on the area of law, and capital requirements keep firms and attorneys specialized in a particular cause of action. How do you chose the cause of action that's right for you? (Something I never thought I would ask until law school . . . .)

I note from Kings list above that some of the causes of action seem pretty different. For instance, Insurance Bad Faith and Qui Tam seem like Contract Law and Jones Act, FELA, and Big Rigs seem like a hybrid of Regulatory and common law Negligence. Thought, Kings noted that a lot of Plaintiffs' firms will do Insurance Bad Faith even if they focus on other causes.


Its generally wise to spread your practice areas beyond one specific type of case. Tort reform is a very real threat for Plaintiff's lawyers and if the legislature or Court eliminates your entire docket, you need something to fall back on. Because of tort reform, must firms try to broaden their areas to include a wide range.

Bad faith is a tort though, its actually really similar to most type of negligence claims. Qui Tam is much more unique, and I know the Qui Tam Section really hates it if non Qui Tam lawyers dabble in the practice area.

dgroom951
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby dgroom951 » Sun Mar 22, 2015 11:58 am

This is great stuff. Thanks all.

I thought of three new questions today.

First, I wonder if there is something of a Sophie's Choice within Plaintiffs' Law as some might perceive between Plaintiffs' Law and Big Law: Responsibility and experience versus stability, case sophistication, and up-front salary.

I networked the other day with an alumni from a boutique midlaw defense firm and she explained to me how she was preparing for her first deposition. She's a third year. I was horrified. But, I have to imagine some Plaintiffs' firms--maybe some on the Hot List--offer similarly extended training periods. My guess is that there is some sort of continuum, starting at going totally solo and ending at the largest Hot List firm.

If this continuum conception of mine is correct, my second question is where (hypothetically) on the continuum is the sweet spot for me.

Third, I read somewhere else that you specialize sooner in Plaintiffs' Law than in Big Law. If that's the case, I wonder how to choose a practice are. I also wonder what to do if, as posters explained above, my practice area is eliminated: how transferable between practice areas is reputation and skill in Plaintiffs Law?

dgroom951
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby dgroom951 » Sat Apr 11, 2015 8:06 pm

Anyone? I guess what my real question is is the following: what kind of Plaintiffs' firms should be my focus if my only real interest is being in trial and $$$.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby CanadianWolf » Sat Apr 11, 2015 8:35 pm

Just a quick comment on your list of preferred practice areas:

Employment/labor issues, legal malpractice & civil rights areas probably should not be on your list. I just don't think that you'll get as much actual trial experience as you would like.

Going to trial is a bit of a luxury as most cases settle due to the high costs of litigation & the fear of jury unpredictability. Civil appellate work is also a difficult field in which to specialize since it's hard to get enough business. (Criminal appellate work is plentiful, but most clients can't pay & need to use legal services or court appointed counsel.)

Most cases are won & lost in discovery. Many large firms can bury a small firm by furnishing overwhelming amounts of documents while carefully sorting out the most relevant material (if harmful to their client).

What do you mean by "pretrial investigation"? I know this is commonly done by investigators (former FBI or former detectives) in criminal matters, but in the civil arena I think it's covered by the various types of pretrial discovery.

Re: "Negotiation". While there are attorneys who do a lot of arbitration, a trial lawyer is, in a sense, always negotiating up until the jury is seated. Discovery is not only about learning facts & uncovering evidence for trial, but it also is about applying pressure in an effort to get a favorable settlement.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby CanadianWolf » Sat Apr 11, 2015 8:59 pm

If you really want a lot of trial work, consider criminal law. Lots of trials & appeals, but typically you need to work as a state or local public defender for 5 to 10 years, then try to become a Federal Public Defender (usually "requires" at least 5 years of state/local public defender experience). Can be difficult to make a lot of money, unless doing white-collar federal cases. (Which can be somewhat of a closed member club due to the deals & covering for one another.)

CanadianWolf
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby CanadianWolf » Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:10 pm

Also, I noted your preference for firm size of 11 to 50 attorneys. Great place to start, but you might be surprised at the quality of trial attorneys you'll come across in smaller firms. If you want to get into the action quickly, then the smaller firms are the way to go. The larger the firm, the more likely that you'll be doing a good bit of tedious discovery work & won't be second chair at a trial for a few years.

