Follow Along With Our Summer Clerks
Robert Barton: Mock Trial!It’s 7am on Monday morning, and as I walk towards my office I catch the crisp scent of freshly brewed coffee. In my office I begin to unpack and gather my materials for the day—a fresh legal pad, brand new highlighters, and my best pen. What ordinarily would have been a typical day in the office wasn’t. Today was my Super Bowl; it was my day to shine. It was mock trial day!
Now, it would be premature to begin a discussion of the mock trial without first discussing the preparation that went into it. The trial packet was released with a little over two weeks to prepare, and my coaches (Cristina and Chase!) got the ball moving quickly. They drafted a detailed practice and carved two hours out of their busy schedules each day to help prepare me for trial. Each day we focused on a different aspect of the trial process. For instance, Mondays were Direct Examinations, Tuesdays were Crosses, Wednesdays were both directs and crosses, Thursdays were openings/closings, and Fridays were left open for what we needed to improve upon the most. Practice was time consuming but extremely necessary, and brought together some of the brightest minds in the office to add more perspective. Of course, it would be laughable for me to think that a mere ‘thank you’ would suffice to adequately express my gratitude and how much I appreciate each and every one of my coaches, as well as all those who had a hand in helping to prepare me for the mock trial. But, for what it’s worth, thank you!
We had two trials on Monday. For the first trial, Patrick and I were Plaintiff’s counsel where we were arguing for a verdict but had zero evidence to prove the crucial element of causation (a fatal flaw in the real world, but that’s just how the case problem was written). Regardless, we presented an extremely persuasive Plaintiff’s case (based upon feedback we got from jurors), but due to the lack of causation evidence, we didn’t win (not surprised). Throughout the case, though, Defense argued exactly as expected, so we were never caught off guard, which meant that we were adequately prepared!
In the afternoon we swapped sides, and Patrick and I argued the defense case. During this trial I felt that my objections were tighter and I was far more relaxed. It could have been that this side of the case was the juicier side, so it was more exciting. That being said, when it came time to cross Plaintiff’s witnesses, we let them have it. It was great! The witness I crossed even came up to me after the trial and made a joke about how ruthless the cross was (sorry Sharon). After our crosses, the next big excitement came during closing arguments. This was what I had been waiting for all day. The evidence in this case was so overwhelmingly in our favor that closing was a breeze. The difficult part was keeping it within 10 minutes. Nevertheless, after TJ got up and did the plaintiff thing (pulled on the heart strings of the jurors) I presented them with the cold hard facts—there was no way to prove causation. Although we didn’t have jurors like the morning trial did, I’m certain that we would have prevailed!
When it was all said and done, the judges gave us some feedback and off we went to enjoy the mock trial happy hour. Just like that the mock trial was over, and the summer nearly concluded. During the happy hour they announced that, by the skin of their teeth, the Tampa office won the mock trial competition. I demanded a recount, but was quickly denied (just kidding Lindy!). Regardless, this entire experience has been amazing and I simply cannot thank everyone enough for dedicating so much time and effort into not only the mock trial, but to helping me grow as a summer associate throughout the entire summer!
TJ Harvey - Mock Trial!I’m in the final week of my summer. Everyone says it but it really amazes me how quickly the time has passed by. Week 9’s main focus was the mock trial. The mock trial actually consists of 2 separate trials where we represent the Defendant and then we represent the Plaintiff in the same case. When I first started here, I knew there would be a mock trial at the end, but I didn’t realize how serious it was until this past week.
So, with that in mind, my team (co-counsel Tyler Derr, coach Meredith Fee) spent a lot of time practicing and brainstorming ideas. One particular part of the case was a big challenge. I had an idea for my closing that I thought was important and might be overlooked. The first time I talked about it to Meredith and Tyler I was met with blank stares. I was obsessed with this idea and I wanted to make it work but it needed to be refined quite a bit before it was ready to be presented at closing arguments.
Each time we met, I presented it in a new way, focusing on a different bit of the facts. Finally, I was able to come up with a big example that made sense and distilled some fairly complex facts into what I thought was pretty compelling imagery. When I presented the new example (breaking an imaginary sheet of glass in front of the jury- that may not sound cool but, trust me, it was pretty cool) the team agreed that it was perfect. We finished up some preparation and headed over to Orlando for the trials.
