Anyone who does Product Liability practice?

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Anyone who does Product Liability practice?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:47 pm

I am considering this practice field after 2 yrs doing various lit. Whats PL like? Can you share your every day life and what you like or dont like about it? Thank you.

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kellyfrost

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Re: Anyone who does Product Liability practice?

Postby kellyfrost » Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:53 pm

What kind of litigation have you done previously? Product Liability is basically suing manufacturers (read- insurance companies) and using expert witnesses. Not a whole lot different than some other areas of litigation.
Last edited by kellyfrost on Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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deadpanic

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Re: Anyone who does Product Liability practice?

Postby deadpanic » Mon Mar 13, 2017 12:54 pm

I'm not in products liability defense, but know some that are. It can be pretty consuming. If you are on the main defense team and trying the case, that could mean traveling and spending a lot of time to not-so-great locales in the Midwest and South.

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Re: Anyone who does Product Liability practice?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 13, 2017 2:46 pm

I do PL defense in biglaw. I'm not sure if this is universalizable to all firms, but in general PL at my firm is very time-consuming. It involves more travel for associates than most other litigation specialties, and matters tend to suck up 100% of the available time. Also PL involves a lot of MDLs and other consolidated/coordinated litigations, so you risk spending way more time just doing case management than in other types of litigation. You have to be able to be super detail oriented and keep an impeccable calendar in terms of deadlines and moving projects forward. And the "virtual law firm" trend -- where multiple big firms each handle a piece -- means you have to work with and play nice with a lot of other people. Coordinating the moving pieces can be a bear.

That said, I really like it. Big money is frequently at stake, you get to immerse yourself in interesting scientific/medical facts, and there's a lot of "litigation" (depositions, motions, novel legal arguments) to go around. And we tend to go to trial more often than a lot of biglaw litigation practices.

One thing I would warn about is that you often have to deal with some very gruesome injuries and facts. Sometimes plaintiffs lawyers just completely fabricate a theory, or plaintiffs are lying, or the injuries aren't that bad. But often you have plaintiffs who are really hurt or suffered a terrible death. If you would have a hard time separating an objectively bad injury from legal liability for your client, it may not be the practice for you. I'm not saying you need to be heartless -- I'm not -- but you need to be able to have that kind of detachment, if that makes sense. (By the way, that doesn't apply just to defense attorneys. Frankly, in a sense plaintiff's attorneys who do PL need to be even more "heartless," because they need to sometimes tell potential clients, "yeah, that sucks, but you're not worth the money.") You also need to be comfortable with defending companies like pharma manufacturers, tobacco companies, chemical companies, and car manufacturers. Some people think that those industries are "evil." I obviously think that's nonsense but it does come with the territory. (Including some people in my family when I tell them what kind of clients I have!)

Happy to answer more if I can. I think it's a good litigation practice and it's really not likely to go anywhere in terms of legal reform that might shrink the field. I'm pretty defense-oriented but could try to explain a little what life is like for plaintiff's attorneys, too.

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Re: Anyone who does Product Liability practice?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:19 pm

On the biglaw side it's pretty dull unless you're pretty high up. That said area matters: asbestos may give you trial experience. Pharma will be Daubert hell.

I'd avoid unless you love repetition

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Re: Anyone who does Product Liability practice?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:48 pm

I'm a midlevel at a biglaw firm that's pretty well regarded for its PL group. I do mostly pharma work, and have been doing PL work since I joined my firm after clerking.

I agree with the above that the practice involves more travel than an average general lit practice. I'm on a case in the thick of discovery at the moment and I'd say I'm traveling 2-3 times a month for depositions or hearings. I don't mind traveling, and actually kind of enjoy heading to random places in the middle of nowhere, but I know some senior associates with families who have tired of it.

There is, though, a ton of case management involved. A few firms, like mine, have staffed teams with legal assistants who take care of the calendar/pulling documents/etc., but you've still got to be on top of dates, and there tend to be a lot of moving pieces. Generally, if you've got an MDL, you've got plaintiffs nationwide, but you've probably also got several parallel state court cases that are almost always running on similar, but slightly different, timelines. Again, I'd much rather do case management work than be stuck ass-to-ankles in doc review hell, so that's a relative plus for me in the practice.

