Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

(Please Ask Questions and Answer Questions)
nycparalegal
Posts: 483
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:26 am

Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby nycparalegal » Mon Feb 22, 2010 11:17 pm

I know that trial lawyers have a bad reputation among the public esp those who do plaintiff-side law. But does anyone have any experience with this type of work? I'd love to hear what people thought. Right now, I just finished watching the Verdict, and started reading A Civil Action, so I have sort of a romantic view of plaintiff-side attorneys.

nycparalegal
Posts: 483
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:26 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby nycparalegal » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:03 am

Ha, I guess no one else is interested in plaintiff-side law.

User avatar
pleasetryagain
Posts: 762
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 1:04 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby pleasetryagain » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:03 am

depends on the plaintiff.

nycparalegal
Posts: 483
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:26 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby nycparalegal » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:07 am

pleasetryagain wrote:depends on the plaintiff.


Yea, what type of law would you be interested in?

User avatar
pleasetryagain
Posts: 762
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 1:04 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby pleasetryagain » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:10 am

nycparalegal wrote:
pleasetryagain wrote:depends on the plaintiff.


Yea, what type of law would you be interested in?


The kind that is going to pay me the most money for the least (comparatively) amount of work. If that means representing the McDonald's hot coffee burns people.. so be it.

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:13 am

A huge chunk of the law is plaintiff-side law, and in some jobs you can work as both plaintiff and defendant (for instance, representing a company's IP, suing those who infringe patents/copyrights, and defending the company against other parties who sue it over alleged patent/copyright infringement). For most people what matters to them is what field they're getting to work in, not what side of the aisle they're working on.

(Of course, criminal law is a huge exception to this. There's a big huge difference between the way prosecutors and public defenders are regarded, vastly disproportional to the difference in job duties.)

User avatar
iShotFirst
Posts: 460
Joined: Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:13 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby iShotFirst » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:14 am

vanwinkle wrote:A huge chunk of the law is plaintiff-side law, and in some jobs you can work as both plaintiff and defendant (for instance, representing a company's IP, suing those who infringe patents/copyrights, and defending the company against other parties who sue it over alleged patent/copyright infringement). For most people what matters to them is what field they're getting to work in, not what side of the aisle they're working on.

(Of course, criminal law is a huge exception to this. There's a big huge difference between the way prosecutors and public defenders are regarded, vastly disproportional to the difference in job duties.)


Would you mind elaborating on that a bit? I am interested in criminal law and still considering which is the best career path to take in this field.

nycparalegal
Posts: 483
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:26 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby nycparalegal » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:19 am

vanwinkle wrote:A huge chunk of the law is plaintiff-side law, and in some jobs you can work as both plaintiff and defendant (for instance, representing a company's IP, suing those who infringe patents/copyrights, and defending the company against other parties who sue it over alleged patent/copyright infringement). For most people what matters to them is what field they're getting to work in, not what side of the aisle they're working on.

(Of course, criminal law is a huge exception to this. There's a big huge difference between the way prosecutors and public defenders are regarded, vastly disproportional to the difference in job duties.)


Well, I was under the impression that many firms have an institutional philosophy that limits their practice to exclusive or near-exclusive representation of either plaintiffs or defendants.

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:24 am

iShotFirst wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:A huge chunk of the law is plaintiff-side law, and in some jobs you can work as both plaintiff and defendant (for instance, representing a company's IP, suing those who infringe patents/copyrights, and defending the company against other parties who sue it over alleged patent/copyright infringement). For most people what matters to them is what field they're getting to work in, not what side of the aisle they're working on.

(Of course, criminal law is a huge exception to this. There's a big huge difference between the way prosecutors and public defenders are regarded, vastly disproportional to the difference in job duties.)

Would you mind elaborating on that a bit? I am interested in criminal law and still considering which is the best career path to take in this field.

Public defenders: Hate and loathe prosecutors. If you intern with a prosecution office while you're in school, a lot of PD offices simply will not consider you. No interview, no chance to explain yourself, nothing. They see prosecutors as The Man, doing everything they can to put away everyone who's arrested regardless of guilt or innocence. They're also not very well respected by, well, anybody else; judges don't respect them much, prosecutors push them around, the public hates them because they represent guilty people and help guilty people get free.

Prosecutors: These guys have all the power and usually act like it. They have leverage and they use it. They decide who to prosecute, how hard to prosecute them, what charges to pursue, and so on and so forth. The judges love prosecutors, too. So do the public; prosecutors are tough on crime and put criminals away and that gets them a lot of good press and respect. (Think of Jack McCoy as the modern legal hero. How many public defenders do you know that are anywhere near that status?) They'll also poach the best PDs if they can convince them to switch sides.