The trial(s) went really well, except for that part where my mind processed the word “Sustained” as “Overruled” and I continued asking the same objectionable question three times before I realized what was happening- not my finest hour, but such is life. Fittingly, the last thing I presented to the jury was the Plaintiff’s closing that I spent so much time working on. All in all, it was great.
We were able to secure a defense verdict in the morning from our panel of high school student jurors. In the afternoon session, the “jury” was in and out so there was no official verdict. However, even though the Plaintiff case was weaker and I can’t be absolutely certain, I’d say that the evidence shows that it’s more likely than not that we would have received a positive verdict.
We followed the trials with a mixer where they announced the winner. The scores were close but I edged it out to win the competition, which was a relief since winning was almost a pre-requisite to returning to the Tampa office the next day! We spent some time talking with everyone in Orlando and thanking them for putting it all together before we headed back home.
The whole experience was great. The build-up is stressful and hard work, but the feeling you get when you put all that work on display at the actual trial is hard to describe. It is like preparing for a game, the pre-season training and practice is difficult and not always fun, but the game is where all that hard work pays off.
Also, the camaraderie you build in preparing for a trial is unlike anything else I’ve experienced. I was lucky to have this great team of people helping me. Meredith, Tyler, and I worked hard on the trial itself but everyone in the office gave up their time to help me. Whether it was printing documents and preparing binders, getting the technology and exhibits ready, or giving feedback on portions of the trial- the whole office was extremely supportive and helpful. And this was only for a pretend trial; I imagine the preparation for a real trial is even more impressive and I hope to be a part of it in the future.
I really enjoyed my time this summer. I can’t possibly name everyone but I truly appreciate all the people at RKC who helped make this summer so great!
Robert Barton: User ErrorThis week I had the pleasure of leading the attorney’s lunch for the firm. Usually, the attorney’s lunch includes two presentations, each given by a different attorney in the firm. The presenting attorneys are required to utilize a special program called Trial Director for their presentation. This is to help familiarize them with the program, which is an extremely effective trial aid. The first presentation is led by an associate who gives a 15 minute presentation on relevant cases that have been decided over the previous few weeks. This is necessary to keep the firm abreast of developing case law that might affect future cases. The second presentation is led by a partner who presents on a topic of interest relevant to the firm’s practice areas or to the general success of its attorneys. This second presentation usually lasts between 30-40 minutes.
My presentation was on Wednesday this week (as they all are), and before I was to begin, I was told that there would be no second presentation by a senior attorney. This meant that I was able to extend my presentation as needed. When I first heard the news, I thought great, now I can inject some of the information that I originally planned to omit in the interest of time. But, as I got started, I quickly realized that I should have just stuck to the script. I presented three cases that day, and as I attempted to inject more information into my first case, I found that my presentation became a bit disjointed. This was only exacerbated by some technical difficulties I was having with the presentation software (aka—user error). Now, I know I briefly touched upon it earlier, but take it from me, giving a case presentation with Trial Director is not as easy as it sounds. Don’t get me wrong, the program is extremely effective, but for a newbie, I found myself struggling at times to get it to do what I needed (again, user error). As a result, I became more concerned with manipulating the program than I was with clearly and effectively presenting my cases. Needless to say, this certainly could have been avoided with better preparation on my part. After the first case, though, things began to improve and I got into a bit of a rhythm, and Trial Director and I began getting along. Before I knew it, about 35 minutes had flown by, and the presentation was over.
Robert Barton: Oops, But It's All GoodThis week included a few notable firsts for me. First, I got the opportunity to draft my first Answer for attorney Patrick Delaney. Second, I attended my first deposition with Chase Hattaway. To begin, I thought drafting answers to complaints was a fairly rudimentary skill in the legal profession, which meant that it should not be too difficult. However, in application it is a lot more difficult than I imagined. As a summer associate, I realized (and Patrick was helpful in displaying for me) that there were a lot of things that I was not aware of, and had no way of knowing about without interacting directly with our client. For instance, some clients require things to be done in a certain way and require answers to be drafted in an almost template-like format. Similarly, sometimes, not having prior technical knowledge of a client’s goods (i.e. how things operate, their components etc.) will put you at a disadvantage when it comes to developing strong defenses for them. In short, becoming a subject matter expert in a particular field that relates to your client’s goods can greatly improve your ability to advocate for them. And, let’s just say Patrick is virtually an expert in this particular field and provided me with great insight on how to improve my answer drafting skills in general and as it relates to this particular subject matter.
