path to trial law

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utlaw2007
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path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Tue May 29, 2012 8:44 pm

I haven't seen this thread on here so I thought I'd start one. I'm a trial lawyer and I'd be glad to answer any questions on how to be effective and how to get on the path to becoming a trial lawyer. Not so much how to become more employable out of law school as a trial lawyer because that is pretty much impossible. But employable does not mean effective when it comes to trial law. I can steer you in the right direction for learning the basics. All I will say is that most trial lawyers at all levels, biglaw included, suck. Boutiques, I'm sure are much better. A lawyer can have an impeccable record in the courtroom and still suck because his competition just sucks even more. But if anyone is interested, ask away. I need to write a letter of notice and two petitions so I'm kinda procrastinating by answering these questions.

I own a small law firm so I can give some start up advice, as well.

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fatduck
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Re: path to trial law

Postby fatduck » Tue May 29, 2012 8:49 pm

awesome, a fellow trial lawyer

care to critique my latest ad?

Image

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fatduck
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Re: path to trial law

Postby fatduck » Tue May 29, 2012 8:51 pm

okay serious question

anything in particular you did during law school that you felt prepared you to open your own shop?

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Tue May 29, 2012 8:54 pm

fatduck wrote:awesome, a fellow trial lawyer

care to critique my latest ad?

Image


I personally wouldn't use the gorilla, but it is an aggressive form of advertising. And that is what is needed if you do personal injury.

There is a guy down here in Texas by the name of Jim Addler. He calls himself the "Texas Hammer." He's dead serious, but his commercials are quite funny. He makes a ton of money with his aggressive style. But on the flip side, he has a volume practice and doesn't do too many catastrophic personal injury cases.

In my opinion, if you do catastrophic personal injury or wrongful death, you might want to be a little more conservative with the advertising. But that is just my opinion.

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Tue May 29, 2012 9:00 pm

fatduck wrote:okay serious question

anything in particular you did during law school that you felt prepared you to open your own shop?



Whew! I was trying to be nice just in case you were serious. Haha.

The thing that prepared me most for trial law was being a member of one of our school's interscholastic mock trial teams. I won runner up for best advocate in a regional tournament in Tulsa, OK. And I was complimented by many of the other school's mock trial coaches. So that helped my confidence a lot. But so many trial lawyers are so bad that you would have a leg up on them if you did interscholastic mock trial. Take an evidence class, too. Participating in the myriad of school intramural mock trial competitions won't do anything to help you. They are worthless. You think you're learning something until you do the real competitions. There's practice every night for months. You just learn a whole lot.

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Tue May 29, 2012 9:06 pm

Many people get actual real world trial law experience and think they have trial law skills. But just because you have been doing trial law for 20 years doesn't mean you have been doing it right all that time. Most people haven't learned these skills at all or they have learned bad skills from someone else.

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kalvano
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Re: path to trial law

Postby kalvano » Tue May 29, 2012 10:51 pm

Brian Loncar is way more awesomer than Jim Adler.

How important are trial law skills, though? I mean, so few things go to trial.

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed May 30, 2012 8:31 am

kalvano wrote:Brian Loncar is way more awesomer than Jim Adler.

How important are trial law skills, though? I mean, so few things go to trial.


Oh wait, is that the "Strong Arm?" I stand corrected.

So few things go to trial. That is true. But those lawyers that go to trial or aren't afraid to go to trial make much, much more money per case. They have more leverage in settlement negotiations. And if it goes to trial, you won't get your ass kicked. Hardly anyone is a real trial lawyer. Insurance companies always low ball you. If you want to handle difficult cases, which most lawyers don't do, you need to have trial skills because your cases are usually going to trial.

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princeR
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Re: path to trial law

Postby princeR » Wed May 30, 2012 11:14 am

So, what classes do you take in LS? Where should you try to work during the summer?

CanadianWolf
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Re: path to trial law

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed May 30, 2012 11:38 am

Do you practice in a major metropolitan market ?

Am I correct in assuming that you've been practicing for about 5 years ?

Exclusively civil matters ?

How many jury trials have you had ? Any in federal court ?

Besides Evidence & Civil Procedure/Criminal Procedure, are there any law school courses that you recommend ?

I'm asking these questions to better understand your view regarding the quality of trial lawyers. What are the primary deficiencies you see in other trial lawyers ?

