Click here to read an article that to me reflects much about the problems that confront our profession and the clients we serve. It discusses how a mega rainmaking litigation partner - purportedly bringing in $60 million in billings per year and the highest paid partner earning $5.75 million last year - was leaving DLA Piper to go in-house at Pfizer. Those numbers were pretty impressive, so I decided to look at her bio.
My expectation was that she was an uber trial lawyer that attracted clients because of her stellar in court skills. That may be the case, but if you read her bio you wouldn't know it.
The bio is extensive. It details all of the cases that she has "coordinated" and all the litigation teams that she has lead. In its own right, it is quite impressive. But not one mention of ever having been involved in the trial of a case let alone successfully trying a case. The impression one gets is that she is a skilled case coordinator, legal strategist and leader of litigation teams. Click here if you want to read it.
Now I understand that defense lawyer's objectives are, quite rightly, to avoid trial at all costs and that as a result in some ways it is a badge of dishonor if you have to try a lot cases as a defense lawyer. Perhaps Ms. Schulman has tried her fair share of cases and just didn't want to tout this in her bio. But I doubt it. Anyone who has tried and won cases before juries or judges would insist on this being included in their bio. They are career benchmarks for true litigators/trial lawyers.
She is not the only one who I have seen with such a bio. The managing litigation partner from a major firm who headed up the defense of a substantial antitrust matter that I recently litigated had a similar bio - touting all the cases he had successfully managed but not one mention of having ever tried a case.
Whether they have or have not tried cases is almost irrelevant, because the real question is where is the profession going when the people who lead litigation litigation matters tout their ability to "coordinate" large litigation teams rather than their abilities as in court lawyers?
My guess is that more and more litigation partners in large firms are no longer getting any trial experience because less and less cases get tried these days and, of course, throughout their developmental years success is measured in getting cases dismissed before trial. So as they rise to the top of these firms, litigators' bios have morphed to touting "case management" skills.
Moreover, this professed expertise in supposedly managing large litigation teams is a canard. As I have repeatedly stated in this blog and in my published articles - large litigation team means a bloated inefficient and costly litigation team. You want someone to efficiently manage a litigation matter? Get people who have litigated in the trenches and tried cases. All the rest is expensive feel good fluff.
Those who know how to try cases are still the best at developing and implementing the best strategies for cases big and small. The fact that the highest paid lawyer in the largest firm in the country either doesn't have this experience or consciously chooses to not tout her trial experience says more about where things have gone these days - at least in the big firms.
In-house counsel wail about litigation costs and the unreliability of our civil justice system. Yet they only have themselves to blame when they swallow this "case management" PR. Sure the complex litigators clients hire should have the skills to manage big cases. But the only way to really do this is to work in the trenches and actually try some big cases. Without such experience one has no idea what is actually involved. Thus, clients would do better to hire lawyers who can and do tout their in-court prowess and not those who tout their case management skills. The former is the best path to the latter.