Thursday, September 13, 2018

Trial lawyers drink whiskey and watch Ozark

Last night I had a revelation while drinking bourbon and watching an episode of Ozark. To be a great lawyer, you can't just think and react. You have to act first. You have to play offense.

Here's what I mean. Marty Byrde, the financial planner played by Jason Bateman in the Netflix series, is crafty and smart. But he gets criticized for thinking too much, and not taking action. In this particular episode, his wife burns a field of poppies that will be turned into opium. Byrde agonizes over what to do with the field, but his wife ultimately takes action. Her decision has consequences, but she arguably saves the day.

Put another way, trial lawyers drink whiskey and try cases while litigators drink wine and take depositions. Those aren't my words. They belong to a South Dakota state court judge. The full story is here, but the general idea is to avoid getting bogged down with unnecessary motions and formulas. The law is filled with rules and structure. The most successful attorneys follow the rules, but they're also flexible and they'll call an audible when the circumstances require it.

I'm still learning to balance this stuff. In the six years since I was sworn in, I've made my share of mistakes. But most of my audibles have turned out fine, in part because the decisions were calculated risks based on research and careful analysis. It's easy for young lawyers to be paralyzed by indecision and uncertainty, or fear of being wrong. That's not how you win at trial, or even in motion practice. Whether the case is a garden variety car wreck, or complex litigation against a giant pharmaceutical company, action is almost always better than inaction. Creativity and flexibility work better than sticking to your outline, or filing the same motions every time. This may not work if you're a real estate or banking lawyer. But it's the heart of my playbook for practicing civil litigation on behalf of plaintiffs. And after a 12-hour day of trial prep, it came into focus with the help of a TV show and a glass of some of the finest bourbon I've had, which just happens to be made at Copper & Kings, right next door to our law firm here in Louisville.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The magic number: ruminating on my first 10,000 hours as a trial lawyer

“The further I get, the further I want to go.” — Nas

Enrolling in law school in my mid-30s was exciting, but at times frustrating. It's not easy to start over in a new career, surrounded by people at least a decade younger than you are. It's like showing up to an amazing party that started four hours ago. The clock is running. Why didn't I get here earlier?

So it feels good to be barreling toward the end of my fifth year as a trial attorney. I'm close to passing a milestone that some view as the minimum threshold for mastering one's profession. According to author Malcolm Gladwell, practicing at least 10,000 hours in a given profession is the "magic number of greatness” to achieve mastery. If this holds true, I'll achieve ninja status as a trial attorney in the very near future. 

Based on what I've learned since 2012 as a lawyer, my black belt will not fall from the sky. I am still a long way from mastery. In many respects, I'll never get there. But that's fine with me. My first five years of practicing law have given me a staggering amount of information, opportunities and new skills. I've spent every single minute at Jones Ward PLC here in Louisville. A few highlights: 

  • Won a $12.9 million jury verdict against a drunk driver who killed three people in a fiery taxi cab crash near a casino. 
  • Argued three other cases to jury verdicts, including one that I lost at trial and then got reversed on appeal. 
  • Learned how to litigate class action lawsuits, with dozens of fact patterns involving everything from tire fires to cameras to bank fees, Internet scams, video games, and more. In one class action, a train derailment case that settled for $3.1 million, I had the privilege of personally handing out checks to hundreds of people in a small town in Kentucky where the derailment happened. 
  • Met and worked with some of the nation's top trial lawyers, and had the chance to practice against some of the most skilled and experienced defense lawyers, including top-notch attorneys at BigLaw mega-firms like this one and this one and this one. There are plenty of things to complain about in our industry — stress, risk, unfair decisions by judges — but I'm constantly impressed by the professionalism and civility that most veteran lawyers possess. 
  • Traveled like a mad man practicing mass tort cases involving medical devices and pharmaceutical products, the bread and butter of our law firm's practice. In just the last year, I've taken or defended depositions in Dallas, Baltimore, Boston, Seattle, San Jose, New Orleans and many other cities. 
  • Helped hundreds of people injured by drugs and medical devices that I never even knew existed five years ago. As a mass tort attorney, I represent plaintiffs in almost every state in the nation. Seriously, I'm missing Alaska and Hawaii but I have cases pretty much everywhere else. Here's a tiny sampling of what I'm working on nowDePuy Orthopaedics Hip Implant Litigation (Ohio and Texas); Testosterone Replacement Therapy Litigation (Illinois); Boston Scientific Transvaginal Mesh Litigation (West Virginia); Biomet Hip Implant Litigation (Indiana); Xarelto Bloodthinner Products Litigation (Louisiana); Zofran Birth Defect Litigation (Massachusetts, Abilify Compulsive Gambling Litigation (Florida); Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Cases (California). 