Thanks !

P.S. Based on your opinion of other trial lawyers, I assume that you rarely compete against US Attorneys in federal court, and, probably, not in federal court often for matters not involving the US Government.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Wed May 30, 2012 11:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

drive4showLSAT4dough
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Re: path to trial law

Postby drive4showLSAT4dough » Wed May 30, 2012 11:45 am

CanadianWolf wrote:Do you practice in a major metropoian market ?

Am I correct in assuming that you've been practicing for about 5 years ?

Exclusively civil matters ?

How many jury trials have you had ? Any in federal court ?

Besides Evidence & Civil Procedure/Criminal Procedure, are there any law school courses that you recommend ?

I'm asking these questions to better understand your view regarding the quality of trial lawyers. What are the primary deficiencies you see in other trial lawyers ?

Thanks !


+1

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed May 30, 2012 9:25 pm

princeR wrote:So, what classes do you take in LS? Where should you try to work during the summer?


I'm going to combine this response with the next response below. Stay tuned...

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed May 30, 2012 11:39 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Do you practice in a major metropolitan market ?

Am I correct in assuming that you've been practicing for about 5 years ?

Exclusively civil matters ?

How many jury trials have you had ? Any in federal court ?

Besides Evidence & Civil Procedure/Criminal Procedure, are there any law school courses that you recommend ?

I'm asking these questions to better understand your view regarding the quality of trial lawyers. What are the primary deficiencies you see in other trial lawyers ?

Thanks !

P.S. Based on your opinion of other trial lawyers, I assume that you rarely compete against US Attorneys in federal court, and, probably, not in federal court often for matters not involving the US Government.


Good questions.

I practice in a major market. I practice in Houston. I believe the Houston market is underrated. Our GDP is second to only New York, I believe. But don't quote me on that. I do know for sure that we have the second amount of fortune 500 companies next to New York, thanks to our humongous oil and gas market. Our medical center is the largest in the world. So everything related to healthcare thrives. We have 14 hospitals in the medical center alone. We have a lot more littered throughout the city. Medicine is huge here, as you can imagine. And because we are such a huge area, we have TONS of construction, ranging from billion dollar projects all the way down to projects that are tens of thousands of dollars. There is lots of money to be had in Houston. In addition to that, we have tons of engineering firms, in part, because of the abundance of construction we have.

I have been out of school for 5 years, but I was very sick with a terrible rare disorder for three of those years. It left me completely incapacitated, temporarily. I couldn't make myself dinner, let alone work. So I've only been practicing for two years. I've had my law firm for one and a half years.

I only practice civil. I have a litigation boutique. That's all I do. I practice contract litigation, construction litigation, employment discrimination, products liability, catastrophic personal injury (no car wrecks or motor cycle accidents as if that stuff is different from each other. That's how PI lawyers advertise, it's irritating.) and intentional torts that are very severe. If a business is not involved in the tort, I'm not suing.

I feel that being a plaintiff's attorney is the most efficient way to make money when you look at the amount of money you can make and the work you have to accomplish to be successful. It's hard work. It's very intense work. It's not for the weak at heart, especially if you are fairly young in your career as I am. I played football back in the day and was very good. I use that confidence and tenacity when I handle my cases and perform in the courtroom.

I have not appeared in federal court yet. I have an employment discrimination case pending there now. I go for a lot of money. I don't feel I need the other side to do me a favor. That's a weak minded way to look at it. The proper way to view it is that you will TAKE the money whether they politely give it to you or not. I do it because I can. But as a result, I will tend to have more trials.

Now I only have had five trials total in two years, three jury and two bench. In addition to that, I have had training because of interscholastic mock trial. If you have good coaches who have distinguished themselves professionally, those are the best people to teach trial skills. That training paid off because I won runner up for best advocate in a regional mock trial tournament in Oklahoma. But the best thing I took from that tournament, that gave me the confidence I have to do what I do, basically right out of law school, was a law professor who attended UVA Law for law school with 20+ years of trial (JAG those guys are great trial lawyers) experience said that I had more skills and talent as a trial lawyer than most existing trial lawyers. And this was before I had graduated from law school. He gave me a half hour talk that was very encouraging and flattering. I was very thankful to God for that experience.

