general "what's litigation practice like" questions

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utlaw2007
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general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 3:38 am

Hello all.

It's been an awfully long time since the last time I posted here. I posted an informative thread about law firm ownership and business strategy linked below ages ago

http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/v ... 4&t=210075

I came back, primarily because I can't go to sleep and felt it was a good time to come back. I own a litigation boutique. Currently, I've never lost a case that I have taken from scratch in federal or state court. And I've never lost a federal motion or hearing. All of my cases have been uphill battles as they are difficult because they either present difficult issues of legal interpretation or application. I'm used to it now and don't bat an eye when I take one. I'm a plaintiff's lawyer. My skills have sharpened, my substantive knowledge has increased exponentially, and my confidence has really grown. All of my opponents, except for three that were in state court (I withdrew from one, won another, and the other is still going on in state court), have been really large national corporations. All of the law firms I have faced, except for those three cases, have been biglaw law firms or boutique law firms.

I'm here to answer any questions anyone may have about the general practice of a trial lawyer at the state or federal district court level. I try to stay out of lower courts if I can. I actually prefer to face bigger, better law firms. They have more professional courtesy. While I still ignore opposing counsel when they try to discuss the merits of the case with me long before I'm willing to entertain settlement negotiations (we never see eye to eye, I have to prove it to them by beating them), they are still more professional and more pleasant to work with than many lawyers that come from small, relatively unknown firms. They all aren't like this, but some are.

If you have any questions about what skill sets are required and what kind of work is required of litigators and trial lawyers, I'm here to answer so ask away.

My practice areas consist of commercial/business litigation, constitutional law/civil rights (you'd be surprised at how much these laws can apply to businesses, I've asserted them in business cases only against the government, municipal, state, or federal), construction litigation, employment discrimination, intentional torts, including tortious interference with a contract and fraud, and product liability.

I currently have a ton of legal work that I need to be doing or resting up so I can be doing, but I'll be dropping in a few times a day to take breaks and answer questions.

The questions can be about litigation period for either biglaw or plaintiff lawyers. I face mostly biglaw firms so I know what they face, at least in part, because they go up against me. Defendants usually retain the services of a large expensive law firm when they greatly respect or fear plaintiff counsel. Otherwise, they get some rinky dink little law firm to defend them.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:18 am, edited 3 times in total.

utlaw2007
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 3:39 am

Had to post this post to up my post count from 666. That post count tally didn't sit too well with me.

utlaw2007
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:07 am

It has dawned on me that I should have titled this thread differently. It's titled as if I'm asking questions instead of answering them.

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seespotrun
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby seespotrun » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:10 am

It's okay--it's a shitty thread either way.

Just kidding. But seriously, why are you still so butthurt about being shut out of biglaw after all these years?

utlaw2007
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:26 am

seespotrun wrote:It's okay--it's a shitty thread either way.

Just kidding. But seriously, why are you still so butthurt about being shut out of biglaw after all these years?


You're funny. But I will entertain your question anyway. I find it most appropriate to qualify my expertise so that people can have confidence in my answers. Plaintiff lawyers can make much more that a big law partner makes in a year off of one case. So I don't understand your question. But thanks for reminding me why I haven't been back to this site in such a long time.

But I'm good. Thank you.

utlaw2007
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:34 am

I've made more money off of one case than a big law associate makes in a year. So I'm not so sure if I fit your definition of being butthurt, especially considering that I never wanted to work biglaw in the first place.

Are you sure you know what butthurt means? Urban dictionary should get you up to speed on the definition.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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seespotrun
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby seespotrun » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:40 am

utlaw2007 wrote:
seespotrun wrote:It's okay--it's a shitty thread either way.

Just kidding. But seriously, why are you still so butthurt about being shut out of biglaw after all these years?


You're funny. But I will entertain your question anyway. I find it most appropriate to qualify my expertise so that people can have confidence in my answers. Plaintiff lawyers can make much more that a big law partner makes in a year off of one case. So I don't understand your question. But thanks for reminding me why I haven't been back to this site in such a long time.

But I'm good. Thank you.

The site didn't miss you, and you didn't entertain my question. You answered one that you pretended I'd asked.

But thanks for making this tone deaf LOOK AT MY TROPHIES thread. It's been quite illuminating as to how a butthurt lawyer banished to shitlaw might seek validation. You know, kind of like how the second-string try-hards tend to end up coaching high school football?

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seespotrun
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby seespotrun » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:41 am

utlaw2007 wrote:I've made more money off of one case than a big law associate makes in a year. So I'm not so sure if I fit your definition of being butthurt, especially considering that I never wanted to work biglaw in the first place.