While there is no ninja belt in sight, I feel great about my first five years and can't wait for the next five and the five after that. It's not the easiest profession, but the intellectual challenge of practicing law and the ability to help real people keeps me bouncing out of bed almost every day, ready for more. There is no magic number to being a veteran lawyer. On a couple of narrow points, I may very well know more than any lawyer in the country. On a zillion other issues, I know very little or nothing. I'm smart enough to realize I can't solve every problem, and confident enough to keep pushing toward victory on the issues I do understand. Perhaps more than anything, I'm grateful to be part of a fraternity of professionals who help each other, help people, solve problems, and hopefully make the world a better place in the process. I can't imagine being anywhere else. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Now hiring: apply to be our summer law clerk

You're nearing the end of your first or second year of law school, and you want to get your feet wet in the real world. You like helping people, and the idea of holding corporations accountable for their actions might be one of the reasons you went to law school in the first place.

More than anything, you have hustle. You go above and beyond. You create opportunities. You are the kind of person other people turn to when they need help. You're creative and you have energy. If these qualities sound familiar, you may want to apply for our summer law clerk position at Jones Ward PLC. I wrote a lot of blog posts about clerkships and employment during my law school years. I'm now overseeing the hiring process for our firm's next summer clerk.

Here's how to apply: send a resume, cover letter and transcript to Ideal candidates will be in the top half of their law school class or better. The deadline to apply is this Friday, May 1. If you're a student at U of L Law, you realize that Friday is Oaks Day, the day before Derby. It's also exam week. But hey, in the real world, time doesn't stop for horses or exams. Interviews will take place the following week.

Here's more about the job: this is a paid, full-time position starting in May and running until school resumes in the fall. You'll be doing work for plaintiffs in mass tort and class action lawsuits. Much of our practice is product liability litigation against large corporations. We sue them for making dangerous stuff that hurts people. Bad drugs. Bad medical devices. Bad consumer products. Defendants range from Pfizer and Bayer to General Electric and Ford. You'll be drafting lawsuits, filing lawsuits, interviewing clients, reviewing medical records, and maybe showing up in court or preparing for depositions or trial. If you're looking for a summer job where you sit on the sidelines and watch other lawyers do the real work, this is not the clerkship for you.

Here's more about us: Jones Ward PLC is a full-service law firm in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. We have a team of eight lawyers who handle hundreds of cases on behalf of injured people across the nation, from California to Florida and New York to Texas. You can read more about our cases here.

Any current law school student in the U.S. may apply for the clerkship. Questions or comments? Shoot me an email at May the odds be ever in your favor.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Attorneys cheer as law school numbers dwindle

It's no secret that the myth of law school being an easy path to riches is largely just that -- a myth. An article in today's edition of The Courier-Journal provides the latest numbers behind the disturbing trend of declining applications at law schools nationally and in Kentucky. Here's a glimpse:

U of L
2011: 1,495
2012: 1,109
2013: 749
2014: 618
Decline: 59%
2011: 1,114
2012: 1,168
2013: 919
2014: 672
Decline: 39%
2011: 891
2012: 717
2013: 681
2014: 524
Decline: 41%

The number of applications is dropping, the article says, in large part because smart students realize that the job market for freshly minted lawyers is not strong enough to justify the mountain of student loan debt that often comes with a three-year Juris Doctor degree. Even at a school such as U of L Law, where tuition is far lower than private schools, it's not difficult to pick up a $60,000 or even $80,000 tab if you are borrowing for tuition and taking a cost-of-living stipend.