I won the very first trial I was in. It took place in Harris County District Court. I was up against another UT Law lawyer with 30 years of litigation experience. That was the first time in my life I was really intimidated. I thought I was going to get my ass kicked. He had 30 years of trial experience to my zero. And the law school education was even. But God was definitely with me!

And this brings me to a big point I'm about to make. Take it for what it's worth. It is not scientific, but it is my opinion. I would say the majority of trial lawyers are not good. Most have not had formal training by way of interscholastic mock trial (in school mock trial competitions are a complete joke and waste of time). I say interscholastic mock trial is the way to go. I have said to take an advocacy class in other posts. And that is better than nothing. But there is no replacement to participating on one of your school's interscholastic mock trial teams. Not only do you learn, but you have to practice what you learn. It's just like football practice. We practiced something over and over until we got it right. We learned WHY something should be done a certain way. We practiced every night for months leading up to the competition. You just can't get that kind of training and teaching anywhere else. You can't get it in a law firm. They can't train like that. Some people think they can learn trial skills just by watching someone else perform. I say you can't. Furthermore, just because someone has practiced trial law for twenty years doesn't mean they know how to do it right. I've seen trial lawyers who have been practicing this long, not do it right.

I was also in the Criminal Defense Clinic. That was even more practice and training from lawyers who knew what they were doing in the courtroom. I would also advise that you take a clinic that trains you to handle contested hearings. But you have to do both interscholastic mock trial and a clinic with contested hearing training. You don't have to literally, but if you want to know what you are doing from the get go, you better do both.

As someone on this message board said before, trial law is not a science. That is true. But it IS an art. That means you can do it, but you can suck at it or you can be exceptional at it. And that makes all the difference in the world whether you win or lose. If you let the facts of your case influence your mindset as to who should win, then you have already lost in my book.

As for what classes to take in law school, yes, take the most extensive evidence class you have, take your state's civil procedure. You MUST take civil procedure as opposed to criminal procedure. It won't hurt you to take both, but you cannot replace civil procedure with criminal procedure. Civil is more complicated and errors are more costly and irreversible.

Take the most cerebral classes offered at your school. And also take those classes on areas of law that you would practice if you worked for yourself. Knowing the extensive subject matter of an area of law helps a ton. Those that go to T3 or T4 schools are at a serious disadvantage. Those classes teach the blackletter rule of law as opposed to theory. Learning theory allows for you to get training as to how to solve extremely difficult issues that may present themselves from the facts and law pertaining to your case. And you have to be prepared to argue law as well as facts. You may have a hearing at the trial level where a judge needs to make a preliminary ruling as a matter of law. And trial judges get these decisions wrong ALL THE TIME. So be prepared to file an interlocutory appeal before your case ends. It's extra work. But sometimes, only you can make the right argument at the next level of court. Or be prepared to fight an uphill battle which you may have to do sometimes. That's why it's so important to expect everything. It's really no different than game planning for a football opponent.

You are correct in implying that US attorneys who work for the DOJ are great trial lawyers! If you go against them, you better be able to bring it or you WILL lose. State prosecutors are jokes compared to US prosecutors. I have a law school classmate who is a US prosecutor for the DOJ. He was as good if not better than I was. He is the real deal. He's already made a name for himself kicking people's asses in the courtroom.

I can laugh now, but many trial lawyers try to intimidate their way into a win. I had one talk to me in a hostile tone during a court ordered mediation right before trial. He then asked for a large sum of money to settle. I just thought to myself that "he must have lost his dang mind! He must think I'm a scared fool because I don't bark." I just responded to his offer, "we're going to trial." Also, so many of these lawyers think they have smoking gun evidence against you. I had another try to get me to dismiss my case because of the counter suit damages for her client were rising. I told her, "yeah, I'm not concerned with that." She continued to make her point. Then I was like, "I don't think you understand, those damages you cite are irrelevant to our claim which I am about to amend to make substantially larger. Furthermore, my case theory completely refutes your damages claim, so I'm not the least bit worried about your claim for damages." She was shocked and didn't know what to say. I'm a big believer in shut your damn mouth and just do what you do. You can either bring it or not. But don't sit there and bark like a loud ass annoying dog as if I'm going to give a shit.

As for what I've seen from other trial lawyers, their logic is a bit off. It's kind of there. A really good argument can poke holes in their claims.