Are you sure you know what butthurt means? Urban dictionary should get you up to speed on the definition.

Urban dictionary couldn't quite capture the definition so perfectly as ^this post did.

utlaw2007
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:44 am

seespotrun wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:
seespotrun wrote:It's okay--it's a shitty thread either way.

Just kidding. But seriously, why are you still so butthurt about being shut out of biglaw after all these years?


You're funny. But I will entertain your question anyway. I find it most appropriate to qualify my expertise so that people can have confidence in my answers. Plaintiff lawyers can make much more that a big law partner makes in a year off of one case. So I don't understand your question. But thanks for reminding me why I haven't been back to this site in such a long time.

But I'm good. Thank you.

The site didn't miss you, and you didn't entertain my question. You answered one that you pretended I'd asked.

But thanks for making this tone deaf LOOK AT MY TROPHIES thread. It's been quite illuminating as to how a butthurt lawyer banished to shitlaw might seek validation. You know, kind of like how the second-string try-hards tend to end up coaching high school football?


So angry. It seems I touched a nerve doing nothing. It's ironic that you said I was the one who was butthurt. But if you need someone to love you, perhaps you can rent a friend?

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seespotrun
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby seespotrun » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:47 am

Your wife will do, thank you very much.

utlaw2007
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:49 am

You're welcome. Anytime.

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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:55 am

Of course, you in all of your wisdom know that no one could possibly have any questions concerning litigation practice from a plaintiff's perspective.

So can you access everyone's mind like Professor Xavier? It must be awfully cool to be a mutant, especially one with no friends.

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DELG
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby DELG » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:56 am

I would love to know more about how you got off the ground, how much start up capital you think people need, how you got your first few cases, have you done any class action?

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Pneumonia
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby Pneumonia » Wed Mar 11, 2015 6:59 am

As I recall you started up straight out of law school or sometime close, how'd you develop your competency/learn the ropes?

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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:10 am

I'd like to address something before I continue.

All sarcasm aside, I get what seespotrun is saying, minus the tone. It is awfully odd for anyone to come into this forum, touting accomplishments with a focus on accomplishments against biglaw. From a certain perspective, it does look like I came in here to merely brag.

But I don't brag.

The reason why I do that is a reason I feel is important. When you are a solo, people automatically assume you do not know what you are talking about. Even some of your misguided clients feel this way. And sadly, this opinion is warranted. When you are employed at a large firm, people assume you have competence because you are employed by the large firm. Competence is assumed, otherwise, you would not be employed by the large firm. When you are a solo, nobody knows if you know what you are talking about. Nobody even knows if you even have any real experience doing what you say you do. This opinion is warranted because it is true of a lot of solos. I've met many of them when I used to do document review when I first began practicing law and opening up my practice. I did these things simultaneously. And I've met some of them at Starbucks, while they were meeting their clients because they didn't have an office. I actually met a lawyer at Starbucks just days ago. He was meeting with his client. I was there to have a cup of coffee while visiting my mother on the opposite side of town.

Many of these lawyers have no idea of what's going on with substantive law they claim to practice. So why should anyone assume I'm different? So I spell out my major accomplishments to show otherwise. If I weren't giving advice to non clients (like the ones on this forum), I wouldn't even mention my accomplishments unless someone accused me of being an ignorant lawyer. I'd merely direct them to my law firm website or hand them a business card that directs them to my law firm website.

And given that this site, in particular, places enormous weight and credibility on biglaw practice, I make it plain that I have accomplished these things against these types of firms so as to establish credibility before giving advice.

Also, it might be interesting to know that Susman does have some practice areas that overlap with mine, particularly with respect to commercial litigation, litigation founded upon contract breaches, construction litigation, and some business torts, including fiduciary duty breaches, and tortious interference with a contract or business relationship as well as product liability.

There are obvious differences of scale. I handle cases that are hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Susman handles cases that are hundreds of millions or billions of dollars.

But for the most part, I've relied a lot on Susman's practice areas and approach to fee structures when implementing my own business plan and approach to substantive law practice.

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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:26 am

seespotrun wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:
seespotrun wrote:It's okay--it's a shitty thread either way.

Just kidding. But seriously, why are you still so butthurt about being shut out of biglaw after all these years?


You're funny. But I will entertain your question anyway. I find it most appropriate to qualify my expertise so that people can have confidence in my answers. Plaintiff lawyers can make much more that a big law partner makes in a year off of one case. So I don't understand your question. But thanks for reminding me why I haven't been back to this site in such a long time.