There also tends to be a pretty steep learning curve for the medical piece of PL work -- I didn't do hard sciences, and was surprised with how science-heavy my practice became when I jumped into PL work as a second year. Medical studies, deposing physicians, even just reading medical records -- it can take time to develop a facility in the language and the science. The injuries can definitely be gruesome, as someone mentioned above, but you tend to be able to avoid injury photos until trial; I've deposed Plaintiffs and have had lengthy discussions about their or their family members' injuries. I have a weak stomach, and I haven't had any problems.

From my experience you tend to get a good amount of experience pretty early. Deps, hearings, MSJ briefing, expert work, and, generally, far more trials than other lit practice areas. The downside is that a major PL case will generally be at least 50% of your time as an associate, so you'll be doing a lot of work on just one case -- could be years working on the same types of injuries/claims/issues. To me, that was no different than other major cases at my firm, and I enjoyed PL work much much more, so it wasn't a net-negative.

Finally, and I think this is an under-valued benefit of the practice, in my experience defense and plaintiffs' counsel tend to get along much better day-to-day than do opposing counsel in other areas of the law. In part, no doubt, because these are repeat players -- you're not just stuck with them for 6-8 years (or more) on this one case, you'll likely be across from them again pretty soon in another similar PL action. I've had a far better experience in PL than other types of lit in no small part because everything isn't WW3 when dealing with opposing counsel.

Hope that helps, and happy to answer any follow-up questions you might have, since the storm has happily made today a relatively slow day for me.

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Re: Anyone who does Product Liability practice?

Postby fxb3 » Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:From my experience you tend to get a good amount of experience pretty early. Deps, hearings, MSJ briefing, expert work, and, generally, far more trials than other lit practice areas. The downside is that a major PL case will generally be at least 50% of your time as an associate, so you'll be doing a lot of work on just one case -- could be years working on the same types of injuries/claims/issues. To me, that was no different than other major cases at my firm, and I enjoyed PL work much much more, so it wasn't a net-negative.

Finally, and I think this is an under-valued benefit of the practice, in my experience defense and plaintiffs' counsel tend to get along much better day-to-day than do opposing counsel in other areas of the law. In part, no doubt, because these are repeat players -- you're not just stuck with them for 6-8 years (or more) on this one case, you'll likely be across from them again pretty soon in another similar PL action. I've had a far better experience in PL than other types of lit in no small part because everything isn't WW3 when dealing with opposing counsel.


The repetitiveness and length/size of cases does benefit associates in that there are a reasonable number of repeat tasks that partners are happy to hand off. You generally depose just about every doctor the plaintiff has seen for any reason in recent memory (and believe me, for some of these plaintiffs, it's a lot of doctors), and while the senior partner may want to depose someone critical like the prescriber, associates get plenty of opportunities to depose other docs. In my experience, associates also get to depose a lot of plaintiffs themselves.

I have not necessarily had the same experience with collegial opposing counsel. I've been across from some real self-righteous and difficult pricks in this field. (Although for me there has been a constant rule that older plaintiffs lawyers are pretty good and easy to deal with, the ones sitting on a bank from their 20 years of tobacco and asbestos, whereas the young ones trying to make a name for themselves are the jerks.) I don't know about anyone else, but I've generally been surprised at how nasty all civil litigation can be. Doesn't really bother me because I have a thick skin and can also dish it out if I need to, but that's one of the biggest surprises after law school convinced me that I was entering a "profession."

Finally, as for the science stuff, I also didn't come from a science background but have loved that aspect. I think if you're a junior or a law student, you should ask yourself whether you have an aptitude for that kind of stuff. You don't have to be able to do it, but if you read, say, a New Yorker or Atlantic article about drug development, ask yourself whether your eyes glaze over at the scienc-y bits or not. Not saying that's dispositive, but you will definitely have to be good enough to work with and present experts on scientific matters.



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