The biggest thing I see, and this is far more universal, the presentation of the argument is terrible. Also, I've noticed a lack of important fundamentals that can really hurt you if you are going up against a good lawyer. Some lawyers actually do have pretty good presentation, but the fundamentals are lacking or the logic is lacking or both.

Hope this helps. I hope to see more of you join the trial lawyer fraternity. It's awesome! And there are some good ones. I had a good conversation with one who went to Stanford Law School. He was preaching solidarity among Texas plaintiff's counsel. It was good stuff.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Thu May 31, 2012 10:50 am, edited 8 times in total.

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Tanicius
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Re: path to trial law

Postby Tanicius » Wed May 30, 2012 11:56 pm

And this brings me to a big point I'm about to make. Take it for what it's worth. It is not scientific, but it is my opinion. I would say the majority of trial lawyers are not good. Most have not had formal training by way of interscholastic mock trial (in school mock trial competitions are a complete joke and waste of time). I say interscholastic mock trial is the way to go. I have said to take an advocacy class in other posts. And that is better than nothing. But there is no replacement to participating on one of your school's interscholastic mock trial teams. Not only do you learn, but you have to practice what you learn. It's just like football practice. We practiced something over and over until we got it right. We learned WHY something should be done a certain way. We practiced every night for months leading up to the competition. You just can't get that kind of training and teaching anywhere else. You can't get it in a law firm. They can't train like that. Some people think they can learn trial skills just by watching someone else perform. I say you can't. Furthermore, just because someone has practiced trial law for twenty years doesn't mean they know how to do it right. I've seen trial lawyers who have been practicing this long, not do it right.


Nice to hear this echoed from a practicing attorney. IMO it's the most skills-intensive thing you can do in law school, and if what you want to do actually is trial work, then there's nothing more useful.


This part was kind of funny to me though:

But the best thing I took from that tournament, that gave me the confidence I have to do what I do, basically right out of law school, was a law professor who attended UVA Law for law school with 20+ years of trial (JAG those guys are great trial lawyers) experience said that I had more skills and talent as a trial lawyer than most existing trial lawyers. And this was before I had graduated from law school. He gave me a half hour talk that was very encouraging and flattering. I was very thankful to God for that experience.


FYI they say to everybody. It's probably true often, but I've heard it from judges of high school competitions.

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu May 31, 2012 2:08 am

FYI they say to everybody. It's probably true often, but I've heard it from judges of high school competitions.


I understand what you are saying. But this was a law professor who was a coach for one of the law schools in the competition. It involved 9 or 10 states. He wasn't a judge. He just sat in on my performance because we faced his team that round. He wasn't obligated to say anything. And he's not the only coach of another team to have said that to me. It's just that his discussion was the most memorable. And he didn't say it to me right after the round. He said this to me two days after I was done. There is more stuff he said to me, but I won't disclose because it was a personal conversation that was private as it was just between him and me with no one around. Like I said, the discussion lasted about 30 minutes. Those high school compliments don't last a half hour to just one person. And those discussions are never held with no one else present. And those are competition JUDGES that compliment them, not the coaches of other teams in the competition, especially a coach of one of the teams you just beat badly in the round. Besides, I'm a grown man and was back then. I think I know when someone is sincere or not.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Thu May 31, 2012 2:53 am, edited 3 times in total.

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu May 31, 2012 2:14 am

No, I don't listen to a thing those judges have to say. They often times give bad advice. The mock trial coaches are far more competent than the judges when you are talking about law school interscholastic mock trial competitions.

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu May 31, 2012 2:29 am

But really though. As an adult, you should be able to tell who is feeding you bull as opposed to really being sincere. It's not that difficult.

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Tanicius
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Re: path to trial law

Postby Tanicius » Thu May 31, 2012 3:17 am

utlaw2007 wrote:But really though. As an adult, you should be able to tell who is feeding you bull as opposed to really being sincere. It's not that difficult.


Sure. Sometimes it seems sincere. Other times it's terrifying if the judges thought everyone was spectacular cause it might mean they weren't paying close enough attention to the differences.

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TyrionLannister
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Re: path to trial law

Postby TyrionLannister » Thu May 31, 2012 3:22 am

Congrats on the success and the recovery from your sickness. I, for one, am inspired by any lawyer making it work and loving what they do. A refreshing change from the prevalent doom and gloom postings.

