How to become a better litigator?

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annesherry123

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How to become a better litigator?

Post by annesherry123 » Tue Sep 01, 2020 9:28 pm

To all the litigators out there: I am currently a junior litigator in a V50 firm. My firm's litigation practice has been pretty slow ever since COVID-19, and I've been pretty anxious about my career development. I haven't been staffed on that many litigation matters (instead, I've been doing lots of investigations/advisory work to fill my time). How do I make myself a better litigator when I don't get that many reps to practice? I welcome any suggestions or guidance!!

objctnyrhnr

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by objctnyrhnr » Tue Sep 01, 2020 10:19 pm

This is tough. Your concerns are warranted. I just read an article in law360 or one of those types of publications about this very issue.

If the work isn’t coming in, you can’t really get experience doing the work.

Honestly I’d consider looking to clerk. THAT will make you a better litigator, I promise.

annesherry123

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by annesherry123 » Tue Sep 01, 2020 10:48 pm

Thank you so much! Clerking is definitely on my radar. I'm also wondering about what I can do on my own to become a better litigator (other than clerking/lateraling), like reading well-written briefs/pleadings, etc.? If I apply for clerkship now, I'd still have to wait for 1-2 years before the clerkship starts. I'm looking for tips to make myself a better litigator in the meantime.

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cavalier1138

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by cavalier1138 » Wed Sep 02, 2020 7:16 am

Go hunting for pro bono work.

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beepboopbeep

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by beepboopbeep » Wed Sep 02, 2020 1:50 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:
Wed Sep 02, 2020 7:16 am
Go hunting for pro bono work.
Yea, this. As a junior (years 1-3) nearly all of my court appearances were from pro bono. You probably can't get that now with the global pandemic, but you might get a Zoom argument or at least the opportunity to be the lead drafter on appellate briefs or something. Pro bono is the tried and true way for getting experience above your class year in biglaw.

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clerkymcclerkerson

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by clerkymcclerkerson » Wed Sep 02, 2020 8:45 pm

Do some writing. Find a topic that would be helpful to know inside and out (procedure issues particularly) and write an article. Also scores points for business development and marketing. Your firm probably has some PR people who can get you a placement before you start writing as well.

moon123

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by moon123 » Thu Sep 03, 2020 12:14 am

Really get to know the rules of evidence. You would be surprised how many times people slip up.

RaceJudicata

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by RaceJudicata » Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:10 am

Obviously not a substitute for “doing” (which, as others suggested, might be achieved through pro bono work In slow times), but read briefs from well regarded attorneys/firms. You’ll see these linked to law 360 articles or other legal publications (and westlaw, etc.). I’ve picked up a ton of tricks form doing this - has definitely sharpened my writing on actual assignments. Also helps you better understand your practice area/substantive issues.

annesherry123

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by annesherry123 » Thu Sep 03, 2020 1:38 pm

OP here. Really appreciate everybody's guidance/advice! They're all really good tips! Now I definitely feel less anxious knowing all the things I can do in my downtime. :D

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12YrsAnAssociate

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by 12YrsAnAssociate » Thu Sep 03, 2020 4:41 pm

It's really smart of you to hunt for opportunities to advance. I've seen lots of associates get left behind--usually because they're staffed on repeated doc review assignments or depo prep assignments. When these associates become third or fourth years, and turn in briefs at a first year level, it commonly does not bode well for their careers. Instead of thinking "this guy could use some help getting up to speed," partners usually think "I might as well dump this guy and use the lower-rate first year that just showed up." It's really an unfortunate trap that's easy to fall into.

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 03, 2020 7:29 pm

RaceJudicata wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:10 am
Obviously not a substitute for “doing” (which, as others suggested, might be achieved through pro bono work In slow times), but read briefs from well regarded attorneys/firms. You’ll see these linked to law 360 articles or other legal publications (and westlaw, etc.). I’ve picked up a ton of tricks form doing this - has definitely sharpened my writing on actual assignments. Also helps you better understand your practice area/substantive issues.
Do you have a process for this? I do this sometimes and while I definitely believe in learning by osmosis -- especially when it comes to writing -- I often feel kind of in the dark about what I'm supposed to be looking for / picking up on. This especially goes for good briefs in fields that I'm not familiar with.

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 03, 2020 8:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 7:29 pm
RaceJudicata wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:10 am
Obviously not a substitute for “doing” (which, as others suggested, might be achieved through pro bono work In slow times), but read briefs from well regarded attorneys/firms. You’ll see these linked to law 360 articles or other legal publications (and westlaw, etc.). I’ve picked up a ton of tricks form doing this - has definitely sharpened my writing on actual assignments. Also helps you better understand your practice area/substantive issues.
Do you have a process for this? I do this sometimes and while I definitely believe in learning by osmosis -- especially when it comes to writing -- I often feel kind of in the dark about what I'm supposed to be looking for / picking up on. This especially goes for good briefs in fields that I'm not familiar with.

One idea- read news for ongoing litigation in your practice area.. find docket of interesting case and read through the filings to get a sense of how things develop from start to finish, and how the legal memorandum fit into the big picture. may help to get a sense of the rhythm and jumpstart finding more good resources.