But what gets me about the C-J's very well-written article is not the application drop. It's the quotes from practicing lawyers who are cheering the bottom falling out in our industry. One criminal defense attorney said the trend is "great news," while another remarked that some local lawyers are "starving" for work.

It's true that we're enduring a market correction in the legal industry, and fewer applications to law schools may result in a better job market for new grads over the next few years. But if you ask me, the pallor mortis hanging over law schools is not a good thing in the long term. I agree with the following thoughts from Susan Duncan, U of L's law school dean:

While polls show most Americans distrust lawyers, Duncan says they will care about declining law school enrollment "if the quality of legal services declines" or if they can't get "an expert lawyer when they need one."
She also said that it is in the country's best interest to ensure that "the best and brightest" go to law school.
She cited a statement from the American Association of Law Schools on the value of a legal education that says "progress begins with the rule of law" and that it is "the foundation of our society."

Once upon a time, I had similar thoughts about journalism, an industry that has been rocked even more than the law in recent years. Before I bailed out of newspapers and went to law school, my job prospects often felt uncertain, but I never cheered for the industry to implode. For the same reason, I wouldn't steer anyone away from law school now. If you are smart, hard-working, and most importantly have a passion for justice and helping others, my advice is to ignore these negative comments of practicing attorneys. The law school route isn't easy. But if you are fully committed, when you reach the battlefield, there's a good chance they will be no match for you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Judge's orders: lawyers need vacations

Sitting in front of a federal judge at a recent hearing, I picked up a valuable grain of wisdom. Teams of lawyers on both sides were negotiating a schedule in a class action lawsuit. Someone mentioned that they might need another week to submit the final version of a document because someone in the office took a vacation. It was almost like an apology. Like the attorney dared to take a break from the hectic pace of the legal profession. But the judge didn't blink.

"I'm all in favor of lawyers taking vacations," he announced, and then quickly extended everyone's deadlines.

The judge was right. Lawyers do need breaks. Our work is stressful. If we do not achieve the desired result, a client may lose thousands or even millions of dollars. Or maybe they'll go to prison, or lose the right to see their kids on weekends. As I take on more responsibility as an associate attorney, tackling larger and more complex cases, I understand these high stakes. And I see the value of balancing long hours with a few breaks in between. It doesn't have to be a month-long junket to the other side of the planet.

Over the weekend, I had a fantastic getaway with a couple of guy friends on the Ohio River. We paddled kayaks for 30-plus miles, from Madison, Indiana, to the outskirts of Louisville, camped on a beautiful sand beach, and sipped bourbon as the waves lapped the shoreline. It was a page out of Huck Finn, with a dose of Walt Whitman and a few coal barges mixed in. The trip reminded me that the beauty of the outdoors is often just a few steps from my home here in Louisville. And now I'm back in the saddle early on a Monday morning, the first one in the office, ready to slay the dragon and fight for justice for my clients. But first, a few photos.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Louisville beats nation in latest lawyer jobs report

Graduates of the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law are snagging jobs in greater numbers than their peers at other schools, a new report shows.

The latest numbers from the ABA show that, out of 127 graduates in U of L's Class of 2013, a total of 104 students — 82 percent of them — had secured jobs where bar passage is required or it is an advantage to have a J.D. Only eight of those students were unemployed and still seeking a job. Both figures are pretty much unchanged from the previous year's data on Class of 2012 grads.

The local numbers are better than the nation as a whole. For example, a friend and fellow U of L grad who is now a reporter published this online story showing the following:

"Nationally, 11.2 percent of graduates from the class of 2013 were unemployed and seeking work as of Feb. 15, up from 10.6 percent in 2012. Only 57 percent of graduates were working in long-term, full-time positions where bar admission is required, which is an increase of almost a full percentage point over 2012.