Later in the week I attended a deposition with my mentor, Chase Hattaway. Chase was defending the deposition, which I thought was pretty exciting. When I arrived, Chase brought me up to speed regarding the subject matter of the deposition. When the deponent arrived, Chase and I briefly conferenced with him and then the deposition commenced. I treated this deposition as if it were my own, taking notes vigorously and annotating in the margins things that I thought were necessary to follow up on. Of course, I was just mimicking what Chase was doing. As the deposition continued, I did have one little hiccup. During questioning, opposing counsel mentioned military time, but accidentally miscalculated the equivalent standard time, which is easy to do seeing that military time is fairly confusing. But, being the sharp summer associate that I am, I couldn’t help myself, and I interjected to correct the record. Immediately after doing that, though, I realized that it was maybe, probably, definitely, certainly not allowed. After making the comment, opposing counsel seemed a bit confused, I apologized, and Chase kind of chuckled and quietly murmured “you can’t do that.” Opposing counsel was good about it, though, and throughout the remainder of the deposition, whenever military time presented itself opposing counsel would ask me to double check his math for him. All in all, it was a very interesting first deposition, and I certainly learned a lot (both from Chase and myself)!
TJ Harvey: Trial Packet Arrives!This was another fast week. I was able to go through that mountain of discovery paperwork and finalize the summary. I also finished up a few other assignments and actually returned the evaluations in a timely manner.
I was able to get out of the office to do a site visit with a client. This is a client with a large property and a high volume of visitors, so there are a handful of pending claims at any given time. We met with the client’s corporate representative in the morning and walked the entire property. He showed us where they have had issues in the past, what they did to mitigate the problems, and what they are planning to do in the future. It was really interesting to learn about how the client views the issues and the steps they take to balance the reality of lawsuits with the goal of providing a desirable product to customers. This firm has built a really solid relationship with the client and I could tell how appreciative the client was with RKC’s efforts.
We finally received our trial packet this week and I was excited to get into it. It was not a huge packet but it does present some interesting challenges. It isn’t a straightforward type of case. Instead, it has some technical and novel issues (chemical make-up of a new synthetic compound, how does hydraulic fracking work, dead cows and veterinarian reports, etc.). We have a pretty rigid trial schedule that allots only 10 minutes per each task so it will definitely be a challenge to craft a direct exam/open/close that gets all the required important technical (read: dry and boring) information in front of the jury in a way that is time-efficient and not yawn inducing. It should be busy for the next two weeks as we prepare for the trial.
TJ Harvey: Direct and Cross, Cross and DirectThis week was not as eventful as the last. I was able to finish up some lingering assignments that didn’t have specific due dates and get started on some others. I have a stack of papers almost a foot tall that casts an ominous shadow on my desk. I know I have to review the entire claims file and summarize it but I haven’t had a chance to get to it. So it just sits on the corner of the desk as a reminder of what is to come next week.
We did have our final workshop this week, which focused on direct and cross examinations. It was interesting and I think we both had a good time. I was given the choice of whether I wanted to be Plaintiff (do the direct) or Defendant (do the cross) and I thought I would be nice and take the direct since Robert had been the Plaintiff in other workshops. I regretted my graciousness almost immediately upon review of the deposition. I committed to a much longer exam. But in the end, direct examinations are pretty straightforward since the witness is the feature, not the lawyer.
Robert and I both took more time than we were supposed to so we both covered quite a bit of ground in our examinations. It was a good time and good practice for the mock trial, which we find out about next week!
Robert Barton: It's Pretty Busy Around HereI know it seems like I just keep saying this, but this week was the absolute busiest I’ve been since starting at the firm. My assignments now total a whopping 29 in just thirty days (six weeks)! The vast majority of which require a formal memorandum with in-depth analysis of relevant issues. Needless to say, this week was no different, except that on top of my work load, I juggled: (1) attending a motion hearing which had me out of the office for five hours, and (2) preparing for my cross examination workshop—consisting of synthesizing over 400 pages of information and drafting questions. This week was definitely a sink or swim week for me, but, spoiler alert, I made it!