Money. Some of the richest trial lawyers that I know are solo practitioners. Also, some of the poorest. Might be best to look for stability in earnings for your first several years out of law school rather than jackpots. Although medical malpractice & personal injury seems to have a lot of hefty paydays, but also a lot of competition until you have an established reputation & a consistent method of getting clients.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

dgroom951
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby dgroom951 » Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:15 pm

Thanks Wolf,

I have thought about criminal defense. The criminal trials that I have watched tend to be far more interesting than the civil trials. Working for a private criminal defense firm is a possibility, no?

Though, I think my preference is still on the civil side. (A good professor taught me how to write good document requests. Hopefully, I will remember what he taught me when it's go time.) What's my best bet on the civil side?

I might just make a drive for both criminal defense and whatever field of civil law I chose to target and then make a gut call based on what options turn up.

(Also, I assume you mean surprised in a good way, at the quality of trial lawyers in the small firms. Is that right?)

CanadianWolf
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby CanadianWolf » Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:18 pm

Yes, I meant the high quality of trial lawyers often found in small firms.

I can't tell you what areas of law to pursue. I've pointed out a few areas that I would avoid. But, without a definite area of passionate interest, you just need to get hired by a firm that does a lot of trial work so that you can spot opportunities & develop your interests.

Any trial work during law school ? For example, under a 3L student practice act for criminal defense.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby CanadianWolf » Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:25 pm

Also, never be surprised to receive a poorly drafted complaint or other documents from an experienced trial attorney. Often, they know how to bait others & they know the limits of their local practice act. This happens in state courts, but is not tolerated in the federal court system to the best of my knowledge & experience.

dgroom951
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby dgroom951 » Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:41 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Also, never be surprised to receive a poorly drafted complaint or other documents from an experienced trial attorney. Often, they know how to bait others & they know the limits of their local practice act. This happens in state courts, but is not tolerated in the federal court system to the best of my knowledge & experience.


What's a local practice act? And, what do you mean by "bait?" I like to avoid bait.

My tactic was to target a firm that does a lot of trial work by targeting a practice area that involves a lot of trial work. What it sounds like you're saying is that that tactic won't work, unless the target practice area is criminal. It sounds like you're saying that most small civil firms will have more trial work than other civil firms, unless the firms' focus on employment/labor issues, legal malpractice, or civil rights, because those areas involve little trial work. Is this right?

CanadianWolf
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby CanadianWolf » Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:48 pm

Did you do any trial work in law school ? Clinics ? Legal aid ?

Sorry, but I have to sign off now. Quickly though, each state has a civil practice act or code that sets out the rules for trying cases in the various courts in that state.

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kings84_wr
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby kings84_wr » Sat Apr 11, 2015 10:42 pm

Just my thoughts: going to trial is really firm by firm dependent rather than practice area dependent. Some firms are simply more willing to go to trial (whether based on experience and success or just stubbornness). The key is really finding a firm that fits your interests rather than practices in a specific area.

curiousgeorges
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby curiousgeorges » Sun Apr 12, 2015 12:17 am

"Brothers"? OP, do you believe this is a male-only messageboard?

dgroom951
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Re: Civil Plaintiff Litigation. Which, Where, and How?

Postby dgroom951 » Sun Apr 12, 2015 2:09 am

kings84_wr wrote:Just my thoughts: going to trial is really firm by firm dependent rather than practice area dependent. Some firms are simply more willing to go to trial (whether based on experience and success or just stubbornness). The key is really finding a firm that fits your interests rather than practices in a specific area.


Verrrrrrry interesting. This seems to make a lot of sense, now that you mention it. It would seem that any given firm could do well adopting a more settlement orientated approach or a more aggressive, trial orientated approach, and it would seem that which approach a firm chooses depends more on firm personality than anything else. So, really, I am going about this the wrong way and need to start my search looking for firms that go to trial a lot. So, focus extra long on Lexis/Westlaw and the state bar journals looking for firms taking cases to trial.




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