path to trial law

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utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 12:19 pm

AssumptionRequired wrote:Thanks for taking these questions. If you dont mind, when you get back could you talk about $$$? As much as you are comfortable doing it at least. I am curious what someone can kind of expect going straight out on their own. Does it just basically depend on how much hustle you have? Do you have enough work that if you wanted to work 70 hours a week you could? Do most?


It depends on what kind of trial law you practice. If you do litigation that has very small amounts of money in controversy, then you need a lot more volume to do alright. If you take on cases that are much larger from a financial perspective, you don't need volume. I tend to go after larger cases. Those cases are often times more difficult. So you have to spend a lot of time with those cases. But the hours worked a week are not bad at all. Most trial lawyers I know, personally, don't work that many hours a week. The work comes in spurts. If you have to beat a deadline or have to prepare for trial, you're working around the clock. But there are times were you can relax and take days off.

You do have to hustle. I like to refer to it as marketing. Marketing is a more apt term since it implies some sort of strategic approach to getting business. Hustling just implies that you make it happen by doing anything that will work, regardless of the kind of case. If you practice what I do, you have to be really smart about the way you market yourself. But if you do personal injury or criminal, hustling is probably a more apt term because you're just trying to get to know as many people as possible, especially with personal injury.
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 12:29 pm

AssumptionRequired wrote:
TyrionLannister wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:If you want to be a good trial lawyer, you HAVE to have charisma and charm. If you don't, no matter how smart or proficient you are, you better choose another area of law to practice. Or you better hope that every trial lawyer you go up against is just as dry as you are. If you can't speak/relate to that jury, but your opponent can, you're sunk. This isn't appellate practice. This is trial practice. This is the prime reason why big law firms usually get their asses kicked in the courtroom when facing a charismatic trial lawyer who can say his ABC's backwards. He doesn't have to be that smart. He just can't lack intellect altogether.


Thanks for taking the time to write such a complete response to my last round of questions. As someone transitioning into the legal field from acting - charisma, charm, and ability to perform under pressure are my greatest advantages over the next person. I had considered a focus towards being a trial lawyer, and you are doing a fine job of convincing me that my instincts are dead on. I was hoping you could paint a picture of the income and hours of your specialty. Obviously, life gets more hectic around "game day", when you are actively at trial, but can you give a sense of hours work/billed for a trial lawyer? Equal to typical Biglaw jobs? What is your typical compensation for the work that you do? Flat fee or percentage? How did you first set a price for your skills? Is there a market rate/scale that you generally charge depending on a lawyer's level of experience? Best case scenario, what is the likely annual net income for a trial lawyer?

Sorry if the answers to these questions are hard to provide because of the broad spectrum of specialties, experience, and demand for different lawyers. Anything you could offer about what a successful trial lawyer makes and the hours he works would be great.

Thanks again! Great thread.


You still havent answered this. Curious as to what kind of income you are looking at. Is it all directly linked to how much you work?

Was biglaw or midlaw an option for you? I know you said you intereviewed with some firms and didnt like the feel. Most people I know (I know quite a few solo pract.) who went staright solo didnt have the grades to get biglaw. If you could have.... Why did you not go biglaw or midlaw right out of school for a few years to pay down loans and have some guaranteed income/job security? Are you making close to what you would have made in biglaw?

Going solo sounds exciting, but very risky. How did you go about obtaining your first clients?


I became gravely ill for three years after I graduated. I was temporarily incapacitated for a bit while I was in law school. The grades were there at this time, the health was not. This destroyed any shot I had of being hired by anyone out of law school. I couldn't cook myself something to eat, let alone work.

My sickness first manifested itself during the first semester of 2L year, during OCI. But I had reservations about working biglaw when I was a 1L. We had many 1L receptions at quite a few Texas based biglaw firms. As you mentioned, I just didn't like the vibe at all.