The class of 2013 was the largest ever, according to the ABA, with 46,776 students earning degrees. About 4 percent of employed graduates were working in positions funded by law schools, most in short-term, part-time jobs."

I've written about law school employment issues many times before on this blog. You can slice the statistics any way you want, but the bottom line in my view is that students are better off at schools such as U of L where tuition is relatively low, and there is not a bevy of competing nearby law schools in the area (UK and IU are an hour's drive away, and NKU is closer to 90 minutes). It also goes without saying that you probably shouldn't go to any law school unless you have a solid game plan for what you are going to do with that expensive degree. Congrats to UofL grads who are entering the job market, and good luck!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ten Reasons I Love Louisville More Than Ever

It's tough to live somewhere ten years and call it short term. This dawned on me a few months back when I passed the decade mark as a Kentuckian. It's easily the longest amount of time I've lived anywhere — including Vermont, Indiana, Ohio and Oregon — since childhood. And while I've been restless from time to time, the truth is I love Louisville and Kentucky more with each passing year. Cue the drum-roll for my Top Ten List of reasons to dig the River City that have nothing to do with Derby. 

10. The Highlands. Just when I think I’ve checked out every restaurant, pub, and art gallery, something new pops up. I’ve lived in this funky neighborhood for all ten of my Louisville years, and it keeps getting better. My wife and I met friends over the weekend for drinks, and our theme was “places we’ve never been” that are close to our houses. We started at El Camino (see photo below), a hip new taqueria with a surfing vibe. We hit three other new places nearby, and probably could do the same thing again next weekend. Other great neighborhoods: Crescent Hill, Clifton, Germantown, NuLu.

9. Outdoor Rec. I’m an outdoor junkie, whether it’s biking, kayaking, running, or skiing. You might think, after ten years, that I’d have a good handle on all the local hidden gems for outdoor recreation. Not true. In just the last year, I’ve discovered half a dozen new whitewater kayaking surf holes (lower pool, McAlpine Lock and Dam), and a bunch of new cycling and running routes (tip of the hat to the new Big Four Bridge and the new sections of the Ohio River Greenway in Indiana).

8. A Terrific Job. The market for new lawyers is generally terrible, but that’s not the case in Louisville. Most of my colleagues from the Class of 2012 at U of L's Brandeis School of Law are gainfully employed in jobs that we love. I count myself in this group. I love my job as a trial lawyer at Jones Ward PLC, fighting for people who are injured by big corporations. It brings new challenges every day, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. 

7. Urban Living. One of my pet peeves is waiting in lines. Same goes for sitting in traffic. In Louisville, I get the benefits of living in a big city without the hassle of a terrible commute. My drive to work down East Broadway lasts about five minutes. The coffee in my to-go cup barely gets touched. 

6. Great Public Schools. JCPS gets a bad rap for long bus rides, and its Rube Goldberg student enrollment system. I  have no complaints. My kids attend a magnet school a mile from our house, where the test scores are among the best in the nation and kids call teachers by their first names. There are no hall passes, no dress code, and very few discipline problems. 

5. U of L. A few years ago the University of Louisville unveiled a giant billboard along Interstate 65, proclaiming the school as the best college sports town in America. Some people laughed. But not anymore. The school’s sports teams won so many titles in 2013 that national media dubbed it the “Year of the Cardinal.” I grew up in a pro sports town, but I’m now a full convert to the hysteria of March Madness, plus college soccer, football, and baseball. Bring on the ACC in 2015. 

4.  Progress, Progress. Kentucky might not be known for left-leaning ideals but Louisville a pretty progressive place. We’re pushing for more bike paths, creating arts districts, reinventing downtown, expanding parks, and preserving our heritage of great architecture, from the Victorians of Old Louisville to the cast-iron facades of Main Street.  Don’t get me wrong, the city could be more progressive. But it’s pretty good right now, and getting better all the time. 