But I'm good. Thank you.

The site didn't miss you, and you didn't entertain my question. You answered one that you pretended I'd asked.

But thanks for making this tone deaf LOOK AT MY TROPHIES thread. It's been quite illuminating as to how a butthurt lawyer banished to shitlaw might seek validation. You know, kind of like how the second-string try-hards tend to end up coaching high school football?


Now why would a lawyer, a successful one seek validation from people on a law school forum? That's kind of ridiculous, don't you think? Could it not be that the successful lawyer simply wants to enlighten those who might want to follow in his footsteps because he's a cool guy?


Yesterday, I had a young insurance guy come to my office for an appointment because he wanted some entrepreneurial advise. He was given my contact information by the director of a professional organization of which we are both members. I didn't know him, but I wanted to help him. I understand that helping people may be a foreign concept to you and many other people on this forum (hence the use of the term sh*&^% law, as if helping small business and individuals is a sh&^%$ty thing to do), but I voluntarily help a lot of young people because I simply want to give them advise that I think they might find helpful.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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DELG
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby DELG » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:28 am

utlaw2007 wrote: I voluntarily help a lot of young people because I simply want to give them advise that I think they might find helpful.

so stop engaging with spotty who appears to not want to open a p practice and focus on the real questions

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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby itascot1992 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:38 am

DELG wrote:I would love to know more about how you got off the ground, how much start up capital you think people need, how you got your first few cases, have you done any class action?


+1

utlaw2007
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 10:39 am

DELG wrote:I would love to know more about how you got off the ground, how much start up capital you think people need, how you got your first few cases, have you done any class action?


I haven't done any class actions. If I'm not mistaken, you have to have experience with working class actions for the court to approve you as counsel for the class. Being the Attorney-In-Charge in a class action requires court approval.

As far as getting off the ground, it was an awfully long road, that I feel only God was responsible for.

I got through law school having to deal with a serious medical condition that came out of the blue. I was in intense pain in various areas of my body. There were some days that my wrists and hands hurt so bad that I could not even turn the doorknob to my apartment to leave it. I missed all kinds of class.

While waiting on bar results, my condition got far worse. I was hospitalized and was unable to walk or talk due to my condition. It spread to my brain stem. It's a wonder I'm not dead. Brain swelling is usually diffuse (spread out). Had this occurred as is normal, I'd be dead. But miraculously, my brain swelling was localized. But it was enough to significantly hurt my speaking ability and ability to even walk or merely stand.

So a couple of years go by and I'm still sick, but not as sick. So I activate my law license and start practicing on a part time basis. I participated on one my school's official mock trial teams and knew I wanted to be a real, actual trial lawyer, not one who simply sits in on trials and depos. So it was important for me to get hired by a small firm that would give me real courtroom experience, right off the bat. But because of my sickness, I couldn't work for a couple of years. I couldn't even take care of myself. It is during this time when I devised a lot of business planning. I had nothing else to do so I did this. I brainstormed practice areas, fee structures, and prospective clients I should target. But of course, these practice areas required some sort of legal expertise. I knew nothing, except for what I learned in law school.

My best friend's step dad was a lawyer and helped me out by giving me some legal work to work on. But he practices small practice areas and so his legal knowledge didn't at all contribute to what I know now. But he did give me a few law firm business tips. They were nothing major and not that many. But he did tell me about clientele and word of mouth marketing.

So I worked with him for about 8 months on really small cases. But working those really small cases allowed me to participate in mediations, a lower court trial, and it allowed me to have some client interaction.

In the meantime, I was looking for a job with a small law firm. But the economy around this time was absolutely terrible. Small firms rarely hire as it is. That's why they're small. They intend to stay that way. But the ones that were hiring were requiring 5+ years experience in a specific practice area. During that time, different people would ask me if I knew how to do this or that because I was a lawyer. I told them I couldn't help them. But after quite a few people would ask me these things, I thought I'd better learn how to do these things. These were really small, like guardianships, occupational licenses, and divorces. However, I never learned how to do divorces.

I already knew how to handle misdemeanors through my 3L participation in my school's Criminal Defense Clinic. So I was open to taking criminal cases, too. Then I just opened up my firm because I had no choice but to do so. I had to make money. At this time, I also supplemented the money I made with document review jobs.