My first month here in school I heard a speech given by a local prosecutor who started out as a PD. He mentioned how things changed literally instantly when he switched; one day he was in court and getting no respect from the judge or the prosecutor or anyone, and the next day the judge was asking him what he wanted to do and deferring to his judgment on whether a plea deal was the best way to settle a case and being his best friend.

There's a huge difference between the PD and the prosecutor community in terms of attitude and perception and relation to each other, despite the fact that they handle the same cases under the same laws in the same courtrooms.

User avatar
iShotFirst
Posts: 460
Joined: Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:13 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby iShotFirst » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:27 am

vanwinkle wrote:
iShotFirst wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:A huge chunk of the law is plaintiff-side law, and in some jobs you can work as both plaintiff and defendant (for instance, representing a company's IP, suing those who infringe patents/copyrights, and defending the company against other parties who sue it over alleged patent/copyright infringement). For most people what matters to them is what field they're getting to work in, not what side of the aisle they're working on.

(Of course, criminal law is a huge exception to this. There's a big huge difference between the way prosecutors and public defenders are regarded, vastly disproportional to the difference in job duties.)

Would you mind elaborating on that a bit? I am interested in criminal law and still considering which is the best career path to take in this field.

Public defenders: Hate and loathe prosecutors. If you intern with a prosecution office while you're in school, a lot of PD offices simply will not consider you. No interview, no chance to explain yourself, nothing. They see prosecutors as The Man, doing everything they can to put away everyone who's arrested regardless of guilt or innocence. They're also not very well respected by, well, anybody else; judges don't respect them much, prosecutors push them around, the public hates them because they represent guilty people and help guilty people get free.

Prosecutors: These guys have all the power and usually act like it. They have leverage and they use it. They decide who to prosecute, how hard to prosecute them, what charges to pursue, and so on and so forth. The judges love prosecutors, too. So do the public; prosecutors are tough on crime and put criminals away and that gets them a lot of good press and respect. (Think of Jack McCoy as the modern legal hero. How many public defenders do you know that are anywhere near that status?) They'll also poach the best PDs if they can convince them to switch sides.

My first month here in school I heard a speech given by a local prosecutor who started out as a PD. He mentioned how things changed literally instantly when he switched; one day he was in court and getting no respect from the judge or the prosecutor or anyone, and the next day the judge was asking him what he wanted to do and deferring to his judgment on whether a plea deal was the best way to settle a case and being his best friend.

There's a huge difference between the PD and the prosecutor community in terms of attitude and perception and relation to each other, despite the fact that they handle the same cases under the same laws in the same courtrooms.


Thanks for the informative response. Really makes me realize you have to think a lot about what you want to do even before you go to law school. Yikes.

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:27 am

nycparalegal wrote:Well, I was under the impression that many firms have an institutional philosophy that limits their practice to exclusive or near-exclusive representation of either plaintiffs or defendants.

Actually many big firms offer a diverse array of services so that they can be a one-stop shop for large companies that need legal services. You might end up in a specific program (a plaintiff-side litigation division) but it's most certainly possible to lateral within such companies if you really have a problem with the side you start out on. You can start out defending corporate clients and then move to plaintiff-side litigation and represent the same clients you defended earlier.

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:29 am

iShotFirst wrote:Thanks for the informative response. Really makes me realize you have to think a lot about what you want to do even before you go to law school. Yikes.

Yeah, I went and got some advice today on job hunting for this summer, and one look at my resume got me this comment: "First things first, be real careful about taking a prosecution job this summer. I see you're applying to some and a lot of PDs won't hire you if you intern with a prosecutor. Be careful about that if you're serious about possibly wanting to do PD later on."

This really sucks, especially since internships are getting hard to find. I'd rather just take whatever comes my way, instead of having to think about whether it'll lock me into being on one side when I graduate.

nycparalegal
Posts: 483
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:26 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby nycparalegal » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:32 am

vanwinkle wrote:
iShotFirst wrote:Thanks for the informative response. Really makes me realize you have to think a lot about what you want to do even before you go to law school. Yikes.

Yeah, I went and got some advice today on job hunting for this summer, and one look at my resume got me this comment: "First things first, be real careful about taking a prosecution job this summer. I see you're applying to some and a lot of PDs won't hire you if you intern with a prosecutor. Be careful about that if you're serious about possibly wanting to do PD later on."

This really sucks, especially since internships are getting hard to find. I'd rather just take whatever comes my way, instead of having to think about whether it'll lock me into being on one side when I graduate.


Do you think this philosophy will really hold true with the current economy being in such shits? I mean PD must know that internships are hard to come by and so you do what you can get.

Or do you think because of the economy it will hold even more weight because they want to make sure that this is somethign you always wanted to do?

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:34 am

nycparalegal wrote:Do you think this philosophy will really hold true with the current economy being in such shits? I mean PD must know that internships are hard to come by and so you do what you can get.