3. Booming Business. The River City has always seemed like an easy place to launch a new venture. In my time here I’ve managed rental property, flipped houses, run a tree removal business, and started a law practice. My wife runs a bed and breakfast, and she recently launched herown self-run business as a clinical social worker. In all these endeavors, we’ve met people who provided us with advice, encouragement, and ideas. The city’s business vibe is friendly and supportive, about as far from cutthroat as you can get. 

2.  Family Friendly. For all the cool grown-up stuff to do here, the bigger draw for me is how easy it is to raise a family. The low cost of living allows us to have a house with plenty of room that’s close to almost everything we want to do. The kids’ basketball and soccer leagues are just a mile or two from home. Same with Cub Scouts, church, indoor soccer, Lakeside Swim Club and other family-friendly venues. 

1. A hometown for the wandering spirit. Louisville, and maybe to a larger extent Kentucky, has a Southern sense of hospitality and charm that is easy to take for granted until you spend time elsewhere. If you are a military brat, a gypsy, or just don’t like where you’re from, chances are Louisville will change your mind about the concept of home. This place, with its amazing people and independent funky spirit will make you want to settle in and stay awhile. And it’s home to bourbon, lots of bourbon. Come on.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Metal-on-Metal Hip Implant Litigation: My Corner of the Legal Universe

A friend recently asked me how I spend my time as a lawyer. She is an attorney in Florida, handling  real estate issues, wills and trusts. I know a little bit about those areas, but not much. Like a lot of attorneys, I know a little about a lot of areas, and a lot about a few tiny niche subjects.

In the last few weeks, for example, I helped a Spanish speaking lady find help with child support. I talked to a prospective client about a medical malpractice case, and discussed a debt collection issue with a friend whose property was damaged by a renter. I also spent time preparing for a trial in a car wreck case. But the vast majority of my energy was devoted to the finer points of litigating on behalf of patients with failed metal-on-metal prosthetic hip implants. If you're keeping track at home, that falls into the field of torts, in the area of product liability, in medical devices. It's a pretty small corner of the legal world, but many lawyers spend their time hanging out in these niche areas. Here's a blog post that I wrote about hip implant injuries, for our law firm, Jones Ward PLC.

"Metal-on-metal hip implants made by DePuy, Zimmer, Stryker and other companies can fail after just a few years, forcing the patient to undergo a painful and costly revision surgery. But that’s just the starting point in terms of injuries that some of these defective devices can cause unhappy customers. Here are some of the other problems that can result from a failed metal-on-metal total hip arthroplasty:
Dislocation after revision: after the metal hip is surgically removed, it’s not uncommon for the patient to experience a painful dislocation in the following months. This usually requires a return trip to the hospital, where the surgeon performs a closed reduction or open reduction operation to re-join the femoral components.
Foot drop: even the most skilled surgeons face a tough job repairing a joint with damage from metallosis. This condition is caused by elevated levels of cobalt and chromium, which can lead to osteolysis, purulent fluid, infection, tissue necrosis, ALVAL, pseudotumors, and other damage to the hip area. Revision surgery also carries a risk of damage to the sciatic nerve. If the nerve is stretched or cut during surgery, it can lead to a condition called drop foot, where the patient has trouble lifting the front part of the foot.
Re-revision: having a revision surgery to remove the failed prosthetic device carries a higher risk of future revision due to the compromised hip area.
Pulmonary embolism: dangerous blood clots can form during or after revision surgery. A clot in the legs, often called a deep vein thrombosis, can breaks free and travel to the lungs, causing blockage of the arteries. In some cases, this can be fatal.
Stroke and heart attack: unfortunately, revision surgery can lead to increased risk of stroke or heart attack, especially in a patient with a history of cardiac trouble.
The lawyers at Jones Ward PLC represent people with metal-on-metal hip implants across the nation. Here is a list of some of the defective hip devices that Jones Ward is litigating, along with typical dates of implantation.

Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG hip stem: Feb. 2009 to June 2012.
DePuy ASR: 2005 to 2010.
DePuy Pinnacle: 2003 to 2012.
Biomet M2A Magnum: 2004 to 2011
Biomet M2A Taper: 2003 forward

Smith & Nephew BHR and R3 liner: 2006 to 2012
Zimmer Durom: 2007 and 2010
Wright Conserve and ProFemur: 2003 to 2012.

If you or a loved one have been injured by a defective metal-on-metal hip implant, call Attorney Alex Davis for a free case evaluation, or send an email to"

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Advice from the top: what's your legal narrative?

One of our law firm's partners recently asked me an intriguing question: what is my narrative? As an English major and a former journalist, I can appreciate a good narrative. Tolstoy, Hemingway, Bukowski — those guys can sling a story. But my narrative? What the heck did that mean? Turns out, he wanted me to think about my future career trajectory as a lawyer. What is my focus? How do I find cases? Where do I want to be in five years? In ten years?

Thinking about one's career as a narrative isn't easy. I pondered it for a week or two. I'm still not finished pondering, but I did realize a few things about what I need to do in order to make it happen. Some of the building blocks in my narrative need to be stronger: more trial experience, deeper connections to the legal community, and a better understanding of the science behind the mass tort cases that are at the heart of my practice.

I also realized that my narrative is better than I thought. I just wasn't telling anyone about it. So, I grudgingly joined LinkedIn. I also revved up Google Plus. And I updated my online profile at our firm's Web site, which hadn't changed in a year. The new version is posted below. I'm sure it lacks a few things. But it gave me a better picture of where that narrative is heading. Got your own thoughts about your narrative? Plug them into the comments field at the bottom of this post.

Alex C. Davis

AssociateAlex Davis Photo
Tel: 502-882-6000
Fax: 502-587-2007
Marion E. Taylor Building
312 South Fourth Street, Sixth Floor
Louisville, Kentucky 40202

Alex has lived in Kentucky since 2003. A native of Akron, Ohio, he graduated Cum Laude from the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, where he was Notes Editor of the school's flagship law review.
As an associate at Jones Ward PLC, Alex helps clients to recover from devastating injuries caused by metal-on-metal hip implants manufactured by DePuy, Biomet, Stryker, Smith & Nephew, Zimmer and other companies. He is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, and represents clients across Kentucky and Indiana, and from Florida to New York to Washington, as well as Maine, Tennessee, Michigan, California, Illinois, and many other states.
Alex also assists clients with medical malpractice and personal injury cases, including auto and truck accidents, as well as wrongful death, nursing home negligence and insurance bad faith. As an avid motorcycle owner and bicyclist, Alex has a particular interest in representing injured cyclists.
In his class action practice, Alex represents plaintiffs in cases involving train derailments, student loan servicers, and banks that offer payday loan products. He also has been involved in the following Multi-District Litigation (MDL) cases:
  • DePuy Orthopaedics ASR Hip Implant Litigation MDL 2197
  • In re: Yasmin and Yaz (Drospirenone) Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation MDL No. 2100
  • In re: Chantix (Varenicline) Products Liability Litigation MDL 2092
  • In re: Prempro Products Liability Litigation MDL 1507.
  • In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon," MDL 2179.
  • In re: Higher One OneAccount Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, MDL 2407
Alex previously worked for more than a decade as a daily newspaper journalist in Ohio, Oregon, Indiana, and Kentucky. His work as a professional writer took him across the United States and Mexico, investigating stories about political corruption, natural disasters, immigration, and many other topics. He spent the last six years of his journalism career at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky.
While in law school, Alex received the top grade in Advanced Trial Practice, and founded a student chapter of the American Association for Justice. Alex also holds a bachelor's degree from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, where he was a four-year member of the men's varsity soccer team and received the school's scholar-athlete award.
Alex is active in the American Association for Justice, the Kentucky Justice Association, and the Louisville Bar Association. He is a professionally trained photographer and videographer, and speaks conversational Spanish. He volunteers his time with the following community organizations:
Alex lives in the Original Highlands neighborhood of Louisville with his wife and two sons. You can follow his personal blog at this link.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

For bar exam takers, the journey is just beginning

Hundreds of law students finished taking the Kentucky bar exam yesterday, ending a grueling ordeal that will be etched into their minds for the rest of their legal careers — if they end up passing. Results come out in October.

It seems like not too long ago that I checked the pass list myself, fingers trembling as I scanned through the numbers, then exhaling hard when I saw the good news. But as I thought about the bar exam yesterday, and the people I know who took it, a different thought crossed my mind. The bar was difficult, no doubt, but not nearly as difficult as the months that followed after I was sworn in as a new lawyer.

It's been a whirlwind year, filled with humility, frustration, lots of long hours, and some small victories too. I took and defended my first depositions, argued my first motions in Jefferson Circuit Court, and reached settlement agreements in a bunch of civil cases at the firm where I work. I also had the privilege of participating in a jury trial, launching several class action lawsuits, and giving advice to dozens of clients about their cases. For this week's bar exam takers, the end of studying has arrived, but the real work has not even started. If your experience is anything like mine, the road ahead will be tough but rewarding. Everything will be new. You will make mistakes. But you'll pick things up and move forward, and maybe somewhere around the six-month mark you'll start to feel like you have more answers than questions.

Specializing is a dirty word in our profession — ethics rules prohibit us from saying we "specialize" in a particular area — but it does help to have a niche. Mine is mass torts. I represent people who are injured by defective products, from metal hip implants to dangerous prescription medications. Most of these products are made by large corporations with boundless financial resources. Most of the clients are everyday people who have never filed a lawsuit, but who have suffered horrible and in some cases permanent injuries. It's a cause that is easy for me to be passionate about, and I'm grateful that I am in a tiny corner of the legal profession where I find meaning and purpose in most of the things I do. By the way, terrific book recommendation: All the Justice Money Can Buy, the story of legendary trial lawyer Mark Lanier and the fight about Vioxx and its maker, Merck. Incredibly, I am now actively working on  mass tort cases with both Lanier and many of the other plaintiffs' lawyers who appear in the book, although admittedly my spot on the totem pole is quite a bit lower
— reviewing discovery, drafting pleadings, corresponding with clients. Still, it's thrilling to be a part of something that has seemingly endless potential and room for future growth. Becoming a great lawyer doesn't happen overnight, but you have to start somewhere. Congrats to those who finished the bar exam this week. Your journey is just beginning.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Louisville tops list of most efficient law schools

The University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law scored the number one spot on a new list of the nation's most efficient law schools. Rutgers was second. George Mason was third.

The list was created by U.S. News, the publisher of a closely watched — and highly criticized — annual list that purports to rank the top law schools. Louisville was 68th in the most recent list of best schools, up sharply from previous years. For better or worse, many prospective law students place great weight on this list in deciding where to spend the next three years of their lives before picking up a J.D. Employers also depend on the rankings.

According to the magazine, the new "efficiency" rankings show "which law schools are able to produce the highest educational quality, as determined by their place in our Best Law Schools rankings, but spend relatively less money to achieve that quality."

To be sure, there are areas where this new list could be picked apart and scrutinized. For example, it would seem that schools such as Louisville, which are located in relatively low-cost cities, don't have to pay their professors as much money in salaries, which in turn would boost their efficiency. The nearby University of Kentucky was tenth on the efficiency list. Likewise, schools that receive less financial support from their parent institutions are forced to make do with less. But at the end of the day, it's hard to argue that the No. 1 showing is a bad thing for Brandeis.

During my time at U of L Law from 2009 to 2012, I can recall a lot of terrific professors and classes, and not a whole lot of ornate wood trim or fancy furniture. The place was pretty low key for a professional graduate school, but that never bothered me because I always felt I was getting a good return on my investment — and I continue to feel that way as a lawyer today.  Go Cardinals!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ten Reasons to Love the Louisville Cardinals

The Louisville Cardinals men's basketball team will get a chance this evening to win its first national championship since 1986. Remarkably, our women's team has a shot at the title as well. In honor of this double success story, and because it's going to be incredibly hard to focus on anything but basketball over the next 12 hours, here's yet another top ten list of reasons why every lawyer should support their hometown team. Some of these are specific to Louisville, but most can be applied anywhere.