You seem to have the game figured out at such an early point in your career. How have you gotten most of your business? Despite your young practice, has obtaining work become any easier now that you have a handful of cases under your belt? What are the biggest challenges you face running your own practice with such limited experience? During law school, what type of summer work did you do? Did you always know that you wanted to be a trial lawyer? Anything you would have done differently, either in school or post-graduation?

Thanks for taking the time to post. I have seen you in other threads, and you always seem to offer up helpful and positive advice.

CanadianWolf
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Re: path to trial law

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu May 31, 2012 9:54 am

OP: Thank you for answering my questions.

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu May 31, 2012 10:26 am

TyrionLannister wrote:Congrats on the success and the recovery from your sickness. I, for one, am inspired by any lawyer making it work and loving what they do. A refreshing change from the prevalent doom and gloom postings.

You seem to have the game figured out at such an early point in your career. How have you gotten most of your business? Despite your young practice, has obtaining work become any easier now that you have a handful of cases under your belt? What are the biggest challenges you face running your own practice with such limited experience? During law school, what type of summer work did you do? Did you always know that you wanted to be a trial lawyer? Anything you would have done differently, either in school or post-graduation?

Thanks for taking the time to post. I have seen you in other threads, and you always seem to offer up helpful and positive advice.


Thank you.

I did not clerk or anything in law school. I don't think that was a good thing. I wanted my summers free. But it really wasn't a good thing. Fortunately for me, trial law was a good fit. And with trial law, there is no reason to clerk other than clerking for a TRIAL judge somewhere. I didn't decide to do trial law until my third year, so I couldn't clerk for a trial judge. Clerking would help you understand legal issues that come up at trial, but overall, it's not too helpful for a trial lawyer who has had the training I talk about. Your main friend as a new trial lawyer should be a law library. Until you can afford West Law Next, you have to rely on the old fashioned way of doing things. Research everything that MIGHT be related to what you are doing. Ask questions. I always play 20 questions. I'm sure it annoys, but so the hell what. It is much better to know something because you've gained knowledge from asking more experience lawyers you come into contact with than not be able to tackle something because you don't know.

Even if you gain experience at any sized law firm for 5 years, you are still going to know only things related to that area of law. The only advantage you'll gain is a knowledge of civil procedure and a knowledge of that practice area. But that will be limited because an associate seldom handles a case from start to finish. And if you go on your own, it's far better to be able to handle as many somewhat sophisticated practice areas as you can. I'm not advocating having a general practice. I'm saying practice as many sophisticated, but still needed by many (so you can get business), areas that you can. Find that area of unmet demand. And then find a way to meet that demand. All of your business strategy should stem from this. This will be the most important piece of business advice for owning a small law firm you will ever see anywhere.

All those stats that say small practitioners make so little money, not only do they not distinguish practice areas (not all practice areas make the same financially, it's not even close), but they don't account for regional differences or demand for for certain practice areas in a given region. Many lawyers do family law. If you are going to start up a practice that does family law in a market that is over saturated with family law attorneys, you will fail miserably. Who the heck needs another family law attorney? It's simple supply and demand. Legal services are not as rare as they once were. Biglaw firms don't seem to understand this, either. That's a big reason why many law firms of all sizes appear to be struggling a bit or going out of business. There are enough lawyers out there now. It is time for lawyers to become more specialized to increase demand for their services. In addition to this, competition, ladies and gentlemen, has finally come to the practice of law.

When I went to law school, I did not want the courtroom. At that time, I was on the fence whether I wanted biglaw or not. I interviewed with some biglaw and midlaw firms. I just didn't like the vibe I got from all those interviews. I didn't like the interviewers or the culture at any of these firms. I'm not a "toe the line" kind of guy.

At some point late during 2L year, I had about 5 or 6 classmates independently tell me that they thought I would be a great trial lawyer. I was always pretty vocal in class and my presentation was always really great. I remember that my fed civ pro professor called on me for the entire class, he usually just had you go for 15 minutes, because I was doing such a good job explaining the material in class. I also had a mentor who was a partner at one of the largest Texas based firms. She was a trial and appellate lawyer. She also said that she thought I should try trial law. After she told me that, I thought that this must be a sign that I should, at least try trial law again and more seriously. I had participated in an in school mock trial competition earlier that year before anyone had said those things to me. I thought I had learned stuff. I was still on the fence of whether I wanted to do it.