Or do you think because of the economy it will hold even more weight because they want to make sure that this is somethign you always wanted to do?

See, I'm hoping that with the economy being the way it is they'll be more forgiving, but that latter thing you said might be it. That's one thing that I'm already seeing going on with the interviews I've gotten so far, that they're really grilling people this year to try to see how serious about criminal work they are, and specifically about being a prosecutor/PD. They don't want people who are just hiding in their office for a summer. I wouldn't be surprised if they continue to do that, especially since hiring is down and the number of people willing to take PI jobs is rising in this recession.

nycparalegal
Posts: 483
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:26 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby nycparalegal » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:40 am

vanwinkle wrote:
nycparalegal wrote:Do you think this philosophy will really hold true with the current economy being in such shits? I mean PD must know that internships are hard to come by and so you do what you can get.

Or do you think because of the economy it will hold even more weight because they want to make sure that this is somethign you always wanted to do?

See, I'm hoping that with the economy being the way it is they'll be more forgiving, but that latter thing you said might be it. That's one thing that I'm already seeing going on with the interviews I've gotten so far, that they're really grilling people this year to try to see how serious about criminal work they are, and specifically about being a prosecutor/PD. They don't want people who are just hiding in their office for a summer. I wouldn't be surprised if they continue to do that, especially since hiring is down and the number of people willing to take PI jobs is rising in this recession.


It's crazy. It's like you need a game plan and know what you want to practice during your 1L. Are you a 1L or 2L?

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:42 am

nycparalegal wrote:It's crazy. It's like you need a game plan and know what you want to practice during your 1L. Are you a 1L or 2L?

I'm a 1L. To be fair, PDs are the only people who I know behave this hostile toward anyone, and only toward prosecutors. Like I said, this is one visible exception to a rule that you can otherwise move around fairly easily. You can go do civil pro bono work for a summer (which I might end up doing) as a way to show a commitment to public interest without offending anyone.

nycparalegal
Posts: 483
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:26 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby nycparalegal » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:45 am

vanwinkle wrote:
nycparalegal wrote:It's crazy. It's like you need a game plan and know what you want to practice during your 1L. Are you a 1L or 2L?

I'm a 1L. To be fair, PDs are the only people who I know behave this hostile toward anyone, and only toward prosecutors. Like I said, this is one visible exception to a rule that you can otherwise move around fairly easily. You can go do civil pro bono work for a summer (which I might end up doing) as a way to show a commitment to public interest without offending anyone.


See I do almost nothing, but corporate law. I did a few projects for arbitration and one litigation project (defending a chinese firm for securities fraud.)

But, I wish I knew more about what life is like for trial attorneys. What it is like to actually be a PD or prosecutor.

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:49 am

nycparalegal wrote:See I do almost nothing, but corporate law. I did a few projects for arbitration and one litigation project (defending a chinese firm for securities fraud.)

But, I wish I knew more about what life is like for trial attorneys. What it is like to actually be a PD or prosecutor.

I did an internship over winter break with a PD. It was pretty intense. I got to shadow him during trials and while he interviewed clients. Speaking to someone through metal bars is kind of surreal, especially when they've just lost their bail hearing and they're being remanded back to jail for a month until their trial will begin. You know they're going to stay behind those bars for a long time even if they're not found guilty.

And that's why, I think, PDs are so hostile compared to other lawyers. They have to deal firsthand with a lot of really intense shit. It gets personal for them, they develop connections to these people, to see what good there is in these people, and then the prosecutors come along and just hammer and hammer to put these guys away. A lot of law isn't nearly that dramatic, and the lawyers don't have nearly such a personal emotional stake in it.

Once you're in law school you can start interning for a PD or prosecutor near your law school in your spare time just to see what it's like. Arrange to shadow them for a few days, tell them you want exposure to what they do. A lot of them will be happy to show you around because they know it's genuine interest that could lead to you going down the same career path.

imchuckbass58
Posts: 1245
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:24 pm

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:50 am

vanwinkle wrote:Yeah, I went and got some advice today on job hunting for this summer, and one look at my resume got me this comment: "First things first, be real careful about taking a prosecution job this summer. I see you're applying to some and a lot of PDs won't hire you if you intern with a prosecutor. Be careful about that if you're serious about possibly wanting to do PD later on."


I think this may vary a bit by area. In NYC there's a lot of movement from DA's offices to PDs and vice versa. I worked at the DA's office for a summer during college and there were several former PDs. Similarly, I know several older lawyers who used to be DAs and now do criminal defense (though not for the PD). I could definitely see how in some places that's a red flag, however.

vanwinkle wrote:Actually many big firms offer a diverse array of services so that they can be a one-stop shop for large companies that need legal services. You might end up in a specific program (a plaintiff-side litigation division) but it's most certainly possible to lateral within such companies if you really have a problem with the side you start out on. You can start out defending corporate clients and then move to plaintiff-side litigation and represent the same clients you defended earlier.