Hearing with Steve Klein
On Thursday, I attended a hearing for a motion to dismiss with partner Steve Klein. Despite being held in the judge’s chambers, it was the most formal motion hearing I’ve attended yet. For instance, inconsistent with my prior experiences in chambers, each attorney stood when they addressed the judge. As I sat and observed, I took extensive notes on how Steve structured his arguments. First, he began with a general overview of the case for the judge and then proceeded to present the relevant facts. Next, he gave the judge his conclusion and request for relief, which he supported with case law for the judge. Finally, Steve countered opposing counsel’s arguments. Steve’s arguments were structured in a way that helped me (and I’m sure the judge as well) follow along and clearly identify his main points. This was a stark contrast, however, to opposing counsel’s structure. The hearing was extremely beneficial for me because it allowed me to appreciate the more formal aspects of hearings, and Steve provided me with some useful tools for the future.
My cross examination workshop was by far the most frustrating, yet not surprisingly so, the most rewarding. I truly felt like I got a taste of what it feels like to be a trial attorney. TJ and I were given the packet of materials on Monday after our direct/cross seminar, and the preparation began that night. The case materials consisted of a Plaintiff’s deposition, interrogatories, and pictures of the accident scene. After parsing through the information though, I struggled to pick out my main points for cross. I struggled with drafting questions to support a defense because I was unsure of the applicable legal defenses. I felt as though I needed more information, but, because this was a closed universe packet, I did not want to go outside the packet to gather more information. Regardless, I powered through some pretty long nights and, with the help of some coffee, I figured it out. There is something to be said about struggling with a project only to finally experience that eureka moment—there’s no better feeling! That being said, when the workshop came around, I felt I was able to pull out all the facts that supported my defenses. All in all, it was a busy but rewarding week, and I look forward to preparing for my final trial!
Robert Barton - Short But Productive Week
Week five was America’s week. Happy birthday America! That being said, this week was pretty short—Monday was a half day and Tuesday was a holiday. The rest of the week, however, was full of productivity. Within the three remaining days, I was able to get a huge chunk of my assignments completed. Although I still have plenty of work left, getting these assignments completed has helped to ease a bit of my stress in preparation for the upcoming week—our final workshop week. Also, I am getting more evaluation forms. I have been really pleased with the constructive feedback I have been getting and have found it to be extremely helpful as I move forward with other assignments. I look forward to a productive week six!
Although that’s all the excitement I have for with this short holiday week, check back with me next week to hear about our final workshop!
TJ Harvey - Practicing Depositions & Closing Arguments
We completed two workshops this week. The depositions workshop was interesting. It was a little awkward since my instructor and opposing counsel, Darryl Gavin, was on a video feed. He would object to my question and we would have to argue it out. It is difficult to get a handle on the pacing for an argument with someone on video 70 miles away. There were a few other things at play too: I didn’t know what I was doing; I wasn’t sure if he was pushing me as a test or if it was a legitimate position; and I showed up late for his seminar so I did not want to push back excessively.
Our goal was to ask questions that would support a motion for summary judgment and I think I missed the boat on that a bit. As I prepared for the deposition, I was thinking of it as though I was preparing a cross examination. I tried to ask questions to convince a jury that the witness was not believable. I got a little too deep in the weeds with my questions. A judge wouldn’t need any of that to make his ruling on my motion for summary judgment. All in all, it was a great experience and I can see why so many lawyers enjoy depositions.
The second workshop was for closing arguments. Robert came to Tampa and we presented our closing arguments in front of 7 people. This was, by far, the most nerve-racking workshop to date. Each person had a legal pad and a pen full of ink to jot notes down about our performance.
I practiced the evening before in my kitchen and my four-year-old daughter, looking for any reason not to sleep, came in and asked what I was doing. She is always interested in what I am up to at work or law school. She sits down and stares at me seriously while I read over my outlines for exams. She is mesmerized by the whole thing. This night was no exception. The facts of this case were not too exciting but she was so completely engrossed with what I was saying that I couldn’t stop her from asking questions from the juror box. She thought it was great.