But I opened my firm because I pretty much had to because I had just recovered from my illness. The economy was absolutely terrible. So I just did my own thing. The few classmates I had, who were my friends, who have already opened up their own firms are doing well, all of them.

It wasn't scary to me because my illness was very scary. That put things into perspective. So opening a firm was kind of easy.

As for your question about income, I prefer not to give specifics. But let's just say that I would never want to work for someone, regardless of how large and prestigious the law firm is.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Wed Jun 13, 2012 3:51 pm, edited 6 times in total.

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 12:31 pm

As for getting your first clients, if you are the kind of person that likes to socialize and are out and about, the first cases will come. But you have to do a ton of research and ask a ton of questions to experienced lawyers so that you will have a handle on how to handle those first cases.

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 12:55 pm

wurst wrote:I have a question for utlaw2007. How much equity do you think a lawyer with a few years of trial experience would need to start their own firm? I am not in this position. I am just curious. Thank you!


I don't think you would need much. But it kind of depends on how big a city you reside. Virtual offices are very cost effective ways of starting out. You need to get a laser printer/copier/scanner. A fax machine is not essential when starting out. For one, you just can't afford one.

It would also be good if you supplemented that income doing doc review work. This sucks, but it is a necessity. But as long as you have a job, you should save as much money as you can, so that you can get a virtual office, laser printer, office supplies, and really good business cards.

The business cards bring me to my next point. It is imperative that you take business cards everywhere you go. NEVER leave home without them. You just never know where you might make a good business connection. And please buy yourself a nice metallic business card holder. You want to give these cards to everyone you have a decent conversation with. And you want to engage in conversation with as many people as you can. You don't do it in a contrived way. I let it come naturally. But I'm a people person. Also, you guys are a smart bunch of people so I probably shouldn't have to tell you. But your business cards should be very conservative. There should be no ridiculous fonts, lots of colors, or pictures of yourself. You would be surprised at how many lawyers have pictures of themselves on cards. It's not many, but I have seen two that do. And that is two too much. My cards are black and white. If you do use color, I'd use a tad bit of color. And I wouldn't have any graphics on the card. I've seen lawyer cards with scales in the background. I've seen blind lady justice in the background. Biglaw business cards are the most conservative business cards you've ever seen. Conservative=classy. And do not have the cards made from thin, flimsy card stock. That just looks way too cheap. I've learned the hard way. I'd go as thick and as heavy as you can possibly go without breaking the bank.

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RedBirds2011
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Re: path to trial law

Postby RedBirds2011 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:00 pm

utlaw2007 wrote:
wurst wrote:I have a question for utlaw2007. How much equity do you think a lawyer with a few years of trial experience would need to start their own firm? I am not in this position. I am just curious. Thank you!


I don't think you would need much. But it kind of depends on how big a city you reside. Virtual offices are very cost effective ways of starting out. You need to get a laser printer/copier/scanner. A fax machine is not essential when starting out. For one, you just can't afford one.

It would also be good if you supplemented that income doing doc review work. This sucks, but it is a necessity. But as long as you have a job, you should save as much money as you can, so that you can get a virtual office, laser printer, office supplies, and really good business cards.

The business cards bring me to my next point. It is imperative that you take business cards everywhere you go. NEVER leave home without them. You just never know where you might make a good business connection. And please buy yourself a nice metallic business card holder. You want to give these cards to everyone you have a decent conversation with. And you want to engage in conversation with as many people as you can. You don't do it in a contrived way. I let it come naturally. But I'm a people person. Also, you guys are a smart bunch of people so I probably shouldn't have to tell you. But your business cards should be very conservative. There should be no ridiculous fonts, lots of colors, or pictures of yourself. You would be surprised at how many lawyers have pictures of themselves on cards. It's not many, but I have seen two that do. And that is two too much. My cards are black and white. If you do use color, I'd use a tad bit of color. And I wouldn't have any graphics on the card. I've seen lawyer cards with scales in the background. I've seen blind lady justice in the background. Biglaw business cards are the most conservative business cards you've ever seen. Conservative=classy. And do not have the cards made from thin, flimsy card stock. That just looks way too cheap. I've learned the hard way. I'd go as thick and as heavy as you can possibly go without breaking the bank.




