Thursday, June 19, 2014

Trial, Trial Everywhere

I'm up to my elbow in trials. And I love every bit of it. The actual trial part is not necessarily my favorite but preparing and strategizing for trial, is essentially like my version of snorting coke off Ryan Reynolds abs in a tropical paradise while swimming in a pool of margarita - don't forget the salt-rimmed pool edges and a sun that doesn't burn skin but only turns it the perfect shade of toast (not that I would know what ANY of that was like).

My criminal trial (the one that I'm helping on in order to get more trial experience) keeps getting continued. At first, I was so thankful for each continuance but now I'm just annoyed. I want to put it behind me. My mentor had me practice my opening statement (which nervously spent way too much time writing) in a real courtroom to a jury box full of experienced criminal lawyers. Talk about nerve-wracking!

I got mostly good feedback but I'm told I need more passion. It's just.... I find it so hard to get passionate about criminal law. How can I act indignant go all wrath-of-God on the defendant just like the TV attorneys when prosecuting a misdemeanor? In my opening, while paraphrasing what one person said, my mentor wants me to say, "f*ck you" right to the jury's faces. I've never said the f-word in open court before. That should be interesting, especially since I will be like seven months pregnant. And surprisingly, it takes much more practice than you would think. You know, I can't sound TOO comfortable doing it-- the jury will think I have a sailor's mouth.

Earlier this year, I got pulled into assisting on a major employment lawsuit. Dispositive motions have been filed. Settlement attempts have been made. It looks like we are really going to trial. My boss has asked me to help with the trial and casually (almost a little too-casually), she assigned me four witnesses to examine on the stand.

What's awesome about where I work is that people assume you can do your job and leave you to do it. They don't micromanage. They don't hold your hand. They don't nervously check over your shoulder. They delegate and then move on. It's like, "here, write this appellate brief and file it, I don't need to review it." Or, "draft this letter on behalf of such-and-such elected official." Or, "cross examine these witnesses at trial." It's so very awesome in such a very scary way.

It's a huge wake-up call to realize that most attorneys in this world are not experts. They are all learning as they go, just like me. I have just as good of a chance of succeeding on a project as they do. If I didn't jump in and craft something together by the seat of my pants, another attorney (even one more experienced) would probably do just that. So wait? There is no magic milestone in your legal career where you suddenly know how to do everything? Yikes.

But, like I said, litigation is my passion. And I'm so happy to have civil trials to work on. When I interviewed for my job, it was described to me as mostly contracts and public record disclosures. And truly, when I first started, I did a good deal of "general counsel" work. It was interesting. But it just wasn't litigation. I missed the drama, the slowly unfolding stories revealed during discovery, I missed being 100% involved in a case that progressed for nearly a year, with new twists and turns at every corner before the entire thing culminated in one climactic production (whether trial, or mediation, or arbitration, or dispositive motion, or settlement discussions).

Luckily, I had the opportunity to show my coworkers that my true legal skills lie in brief writing and civil motions/strategy. And ever since then, I've been sought after to help in all kinds of litigation projects. Right now, I'm in a perfect spot. I have no actual clients of my own. I'm just some kind of in house litigation consultant/contractor who gets asked to chime in and help almost exclusively on all things litigation.

As a result, in the past nine months, I've written three appellate briefs, countless dispositive motions, numerous memos on a vast range of legal topics, and have assisted in the trial preparation of two civil litigation cases. All without having to stress over managing my own caseload. It's perfect. Of course, this is only temporary. Either they will let me go when they don't need me anymore or they will hire me on permanently and load me up with my own clients. So for now, I'm soaking in my margarita pool and enjoying every single day, while also looking forward immensely to my imminent maternity leave...hurry up and get here already!

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