Despite the solid response from the kitchen jury, I knew that it was a foregone conclusion that the panel of attorneys and co-workers in the conference room were not going to be nearly as impressed. After Robert and I finished up our arguments we sat down and braced ourselves for the critiques. And, I was right; they were not as impressed as the kitchen jury. We have to understand how a jury perceives us and, as much as I’d like to, I will never get to seat a jury as good as the one I had in my kitchen the night before. So, with that in mind, I prepared to take notes on their critiques.
Their feedback was insightful and gracious. Everyone let us know the things we did that they liked and the things we needed to work on. It was a positive experience. I felt like everyone in the room was working toward the same goal of helping us to be better lawyers so it felt very collaborative. After we finished up we all went out to lunch at the Columbia. I’m told this is a Rumberger tradition and we all had a great time!
Quick Tip: If you are feeling nervous and need some positive reinforcement before mock trial, practice in front of a four-year-old kid. They will probably think you are awesome! Note: the four-year-old kid is most likely wrong so schedule supplemental practice time accordingly.
Robert Barton- Closing Argument Workshop
It’s now four weeks in with the firm, and I’m beginning to feel the burn! This week was the busiest yet and, of course, with each passing week, my appreciation for time management continues to evolve. The most exciting (and nerve racking) part of this week was TJ and my closing argument workshop. This was our first chance to display our trial skills for the attorneys, and more excitingly, the case is actually set for trial. So, the attorneys taking it to trial used TJ and me to test the strengths and weaknesses of the case, which made the incentives even higher.
The workshop took place in the Tampa office on Thursday morning. On that morning, I met with the firm’s Director of Human Resources, Kaye Daugherty, and off we went. Upon arrival, because we had about 20 minutes until show time, Kaye showed me around the office and introduced me to all the attorneys and support staff. This helped ease my nerves for the closing argument I was scheduled to give in front of everyone twenty minutes later. After meeting everyone, the attorneys filled the conference room and we were ready to begin. I represented the plaintiff, and TJ represented the defense. When I began, I felt nervous, but was also confident given the preparation I had done. I jumped right into my theme—Trailer, Trauma, Trickery—and the rest was a blur before TJ stood and gave me a solid push back. As Plaintiff’s counsel, I was able to secure the last word in rebuttal, and just like that it was over! When it was all said and done, I think both TJ and I did a great job.
The best part of the workshop came afterwards though, when we were critiqued. I received a lot of great feedback, but I must admit, the best critique I got was the simplest one—smile. I was told that I appeared comfortable and confident behind the podium, but that my presence can be a bit intimidating and aggressive at times. I was told that smiling at the jury (at the appropriate time, i.e., when thanking them for their time and attention) is the easiest way of breaking down that intimidating persona. Although this critique stuck out to me, all the feedback was extremely helpful, and I’ll be sure to utilize it in the future when our final trial comes around. After the workshop, we all went out for lunch at the historic Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, where we shared laughs and great conversation.
Although this week was exceptionally challenging, I think TJ and I delivered two fairly persuasive closing arguments and, thanks to time management skills and a few late nights, I was able to meet all of my assignment deadlines. I think I’m starting to get the hang of this whole ‘researcher by day, trial prep’er by night’ kind of lifestyle. I’m looking forward to our final workshop—direct and cross examinations!
TJ Harvey - Different Clients Have Different Needs & 15-Minute Hearings Aren't Always Quick
It is hard to believe 3 weeks have already come and gone! There is always something to be working on and the days really do fly by. I was able to finish up some projects that helped me to see the very different ways that our clients expect us to spend our time.
For example, I spent a good portion of this week analyzing our client’s probability for winning a motion to dismiss on three different causes of action for a case that has not even been filed yet. I prepared a full memo to submit to the partner so he could review it with the client. This client was perfectly fine with the proactive preparation and expense even before there was a complaint filed against him. On the other hand, I have worked on client files that are much more restrictive and require approval before similar research projects begin. All clients have billing guidelines which must be followed. These may seem like small items in the grand scheme of things but are very important to keep in mind as I move forward.