Thanks for all this info UT.

This particular post made me start thinking of American Psycho lol

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TyrionLannister
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Re: path to trial law

Postby TyrionLannister » Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:30 pm

RedBirds2011 wrote:This particular post made me start thinking of American Psycho lol


Me too!

Image

Good advice, though. An obviously cheap business card goes right in the trash.

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:05 pm

I forgot to address my method of compensation. I primarily work on a contingency fee basis. That means, that I am entitled to a percentage of the award if I win. I also charge a retainer fee to take a case. The retainer is for the amount of time and effort you are going to use on a case. The retainer represents the lost opportunity of taking another case. I don't work crazy hours, but I do devote a TON of time to each of my cases. I spend most of that time on theories of liability and building up damages to get higher dollar amounts. You would think that most lawyers do. I don't know if they do or not. I know that I've been told that I spend a lot of time on my case theories. I think an argument for the severity of damages is almost as important as the argument for liability. Clearly, liability is most important. You have to win before you can make any money if you do contingency fee work.

It's risky. But you HAVE TO HAVE CONFIDENCE if you are going to be successful. It can, sometimes, not differ much from playing poker when you're talking about creating leverage for settlement negotiations. So all you people that think I'm cocky, must not be too familiar with successful plaintiff's attorneys. I'm not afraid of going to trial. You'd be surprised at how many lawyers are. And it is reflected in their settlement amounts. But sometimes, you have that weak case that you don't necessarily want to go to trial. Surviving summary judgment and winning a judgment are two completely different things.
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Tanicius
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Re: path to trial law

Postby Tanicius » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:15 pm

utlaw2007 wrote:It's risky. But you HAVE TO HAVE CONFIDENCE if you are going to be successful. It can, sometimes, not differ much from playing poker when you're talking about creating leverage for settlement negotiations. So all you people that think I'm cocky, must not be too familiar with successful plaintiff attorneys. I'm not afraid of going to trial. You'd be surprised at how many lawyers are. And it is reflected in their settlement amounts. But sometimes, you have that weak case that you don't necessarily want to go to trial. Surviving summary judgment and winning a judgment are two completely different things.


No one here is criticizing you for your confidence in a vacuum. What they are criticizing is your one-sided advice. You're not qualifying what you're saying. You're telling people there's one way to do something and that one way is necessary. The very fact that trial skills are an art rather than a science inherently means there are lots of ways to do it. There are countless books written on this field, and thousands of people who work in the field, and they all they recommend different strategies and tactics with wide ranges of variance depending on the situation.

There is a difference between being cocky/confident and appearing confident. The most successful plaintiff attorneys I know, people who made/make millions of dollars from catastrophic injury cases, are super cautious and down-to-Earth in person. Their interactions with other attorneys, and their performance in a courtroom may make them appear otherwise, but they are in actuality very level-headed people who would never suggest broad, overarching things about their work without qualification or exception. Two of them in particular are even super calm, temperate people in the coutroom.

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:25 pm

I do sincerely apologize for losing my cool. If I come across as very cocky/confident, it's because I am. Whether or not that is an absolute necessity to trial law, I don't know. But it sure helps, especially if you go out on your own. I don't know of anyone that has gone out on their own and has not been totally confident in their abilities. Besides, I was cocky/confident a long time ago. You can blame that on my football background. It is what it is. I don't apologize for it, although, I'm working more on humility just because it really is a rare virtue when you enter into a professional environment that is full of arrogant people. And that is how God would want it.

As far as the cockiness goes, I practice in Texas. Welcome to the demeanor of Texas trial lawyers on the plaintiffs side.

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Tanicius
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Re: path to trial law

Postby Tanicius » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:29 pm

utlaw2007 wrote:As far as the cockiness goes, I practice in Texas. Welcome to the demeanor of Texas trial lawyers on the plaintiffs side.