This is generally true, but I'd add a clarification. The key (as vanwinkle said) is that big firms represent large companies. In areas such as securities litigation, patent litigation or antitrust, the plaintiffs are very often (in fact almost exclusively) large companies. In other areas of law (product liability, toxic torts, personal injury, civil rights/section 1983, med mal, etc.) there are virtually never large companies as plaintiffs. In the former practice areas, you will encounter many firms doing work on both sides (P and D). In the latter practice areas, firms usually exclusively represent plaintiffs or defendants.
Last edited by imchuckbass58 on Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

nycparalegal
Posts: 483
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:26 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby nycparalegal » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:51 am

vanwinkle wrote:
nycparalegal wrote:See I do almost nothing, but corporate law. I did a few projects for arbitration and one litigation project (defending a chinese firm for securities fraud.)

But, I wish I knew more about what life is like for trial attorneys. What it is like to actually be a PD or prosecutor.

I did an internship over winter break with a PD. It was pretty intense. I got to shadow him during trials and while he interviewed clients. Speaking to someone through metal bars is kind of surreal, especially when they've just lost their bail hearing and they're being remanded back to jail for a month until their trial will begin. You know they're going to stay behind those bars for a long time even if they're not found guilty.

And that's why, I think, PDs are so hostile compared to other lawyers. They have to deal firsthand with a lot of really intense shit. It gets personal for them, they develop connections to these people, to see what good there is in these people, and then the prosecutors come along and just hammer and hammer to put these guys away. A lot of law isn't nearly that dramatic, and the lawyers don't have nearly such a personal emotional stake in it.

Once you're in law school you can start interning for a PD or prosecutor near your law school in your spare time just to see what it's like. Arrange to shadow them for a few days, tell them you want exposure to what they do. A lot of them will be happy to show you around because they know it's genuine interest that could lead to you going down the same career path.


Wasn't there a show about public defenders with Zack from Save by the Bell in it?

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:52 am

nycparalegal wrote:Wasn't there a show about public defenders with Zack from Save by the Bell in it?

Yes. "Raising the Bar", lasted two seasons on TNT. One of the creators of that show was an NYC public defender. Based on my internship with an NYC public defender, I can say that show is a remarkably realistic of the job for something that has to conform to the standards of dramatic scripted television.

nycparalegal
Posts: 483
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:26 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby nycparalegal » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:56 am

imchuckbass58 wrote:
This is generally true, but I'd add a clarification. The key (as vanwinkle said) is that big firms represent large companies. In areas such as securities litigation, patent litigation or antitrust, the plaintiffs are very often (in fact almost exclusively) large companies. In other areas of law (product liability, toxic torts, personal injury, civil rights/section 1983, med mal, etc.) there are virtually never large companies as plaintiffs. In the former practice areas, you will encounter many firms doing work on both sides (P and D). In the latter practice areas, firms are usually exclusively represent plaintiffs or defendants.


Intresting when your clients are people than you usually specialize as either plaintiff or defendants.

nycparalegal
Posts: 483
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:26 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby nycparalegal » Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:11 am

How much does trial advocacy prepare you for being in the courtroom?

User avatar
vanwinkle
Posts: 9740
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:02 am

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:52 am

nycparalegal wrote:How much does trial advocacy prepare you for being in the courtroom?

I have no idea, I haven't taken it yet. Hopefully someone else can address this question for you.

ughOSU
Posts: 444
Joined: Mon Sep 28, 2009 9:42 pm

Re: Anyone else interested in Plaintiff-Side Law?

Postby ughOSU » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:20 am

nycparalegal wrote:Ha, I guess no one else is interested in plaintiff-side law.

You're right, nobody would really want to do this if they knew what it was all about. My friend worked as a paralegal at a plaintiff's firm that did a lot of class action work. He described the job to me as basically a telemarketer. He made hundreds of calls per day to employees and former employees of a certain multinational corporation, asking them if they had been awarded their lunch breaks. His firm was preparing a massive class action lawsuit against the company on behalf of these "wronged" employees who hadn't taken the measly 15 minutes per 8 hours you work. I had actually worked at said company for a short time, and I received a number of his mailings, but I had taken my lunch breaks (like any reasonable person would have), so I couldn't claim any money was owed. This is how many firms operate. Granted, if you were an attorney, you would be a half-step above the telemarketers... more like a manager that leeches off the system rather than a telemarketer, but if that's the kind of thing you're into...

I guess they do serve a purpose, but it's not something I would want to do with my life. For every Erin Brokovich there are probably a million people like my friend.

e: and don't worry about the courtroom... they almost never go to court, and certainly never on a big case.




Return to “Law School FAQ”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests