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.