Litigation skills at biglaw

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Litigation skills at biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 25, 2016 6:59 pm

I'm a second-year associate in a specialized lit group at a V10 firm. I'm somewhat frustrated by the level of the work I'm doing--haven't been to court, even status conferences, haven't been at depositions, etc. I do a lot of tables, legal research, discovery and ghost-writing of letters. But I'm not anywhere near the actual, you know, litigation.

I'm curious if someone could give me an idea of when it's normal to build certain litigation skills. When do biglaw lit associates start defending depositions? When do they start appearing in court? I realize there's no standard path for skill development, but I'd also like to know how unusual my experience has been.

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Re: Litigation skills at biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 25, 2016 7:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a second-year associate in a specialized lit group at a V10 firm. I'm somewhat frustrated by the level of the work I'm doing--haven't been to court, even status conferences, haven't been at depositions, etc. I do a lot of tables, legal research, discovery and ghost-writing of letters. But I'm not anywhere near the actual, you know, litigation.

I'm curious if someone could give me an idea of when it's normal to build certain litigation skills. When do biglaw lit associates start defending depositions? When do they start appearing in court? I realize there's no standard path for skill development, but I'd also like to know how unusual my experience has been.

Piggybacking a bit--are there firms that are better at developing associates than this? QE, PW, maybe?

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Re: Litigation skills at biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 25, 2016 7:43 pm

Really depends where you are. I've found that the smaller the firm / group / office, the quicker you get skills. I'm at a V60ish firm, and in general second-chairing a depo happens around 2-3rd year, writing MTDs / briefs happens around 3-5th year, first-chairing depos happens around 6-7th year, and appearing (actually speaking) happens closer to counsel or partner.

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Re: Litigation skills at biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 25, 2016 7:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm a second-year associate in a specialized lit group at a V10 firm. I'm somewhat frustrated by the level of the work I'm doing--haven't been to court, even status conferences, haven't been at depositions, etc. I do a lot of tables, legal research, discovery and ghost-writing of letters. But I'm not anywhere near the actual, you know, litigation.

I'm curious if someone could give me an idea of when it's normal to build certain litigation skills. When do biglaw lit associates start defending depositions? When do they start appearing in court? I realize there's no standard path for skill development, but I'd also like to know how unusual my experience has been.

Piggybacking a bit--are there firms that are better at developing associates than this? QE, PW, maybe?


It really depends on the leverage of your group, size of the firm as a whole, and the particular practice area you are in.

Large, highly leveraged lit groups get the biggest securities cases and investigations for the largest clients, but the drawback is that they are able to staff many partners on these cases, such that a partner will always be appearing in court, speaking on the phone in status conferences, interviewing witnesses, or taking/defending even relatively unimportant depositions. Biglaw firms have a pathological avoidance to having associates appearing or staffing depositions, to the point where they would rather pull some random partner with no case background in then give an associate who has been on the case since the complaint was filed the chance to take a depo.

The one exception may be bankruptcy litigation work, because the deadlines are so tight that it is sometimes impossible to avoid having midlevels do depos or appearances. But bankruptcy litigation work is obviously not for everyone.

But you seem hyperfocused on getting into court, when most of the "litigation" work isn't in the courtroom. Once you reach the midlevel ranks you will probably be drafting pleadings or briefs without much supervision. Senior associates are responsible for developing case strategy or managing the various aspects of the discovery process.

If you are in a small, less leveraged group or a boutique lit firm, you are not going to be getting the sexy cases or investigations for the biggest clients, but you will start appearing in court or taking/defending depositions earlier. Obviously the tradeoff is that your law school classmates won't wet themselves when you say where you are going after law school, but hey, we can't get everything we want in life.

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Re: Litigation skills at biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 25, 2016 8:14 pm

I've been at two firms, both with relatively similar progressions, though there are always exceptions where a 1st year gets to take a witness in court or a 7th year who hasn't taken a depo...

Research, fact development, letters, etc. (the stuff you're describing): from the beginning
Drafting all of significant portions of important motions/briefs: 1st year
Taking, defending depos: 3rd year though many get earlier experience
Appearing in court (unimportant things): 3rd-4th year
Appearing in court (important things): 7th-8th year / partner

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Re: Litigation skills at biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 26, 2016 3:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I've been at two firms, both with relatively similar progressions, though there are always exceptions where a 1st year gets to take a witness in court or a 7th year who hasn't taken a depo...

Research, fact development, letters, etc. (the stuff you're describing): from the beginning
Drafting all of significant portions of important motions/briefs: 1st year
Taking, defending depos: 3rd year though many get earlier experience
Appearing in court (unimportant things): 3rd-4th year
Appearing in court (important things): 7th-8th year / partner


This is about right for my firm too.



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