This is actually the one thing I think is funniest about several of the people I know. One of them made his money in Texas, and he has, hands down, the most kind, endearing attitude I've seen from any lawyer. Knowing him and watching him in demonstrations caused me to question a lot of my assumptions about trial advocacy techniques.

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:34 pm

Tanicius wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:It's risky. But you HAVE TO HAVE CONFIDENCE if you are going to be successful. It can, sometimes, not differ much from playing poker when you're talking about creating leverage for settlement negotiations. So all you people that think I'm cocky, must not be too familiar with successful plaintiff attorneys. I'm not afraid of going to trial. You'd be surprised at how many lawyers are. And it is reflected in their settlement amounts. But sometimes, you have that weak case that you don't necessarily want to go to trial. Surviving summary judgment and winning a judgment are two completely different things.


No one here is criticizing you for your confidence in a vacuum. What they are criticizing is your one-sided advice. You're not qualifying what you're saying. You're telling people there's one way to do something and that one way is necessary. The very fact that trial skills are an art rather than a science inherently means there are lots of ways to do it. There are countless books written on this field, and thousands of people who work in the field, and they all they recommend different strategies and tactics with wide ranges of variance depending on the situation.

There is a difference between being cocky/confident and appearing confident. The most successful plaintiff attorneys I know, people who made/make millions of dollars from catastrophic injury cases, are super cautious and down-to-Earth in person. Their interactions with other attorneys, and their performance in a courtroom may make them appear otherwise, but they are in actuality very level-headed people who would never suggest broad, overarching things about their work without qualification or exception. Two of them in particular are even super calm, temperate people in the coutroom.


I'm in no way suggesting my way is the only way. I'm suggesting the pathway to success from my perspective. I did not qualify that because it should be assumed. I always speak in authoritative ways as if my opinion is the final word. But that's just how I talk. And that is an asset I have that gives me lots of success. But my suggestions are never meant to be taken as the final word. There are all sorts of successful trial lawyers who played sports and who didn't play sports. They have completely different mindsets than I do. But I'm not here to comment on their way of success.

People bring to the table different strengths and weaknesses. One must work to strengthen those weaknesses. For some, that might be that they need to work on public speaking skills. For others, they might need to work on presenting a more genuine, natural way of presenting an argument in public.

As for trial skills, I believe these are fundamentals that need to be learned by all aspiring trial lawyers. They are not needed to be successful, but I think they are needed to be successful against another lawyer who has these skills.
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:37 pm

Tanicius wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:As far as the cockiness goes, I practice in Texas. Welcome to the demeanor of Texas trial lawyers on the plaintiffs side.


This is actually the one thing I think is funniest about several of the people I know. One of them made his money in Texas, and he has, hands down, the most kind, endearing attitude I've seen from any lawyer. Knowing him and watching him in demonstrations caused me to question a lot of my assumptions about trial advocacy techniques.



I guess it just depends. The trial lawyers I know in Houston, Texas are extremely cocky. That's not to say that a successful lawyer who is not cocky does not exist in Texas. But I think it's safe to say that this is the norm down at the Harris County Courthouse and at the Fort Bend County Courthouse.

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Re: path to trial law

Postby aca0260 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:41 pm

UT - what is your opinion of online legal marketing, or legal lead generation? There have been a lot of ethics conversations about this - most state ethics boards have approved it in some manner. It seems to me that the internet, if used properly, can be the great equalizer to compete with seasoned attorneys that have practiced locally for decades (equalizer only in terms of getting access to clients).

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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:41 pm

Don't get me wrong. I would never present an ounce of cockiness to a jury. I come across very genuine and sweet to a jury. I think that's why the judges I've appeared before have been VERY nice to me, as well. If anyone knows me personally, they know I am a very genuine, kind, pleasant, and loving person. It's only when I get to preaching about something that my bravado can come out. After all, I played football, but that is another story for another day.