10. The law requires a slavish devotion. If you want to be good, you have to put in the time. Rooting for your local sports team gives you something to do outside of work. Everyone needs a hobby.

9. Advocacy. Cheering for the local team gives you a new way to express your allegiance with a particular cause or client. Being an aggressive advocate is an important skill.

8. Kevin Ware.

7. Louisville is on a serious success streak. Football team wins Sugar Bowl. Soccer and baseball teams are tearing it up. And both basketball teams are playing for a national championship -- in a city that is already the nation's top television market for college basketball. Wow.

6. Louisville's law school recently made a giant jump in the US News rankings, landing at 68 in the most recent poll. The University of Kentucky, at 58, also posted a nice gain.

5. Speaking of Kentucky, U of L's rival and sometimes partner, being a passionate fan gives you something else to argue about beyond pre-trial motions and Medicare subrogation. Practice pointer: if you are a hater, i.e. you hate the other team so passionately that you can't celebrate their independent success, keep it to yourself. Bitterness won't win you any business.

4. Road trip! I had an amazing time watching Louisville beat Oregon in the Sweet Sixteen a week ago in Indianapolis. A bunch of friends are in Atlanta right now getting ready for tonight's game. Good excuse for a road trip.

3. Be a winner. Right now, to support Louisville is to associate yourself with a winner. While loyalty is important in any business, being a winner is especially important for attorneys.

2. Business. It makes business sense to show your support for the home team, whether it's Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana, Wichita State, etc. Aligning yourself with the local team is a networking tool, a conversation starter, even a branding tool for your law firm

1. Community. This is what it all boils down to. Being a supporter of the local college team shows you care about the community where you live, and the education of future generations of community leaders, including your children and the children of your clients and colleagues. When three fourths of your hometown's residents are going bonkers about the team, flying flags from their car windows and wearing red T-shirts to work instead of suits, why not join em? Go Cards! 

University of Louisville

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Six-month checkup: Rookie year couldn't be better

Earlier this week, a law student showed up at our office in downtown Louisville. She was interviewing for a job as a summer law clerk. I was asked to sit down and speak with her. Like most tasks in my first six months as a lawyer, I had about 15 seconds to prepare. But unlike some of the more nerve-wracking ordeals of my rookie year — motion hour, the first few depositions, mediation, trial prep — this one was a piece of cake. Shoot the breeze with a law student for half an hour? No problem. In fact, the experience gave me an excuse to take a short and wistful stroll down memory lane. Just a year ago, I was in a similar position, scratching my head over employment prospects in a dismal job market and wondering if I had made the right choice.

With all the negative press about law school — click here for my previous posts, or here for Exhibit B in the Huffington Post —I felt compelled to offer this student my unsolicited thoughts about why being a lawyer is so great. Even after just six months, I can't imagine not being a lawyer. Sure, it's stressful at times, and the hours are long, but the experiences I've had since last August have been among the most rewarding of my adult working life. I've sued a bunch of giant companies like this one and this one and this one on behalf of injured people who otherwise would not have recourse. I've had the privilege to learn from some fantastic lawyers and judges with decades of war stories and experience under their belts. I've learned about wide-ranging areas of the law — train derailments, banking, medical devices, worker's compensation, prescription drugs to name a few — and gotten a taste of how much more there is to learn.

Although some of it has been terrifying, I can't think of a more invigorating experience than going head to head with another smart attorney, with my client's interests on the line. I realize that not all law students are looking for that pressure. There is plenty of other legal work out there that can be rewarding. At the same time, I'm sure there are many law students and freshly minted lawyers out there who are kicking themselves about the huge level of law school debt, the terrible job market, and the stressful/disappointing/unrewarding nature of their newfound careers. Just don't count me among them.