While doing practicing these simpler practice areas, I hardly got any cases, by the way, I had begun to study substantive law concerning the areas I wanted to practice. It is vitally important to keep your Barbri Bar study books, only the state outline and the multistate outline as reference. I studied those things like crazy. I asked different solo practitioners for tips on what to use as reference. I searched online for anything. I copied any law firm's blog about relevant practice area commentary. I found that the Supreme Court of Texas has a webpage with all of the state statutes and codes. I studied all of the statutes and codes that were relevant. That means that you have to study every section of every statute concerning your state's most applicable statutes. You have to do this to gain competency and eventual mastery. It's imperative if you want to succeed as a solo in this day and age.

When you are the new kid on the block as a solo, you don't benefit from word of mouth marketing. You don't get slam dunk cases, either. Those go to firms with reputations. What you get is the stuff that no one else wants. The firms and lawyers who reject these cases either value the cases too low or they see them as too difficult or impossible. So....

If you want to eat, you had better learn how to handle these cases. And a big part of that is self studying on your free time before you get any cases. And even when you do get cases, you still need to study and research like mad, but at least, you have a working familiarity with your legal sources.

But yeah, I got my first few cases because they were all rejects. These people had nowhere to turn and were eventually referred to me by friends or acquaintances. So yeah, be as sociable as you possibly can. It's imperative. Throughout the beginning, even now, I get case referrals from people who I know or have a passing acquaintance with. My reputation is building and I do a ton of blogging on social media. So that has greatly contributed to my referral base. I'm an opinionated person so I run my mouth a lot. But be friendly. One of my largest cases, one that is ongoing now, came to me through a guy I met in an apple store. He worked there. We had a great, friendly conversation.

As far as capital, you don't need much. You do need to keep your day job. If you are employed by a law firm, ask for permission to take cases in different practice areas. Otherwise, you have to supplement your income by either being a contract attorney or through document review. The main point is that law firm ownership, at first, has to be part time and has to be supplemented by income from another job. If not, there needs to be extensive savings to last you for several months.

In terms of practice necessities, you need to find out if your state has books that have common legal templates for motions and petitions. For the federal stuff, I didn't have these books because they didn't exist in my state. So you have to search the internet to find actual complaints to get the form down. And these complaints will alert you to the statutes that are usually required to plead jurisdiction. Also, go down to your federal courthouse, and pick up a copy of the pro se complaint document. That will also help you plead jurisdiction as far as how to invoke particular laws. Even better, these pro se complaints documents might even be had for practice areas outside of employment discrimination. But most importantly, it always helps to ask lawyers, even ones who are complete strangers and even court clerks at the intake and filing office questions. Tell them you are a brand new lawyer or just opening your practice and this stuff is completely new to you. They will most likely gladly help you. I have never been turned away for my questions, even the few times where I actually cold called lawyers on the phone to pick their brains for a few minutes.

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zombie mcavoy
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby zombie mcavoy » Wed Mar 11, 2015 11:03 am

any tips for harnessing me some of that magic jesus luck

utlaw2007
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 11:15 am

Pneumonia wrote:As I recall you started up straight out of law school or sometime close, how'd you develop your competency/learn the ropes?


You recalled correctly.

As simple as the question is, it's very significant. Much of what I explained in the previous post, concerning studying substantive law, really only relates to forming a blue print of your case theory and then filing the lawsuit. The things that you clearly have to be on top of before filing, like knowing all of the details, are the elements of the causes of action you are asserting, how to plead those elements (they simply need to be supported by facts that you expressly tie into how they support the particular element), the form of your petition/complaint, and you need to know all of the legal authority for establishing venue and jurisdiction. This is how you avoid a motion to dismiss being even filed in the first place. Believe it or not, many plaintiff lawyers can't dodge this bullet. However, when you sue a government entity, at least where I am, they always file a motion to dismiss, no matter what. But if you include all of these things and do them correctly, you should always defeat a motion to dismiss.

Now for the meat of litigation... There is absolute nothing you can do beforehand, to study for what you will encounter. Studying the federal and state rules of civil procedure won't help you in this area. You should only study the parts of civil procedure rules that are relevant to what is currently happening in the litigation. As for the rest, you have to be content with you are going to learn as you go. Each case is different. The practice area may be the same, but the essence of the facts may be different. So, you're going to have to find case law that speaks to your case. These are where your law school talents are going to come into play. You're going to have to review cases the same way you did in law school. You will eventually get way better at this than you wear in law school. Judicial opinions like to cite short statements of reference made by other courts. But often, most of the time even, these statements are just part of the analysis. They have nothing to do with the holding. The issues that that case speaks to may be completely different. And the case cited to may not have held that. It may have only cited the same reference. But eventually, each case cited cites to a case before it until you eventually get to the case that has authority.