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kalvano
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Re: path to trial law

Postby kalvano » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:53 pm

What the hell is this weird obsession with playing football that everyone has in this thread?

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:58 pm

kalvano wrote:What the hell is this weird obsession with playing football that everyone has in this thread?


Haha. I think I had referenced it earlier in the thread since it has a lot to do with my mindset towards competition/trial law.
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:01 pm

aca0260 wrote:UT - what is your opinion of online legal marketing, or legal lead generation? There have been a lot of ethics conversations about this - most state ethics boards have approved it in some manner. It seems to me that the internet, if used properly, can be the great equalizer to compete with seasoned attorneys that have practiced locally for decades (equalizer only in terms of getting access to clients).


I think online marketing is great if it can satisfy the marketing for what you want to do. I use it a bit. But I do far better if I go to conventions where my potential clients are.

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Re: path to trial law

Postby aca0260 » Thu Jun 14, 2012 9:49 am

utlaw2007 wrote:
aca0260 wrote:UT - what is your opinion of online legal marketing, or legal lead generation? There have been a lot of ethics conversations about this - most state ethics boards have approved it in some manner. It seems to me that the internet, if used properly, can be the great equalizer to compete with seasoned attorneys that have practiced locally for decades (equalizer only in terms of getting access to clients).


I think online marketing is great if it can satisfy the marketing for what you want to do. I use it a bit. But I do far better if I go to conventions where my potential clients are.


You are a plaintiff's lawyer right? What kind of conventions are you referring to?

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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:05 am

I'd just like to add that even though trial law is an art, that doesn't mean that there are a myriad of ways to get those fundamentals. Learning proper ways of trial law and executing those ways are two different things. You can learn a fundamental truth about trial law. But just because there is only one or two ways to learn that truth does not mean that there is only one or two ways to execute that truth. The art of trial law comes in the EXECUTION of theses things, not the LEARNING of these things. And all of the ways I'm suggesting that one experience to learn trial law are not my own anecdotes. These are things that I was taught by successful trial lawyers/professors/coaches with several years of experience. I'm just relaying what I learned from them.

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Re: path to trial law

Postby manofjustice » Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:05 am

Where do BigLaw BigTrial firms get their trial tallent, given all thier homegrown associates spend so much time doing non-trial work? I am thinking of the likes of Williams Connolly and Quinn Emanuel...

utlaw2007
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:06 am

aca0260 wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:
aca0260 wrote:UT - what is your opinion of online legal marketing, or legal lead generation? There have been a lot of ethics conversations about this - most state ethics boards have approved it in some manner. It seems to me that the internet, if used properly, can be the great equalizer to compete with seasoned attorneys that have practiced locally for decades (equalizer only in terms of getting access to clients).


I think online marketing is great if it can satisfy the marketing for what you want to do. I use it a bit. But I do far better if I go to conventions where my potential clients are.


You are a plaintiff's lawyer right? What kind of conventions are you referring to?


Yes, I am a plaintiff's lawyer. Business conventions. Businesses can be plaintiffs, too. Don't you forget that.
Last edited by utlaw2007 on Thu Jun 14, 2012 2:06 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:13 am

manofjustice wrote:Where do BigLaw BigTrial firms get their trial tallent, given all thier homegrown associates spend so much time doing non-trial work? I am thinking of the likes of Williams Connolly and Quinn Emanuel...