I finally had a classmate talk me into trying out for one of the school's interscholastic mock trial teams. And I just fell in love with trial law. It just put everything I had learned in law school to shame. And I had already liked law school a lot. But I loved interscholastic mock trial. And our practices were no joke. They weren't all warm and fuzzy. They were harsh most of the time. But my football background allowed me to take that with ease. But there were times were the stuff just wasn't clicking. It's like I just didn't have the skills. And then towards the end, I stopped thinking too much and everything just clicked. I assumed I could stop thinking about everything because I had internalized everything by that point. After I won runner up for best advocate at the competition, my coaches and the director of the trial advocacy program were so proud of me. The director bragged a little about it at a formal luncheon we had. It was really cool.

I credit God with giving me my cases because many have just fallen into my lap. I know that some may see that crediting God is not helpful, but I don't really care. I am going to give credit where it's due. But some have just fallen in my lap. I network quite a bit, so I put the work in. I conduct target marketing, so I find groups that I think are prospective clients and I flood those groups with business cards and try to chat it up with as many people as I can. I am such a sociable person so this comes very easily to me. Other cases have come to me through attorneys who I have met and some who I already know. Those attorneys can't do litigation that well so they refer cases to me.

I'm still trying to implement ways to market more efficiently. That job is never done.

If I had anything to do in law school all over again, it would have been that I put forth a good effort towards my studies. The first semester of law school is the only semester I tried hard. My sickness did began to manifest itself in law school (I had to withdraw for a semester because I literally could not get to class). Other than that, I pretty much coasted my way through law school. That's the kind of student I have always been. But in practice, it's a totally different story. I see practice just as I see playing football. It's for real. It counts. And you have other people depending on you. So, that just brings out the best in me. I will sometimes wake up at 5 in the morning because I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to solve a difficult problem. But I love it because the work is SO INTENSE! It is not for pansies. Trial law is the closest thing to playing football that's not playing football. That adrenaline boost you get is great, but you have to tame it and calm down and relax. You perform your best when you are relaxed when you are a trial lawyer or play a skill position in football.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Thu May 31, 2012 11:08 am, edited 4 times in total.

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AlanShore
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Re: path to trial law

Postby AlanShore » Thu May 31, 2012 10:31 am

Thank you.

I did not clerk or anything in law school. I don't think that was a good thing. I wanted my summers free. But it really wasn't a good thing. Fortunately for me, trial law was a good fit. And with trial law, there is no reason to clerk other than clerking for a TRIAL judge somewhere. I didn't decide to do trial law until my third year, so I couldn't clerk for a trial judge. Clerking would help you understand legal issues that come up at trial, but overall, it's not too helpful for a trial lawyer who has had the training I talk about. Your main friend as a new trial lawyer should be a law library. Until you can afford West Law Next, you have to rely on the old fashioned way of doing things. Research everything that MIGHT be related to what you are doing. Ask questions. I always play 20 questions. I'm sure it annoys, but so the hell what. It is much better to know something because you've gained knowledge from asking more experience lawyers you come into contact with that not be able to tackle something because you don't know.

Even if you gain experience at any sized law firm for 5 years, you are still going to know only things related to that area of law. The only advantage you'll gain is a knowledge of civil procedure and a knowledge of that practice area. But that will be limited because an associate seldom handles a case from start to finish. And if you go on your own, it's far better to be able to handle as many somewhat sophisticated practice areas as you can. I'm not advocating having a general practice. I'm saying practice as many sophisticated, but still needed by many (so you can get business), areas that you can. Find that area of unmet demand. And then find a way to meet that demand. All of your business strategy should stem from this. This will be the most important piece of business advice for owning a small law firm you will ever see anywhere.

All those stats that say small practitioners make so little money, not only do they not distinguish practice areas (not all practice areas make the same financially, it's not even close), but they don't account for regional differences or demand for for certain practice areas in a given region. Many lawyers do family law. If you are going to start up a practice that does family law in a market that is over saturated with family law attorneys, you will fail miserably. Who the heck needs another family law attorney? It's simple supply and demand. Legal services are not as rare as they once were. Biglaw firms don't seem to understand this, either. That's a big reason why many law firms of all sizes appear to be struggling a bit or going out of business. There are enough lawyers out there now. It is time for lawyers to become more specialized to increase demand for their services. In addition to this, competition, ladies and gentlemen, has finally come to the practice of law.