The main way you are alerted to these issues and the main way you know how to conduct research, or even the main way you know what arguments you need to assert to defeat a motion, is by learning from your opposing counsel's pleadings. When you fist begin practice, you don't file any motions. You don't even know what a motion is or what kind of relief you want, other than to win the lawsuit you filed. But you don't even know how to do that. But you learn as you go through litigation. Your opponent is always filing the motions. You are just reactionary. You file a response. But their motion laid the ground work for how you will respond. And much of your response will be dictated by what you learn from their motion. They will cite relevant case law. They will make great arguments. While you still have to rebut those arguments on your own, your opponent at least alerts you to how to get caught up to speed on that specific legal issue. That's the biggest benefit to facing really good law firms is that they know what they are doing. So you can actually learn from them.

As far as trial, I did mock trial at UT. So I was very familiar with the final aspect.

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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 11:16 am

zombie mcavoy wrote:any tips for harnessing me some of that magic jesus luck


Go to church.

bl1nds1ght
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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby bl1nds1ght » Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:13 pm

A+ thread so far. Thank you for stopping by to answer questions.

Being a solo and working for myself (or being a different type of business owner) seems very appealing and motivating, but honestly, the possibility of failing a client because of an inexperienced mistake makes me feel sick just thinking about it. Is that the primary motivation for the first few years before you really get confident with the material? Is that fear eventually replaced by something else? I'd imagine that "hunger" to do well for yourself and your clients is a large portion of motivation, too. Fear and hunger seem like they go hand in hand. You're the only person. The responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders.

What is something that you still find difficult about being self-employed in the legal field? How are you trying to address this potential difficulty?

Would you have done anything differently either in your existence as a solo practitioner or in regards to pursuing another field entirely.

Thank you very much for your time.

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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby starry eyed » Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:32 pm

Circa 2013: Utlaw is embraced by tls for his profound wisdom.
Circa 2015: Get the ---- out humblebragger.

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Re: general "what's litigation practice like" questions

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:33 pm

You have no choice but to work from home when you start. Always meet clients in Starbucks or at their house. I use to do it, too, so I can relate. Meeting at their house is better because you can tout that as saying you make house calls.

Buy a 3 in one laser printer. You ought to be able to do it for a minimum of $200. I'd stay away from any used stuff because you don't want your printer to conk out on you when you need to get something printed, which is at the last minute most of the time. More and more courthouses are moving to electronic filing so this is not as important. But discovery responses need to be printed the old fashion way and sent through snail mail. Plus, you always want to be able to send demand letters or letters providing notice if notice of the legal violation is required by law or by contract.

You need to determine if there are books of templates with motions or petitions that you can buy. Is so, buy them. This is the most important part of law practice when you are first starting as a solo. Plus, these templates always give instruction on what other forms need to be included with these pleadings. Texas has the O'Connor series. Texas Civil Forms and Texas Causes of Action Pleadings are the two I used. There is also a Texas Causes of Action book that actually explains everything. This book is more important once you have a form book. Your state bar may have a Pattern Jury Charge book for you to get. It's imperative that you get this book before you have to go to trial. In Texas, we usually have to submit jury charges and motions in limine about a week before trial. You can make a jury charge from scratch. But that is not a good idea when you are fist starting out, even if you have taken your state's civil procedure.

Get you a rules of evidence, both federal and state, of you haven't taken evidence in law school. If you have, there are numerous PDF and online links to evidence rules that will suffice.

Learn to use Google Scholar for your case law legal research. It's better than you think. For statutes, you will have to find a website that contains all of your state and federal statutes and codes.

Get a stapler. You will develop incredible legal assistant skills. They will be so good that you can try to get a job as a legal assistant if you need to supplement your income. I've never done that, but that is a thought.

For men, buy a black suit. For women, buy what you guys wear for conservative formal wear. Men should buy a solid colored tie. Any tie will do, but solid colored ties are the best in my opinion. There should be no really busy stuff going on. The tie can be flashy, but it should be a flashy solid colored tie. Always wear a white shirt in court.

You have to get you some decent quality business cards. That means the card stock should be at least 110 pound weight or 14 point thickness. They should be white and fairly conservative. Avoid Vista Print unless you get their premium cards. They are ok. It's best to use a real graphics company that does business cards. But they can be costly.

While you don't have to have a professional email address and website when you start out (you may not be able to afford them), they are infinitely helpful. Nowadays, there are so many quality web builders that you can get a do it yourself site without ads for pretty cheap, including domain hosting. Also, if you get a website, you have to get a professional portrait taken. This is not cheap considering you only get the copyrights to three pictures. But it's not bad, though.




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