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Percival Jenkins

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by Percival Jenkins » Thu Sep 03, 2020 8:28 pm

As others have said, the best way to become a better litigator through substantive exposure is pro bono. But you should also check out internal resources that your firm has to assist with your development. There may be someone at your firm that has a better understanding of what those resources are but its usually someone in the knowledge management department. One of the resources that helped me was internal videos that were geared towards writing briefs and motions. But you should also look at CLEs for litigation related topics. A lot of them will be recorded and you can follow along at your own pace.

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12YrsAnAssociate

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by 12YrsAnAssociate » Thu Sep 03, 2020 8:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 7:29 pm
RaceJudicata wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:10 am
Obviously not a substitute for “doing” (which, as others suggested, might be achieved through pro bono work In slow times), but read briefs from well regarded attorneys/firms. You’ll see these linked to law 360 articles or other legal publications (and westlaw, etc.). I’ve picked up a ton of tricks form doing this - has definitely sharpened my writing on actual assignments. Also helps you better understand your practice area/substantive issues.
Do you have a process for this? I do this sometimes and while I definitely believe in learning by osmosis -- especially when it comes to writing -- I often feel kind of in the dark about what I'm supposed to be looking for / picking up on. This especially goes for good briefs in fields that I'm not familiar with.
I used to pull SCOTUS briefs in high-profile cases from SCOTUSblog. Those briefs are usually drafted by teams of great lawyers, and the lawyers usually dedicated tons of hours into make the briefs persuasive and good. I also used to read Ross Guberman's book because it has very specific advice on structure and phrase choice.

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 03, 2020 10:18 pm

12YrsAnAssociate wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 8:45 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 7:29 pm
RaceJudicata wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:10 am
Obviously not a substitute for “doing” (which, as others suggested, might be achieved through pro bono work In slow times), but read briefs from well regarded attorneys/firms. You’ll see these linked to law 360 articles or other legal publications (and westlaw, etc.). I’ve picked up a ton of tricks form doing this - has definitely sharpened my writing on actual assignments. Also helps you better understand your practice area/substantive issues.
Do you have a process for this? I do this sometimes and while I definitely believe in learning by osmosis -- especially when it comes to writing -- I often feel kind of in the dark about what I'm supposed to be looking for / picking up on. This especially goes for good briefs in fields that I'm not familiar with.
I used to pull SCOTUS briefs in high-profile cases from SCOTUSblog. Those briefs are usually drafted by teams of great lawyers, and the lawyers usually dedicated tons of hours into make the briefs persuasive and good. I also used to read Ross Guberman's book because it has very specific advice on structure and phrase choice.
Thank you! Just to confirm, were you referring to Ross Guberman's Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation's Top Advocates?

12YrsAnAssociate

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by 12YrsAnAssociate » Fri Sep 04, 2020 9:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 10:18 pm
Thank you! Just to confirm, were you referring to Ross Guberman's Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation's Top Advocates?
Yes. Point Made. He breaks down good paragraphs, gives word banks of good transitional phrases, etc. I think it raises good points that will help make you a better writer. I first got it on audio book so I could listen to it in my car, but that was worthless because it's not the type of thing you can just listen to.

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 10, 2020 6:00 pm

Any good books out there to really understand discovery?

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 10, 2020 9:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 6:00 pm
Any good books out there to really understand discovery?
-discovery..sounds like a chicken and egg answer,,but you should really know your facts well going into discovery..that is, get as much sense from the pleadings as you can, understand the parties incentives, and then you need to brainstorm whats gonna be out there,whatsrelevant to that and how to find it..

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:12 pm

On a related note, I have a trial coming up, and I'm the only associate on it. I'm still junior, so basically I'm in an "I don't know what I don't know" kind of situation. The partners I'm working with are very, very hands off on everything. Can anyone suggest anything to read that covers various aspects of trial/ things to keep in mind? I'm thinking of various procedural issues that will arise that I have little to no familiarity with.

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polareagle

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by polareagle » Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:12 pm
On a related note, I have a trial coming up, and I'm the only associate on it. I'm still junior, so basically I'm in an "I don't know what I don't know" kind of situation. The partners I'm working with are very, very hands off on everything. Can anyone suggest anything to read that covers various aspects of trial/ things to keep in mind? I'm thinking of various procedural issues that will arise that I have little to no familiarity with.
I *really* like this book: https://www.americanbar.org/products/inv/book/214876/

But I'll note that it's more about techniques for use at trial for trial lawyers rather than a junior associate level view of trial practice

JusticeJackson

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Re: How to become a better litigator?

Post by JusticeJackson » Fri Sep 11, 2020 12:53 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:12 pm
On a related note, I have a trial coming up, and I'm the only associate on it. I'm still junior, so basically I'm in an "I don't know what I don't know" kind of situation. The partners I'm working with are very, very hands off on everything. Can anyone suggest anything to read that covers various aspects of trial/ things to keep in mind? I'm thinking of various procedural issues that will arise that I have little to no familiarity with.
This was me once. As a very junior lawyer I had a big False Claims Act trial coming up. I found a recent case similar to mine that was tried to a jury by solid lawyers, went on pacer and read all the pretrial filings, motions in limine, proposed jury instructions, and the trial transcript. That gave me some really good ideas.

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