Very good question. This is what I have seen from my experiences. I have had small law firm trial lawyers tell me that biglaw trial lawyers are not that good. I had one tell me that he chomps at the bit when he goes up against biglaw trial lawyers. Take it for what it's worth. That makes sense since there doesn't seem to be an interest in these firms getting associates with trial law talent. I can speak from the OCI at Texas. We had most of the big name market rate paying firms come recruit at our OCI, including litigation boutiques like Williams and Connelly and Susman Godfrey. And I don't recall ever seeing a biglaw firm state that they preferred a candidate participate in mock trial.
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Re: path to trial law

Postby utlaw2007 » Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:21 am

I will say that schools like South Texas and Baylor have a huge advantage over schools like Yale, Chicago, etc... because Baylor and South Texas actually put an emphasis on trial law. At a top law school, trial law is a huge after thought. In that sense, I will admit that South Texas and Baylor trial lawyers would run circles around a Harvard or Stanford grad who ends up doing litigation after having never done it in school. And this advantage is kept throughout one's entire career. It just is. I'm partnered with a South Texas trial lawyer on a products liability case and he is very good. I also have a high school classmate that went to South Texas, and he's also very good. I'm sure that Baylor grads are very similar.

My thing is that UT Law puts a fair amount of emphasis on trial law for a school ranked as high as it is. Trial law is an after thought at UT Law mostly, just as it is at all the law schools ranked ahead of it. It's an after thought at UT because the school does not highlight it as a point of emphasis. But if a student DECIDES to pursue an education in advocacy at UT, he/she will learn a lot because the program is really great.
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TyrionLannister
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Re: path to trial law

Postby TyrionLannister » Thu Jun 14, 2012 11:28 am

utlaw2007 wrote:I will say that schools like South Texas and Baylor have a huge advantage over schools like Yale, Chicago, etc... because Baylor and South Texas actually put an emphasis on trial law. At a top law school, trial law is a huge after thought. In that sense, I will admit that South Texas and Baylor trial lawyers would run circles around a Harvard or Stanford grad who ends up doing litigation after having never done it in school. And this advantage is kept throughout one's entire career. It just is. I'm partnered with a South Texas trial lawyer on a products liability case and he is very good. I also have a high school classmate that went to South Texas, and he's also very good. I'm sure that Baylor grads are very similar.

My thing is that UT Law puts a fair amount of emphasis on trial law for a school ranked as high as it is. Trial law is an after thought at UT Law mostly, just as it is at all the law schools ranked ahead of it. It's an after thought at UT because the school does not highlight it as a point of emphasis. But if a student DECIDES to pursue an education in advocacy at UT, the program is really great.


I have a V15 senior associate contact that brought up that same opinion of Harvard grads. He mentioned how they lack practical skills found in those hired from lower ranked schools. Also said that OCI @ Harvard is different than at other schools. At Harvard, the school selects who interviews with the firm, instead of the firm selecting students to interview. Harvard feels that, since they are Harvard, everyone there is a worthy candidate.

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Re: path to trial law

Postby vamedic03 » Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:21 pm

TyrionLannister wrote:
utlaw2007 wrote:I will say that schools like South Texas and Baylor have a huge advantage over schools like Yale, Chicago, etc... because Baylor and South Texas actually put an emphasis on trial law. At a top law school, trial law is a huge after thought. In that sense, I will admit that South Texas and Baylor trial lawyers would run circles around a Harvard or Stanford grad who ends up doing litigation after having never done it in school. And this advantage is kept throughout one's entire career. It just is. I'm partnered with a South Texas trial lawyer on a products liability case and he is very good. I also have a high school classmate that went to South Texas, and he's also very good. I'm sure that Baylor grads are very similar.

My thing is that UT Law puts a fair amount of emphasis on trial law for a school ranked as high as it is. Trial law is an after thought at UT Law mostly, just as it is at all the law schools ranked ahead of it. It's an after thought at UT because the school does not highlight it as a point of emphasis. But if a student DECIDES to pursue an education in advocacy at UT, the program is really great.


I have a V15 senior associate contact that brought up that same opinion of Harvard grads. He mentioned how they lack practical skills found in those hired from lower ranked schools. Also said that OCI @ Harvard is different than at other schools. At Harvard, the school selects who interviews with the firm, instead of the firm selecting students to interview. Harvard feels that, since they are Harvard, everyone there is a worthy candidate.


FYI - all the T14, save UVA (which uses a combination of preselects and lottery), use a lottery system for OCI - this isn't unique to Harvard.




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