When I went to law school, I did not want the courtroom. At that time, I was on the fence whether I wanted biglaw or not. I interviewed with some biglaw and midlaw firms. I just didn't like the vibe I got from all those interviews. I didn't like the interviewers or the culture at any of these firms. I'm not a "toe the line" kind of guy.

At some point late during 2L year, I had about 5 or 6 classmates independently tell me I that they thought I would be a great trial lawyer. I was always pretty vocal in class and my presentation was always really great. I remember that my fed civ pro professor called on me for the entire class, he usually just had you go for 15 minutes, because I was doing such a good job explaining the material in class. I also had a mentor who was a partner at one of the largest Texas based firms. She was a trial and appellate lawyer. She also said that she thought I should try trial law. After she told me that, I thought that this must be a sign that I should, at least try trial law again and more seriously. I had participated in an in school mock trial competition earlier that year before anyone had said those things to me. I thought I had learned stuff. I was still on the fence of whether I wanted to do it.

I finally had a classmate talk me into trying out for one of the school's interscholastic mock trial teams. And I just fell in love with trial law. It just put everything I had learned in law school to shame. And I had already liked law school a lot. But I loved interscholastic mock trial. And our practices were no joke. They weren't all warm and fuzzy. They were harsh most of the time. But my football background allowed me to take that with ease. But there were times were the stuff just wasn't clicking. It's like I just didn't have the skills. And then towards the end, I stopped thinking too much and everything just clicked. I would assume I could stop thinking about everything because I had internalized everything by that point. After I won runner up for best advocate at the competition, my coaches and the director of the trial advocacy program were so proud of me. The director bragged a little about it at a formal luncheon we had. It was really cool.

I credit God with giving me my cases because many have just fallen into my lap. I know that some may see that crediting God is not helpful, but I don't really care. I am going to give credit where it's due. But some have just fallen in my lap. I network quite a bit, so I put the work in. I conduct target marketing, so I find groups that I think are prospective clients and I flood those groups with business cards and try to chat it up with as many people as I can. I am such a sociable person so this comes very easily to me. Other cases have come to me through attorneys who I have met and some who I already know. Those attorneys can't do litigation that well so they refer to me.

I'm still trying to implement ways to market more efficiently. That job is never done.

If I had anything to do in law school all over again, it would have been that I put forth a good effort towards my studies. The first semester of law school is the only semester I tried hard. My sickness did began to manifest itself in law school (I had to withdraw for a semester because I literally could not get to class). Other than that, I pretty much coasted my way through law school. That's the kind of student I have always been. But in practice, it's a totally different story. I see practice just as I see playing football. It's for real. It counts. And you have other people depending on you. So, that just brings out the best in me. I will sometimes wake up at 5 in the morning because I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to solve a difficult problem. But I love it because the work is SO INTENSE! It is not for pansies. Trial law is the closest thing to playing football that's not playing football. That adrenaline boost you get is great, but you have to tame it and calm down and relax. You perform your best when you are relaxed when you are a trial lawyer or play a skill position in football.[/quote]

really cool read. Thanks for all your comments! You sound so passionate!

User avatar
RedBirds2011
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Re: path to trial law

Postby RedBirds2011 » Thu May 31, 2012 11:54 am

This is a really helpful thread. Thank you so much for posting something so informative.

pre-med person
Posts: 23
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Re: path to trial law

Postby pre-med person » Thu May 31, 2012 12:24 pm

what area of law do you practice?

utlaw2007
Posts: 783
Joined: Wed Dec 22, 2010 9:49 pm

Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu May 31, 2012 12:50 pm

pre-med person wrote:what area of law do you practice?


I only practice civil. I have a litigation boutique. That's all I do. I practice contract litigation, construction litigation, employment discrimination, products liability, catastrophic personal injury (no car wrecks or motor cycle accidents as if that stuff is different from each other. That's how PI lawyers advertise, it's irritating.) and intentional torts that are very severe. If a business is not involved in the tort, I'm not suing.




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