I also helped to update a document outlining our litigation plan. This client, apparently, loves these detailed, single-space documents coming in at dozens of pages long and reads every bit of it. Others I am told will not look at anything more than a few pages long. As I was looking through the files to update the litigation plan I noticed a discrepancy in the vehicle records that could make a big difference going forward in terms of damages. It was a nice personal victory for me since I felt like I had really provided some value to the case.
I attended two different informal hearings (same judge, different cases). One was very informal since the opposing counsel had been disbarred and had not shown up or contacted anyone in a year or so. It was pretty amusing because the judge was trying to contact the Florida Bar attorney who handled opposing counsel’s case –so we could get good contact information for the missing opposing counsel - so we could get contact information for his former client – so we could tell the client that he doesn’t have an attorney anymore – so the client could hire another attorney to represent him regarding the five-figure sum he owes in fees and costs (and a potential malpractice claim against his former attorney)!
The other hearing was set for 1:30 pm, which was fine because the courthouse is 5 minutes away and I didn’t have my seminar until 3:30 in the conference room. Well, this 15 minute hearing started late and lasted much longer than 15 minutes. We went back into the judge’s chambers and I wasn’t about to be the one with the ringing cell phone, plus we know how helpful my phone has been this summer, so I turned my phone off completely. Sitting in chambers I realized it was taking longer than expected but it wasn’t until I turned my phone back on as we were walking out to see that it was 3:27. I popped on the email and sent a hurried note to everyone involved in the seminar and we headed back to the office. I got dropped off at the front door like the associate attorney was my Uber driver and I raced to the conference room with a pit in my stomach. I was the only one participating in the Tampa office so there was no way to sneak in quietly. I walked in at 3:42 to see 5 people in Orlando looking at me on the screen. That pit in my stomach suddenly got a little bit deeper and that personal victory from the day before was a distant memory. I was fully expecting a (completely justified) little talk about the importance of time management but Darryl Gavin, the partner presenting the Seminar, simply said “These things happen. I understand” and went on to teaching us about Depositions. At the end I apologized again and assured everyone that I would be on time for the corresponding workshop.
My practical takeaway for the week: A short “15 minute hearing” is not .
Robert Barton - Collaboration, Flexibility & Lessons in Federal Court
This week was quite busy, but in a more unique, collaborative way. On Monday, I was tasked with assisting a few partners and associates in the firm (the “Team”) with updating a PowerPoint slideshow regarding several areas of insurance law. Later that week, on Wednesday, the Team was scheduled to give a presentation to a large group of insurance adjusters. Needless to say, this task meant many long hours of research to ensure that the adjusters were getting the most accurate and relevant legal instruction. When the research was finished, I was tasked with drafting and updating the relevant slides in the PowerPoint presentation with the new and updated information. One attorney was in charge of presenting each section of the slideshow. Since I was not the one giving the presentation myself, this meant lots of collaboration with the assigned attorneys! I had to coordinate to ensure that my slides made sense and that they approved of the updated material. Although there was lots of collaboration, I took notice how much flexibility I was given in drafting and updating the slides based on my research. This was particularly exciting for me because I felt as though the Team trusted my research skills and work product! In the end, it was all worth it because the presentation went off without a hitch! The Team performed great, and judging from the adjusters’ reactions and participation, they appreciated the presentation.
My week concluded with an amazing networking event called Morning at the Federal Courthouse. The morning began with a large breakfast where I was able to meet and converse with some fellow summer associates, as well as young lawyers practicing in Orlando. Breakfast was followed by a presentation from the Honorable Karla Spaulding on the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ of federal practice. The presentation gave us insight into some of the court’s personal preferences (preferences we would not have known unless we had practiced before these judges) as well as local rules and procedures. After the presentation, there was a panel discussion which provided us with information about federal practice and opportunities for clerkships. Finally, the morning concluded with the observation of a habeas corpus proceeding, which exposed the differences in formalities between state and federal practice. All in all, it was another great jam-packed week, and I look forward to several workshops next week!
TJ Harvey - A Winning Week
Week two was quite different than the previous week. I am starting to get settled in and the initial overload of administrative information has dissipated. I am now focused on the nuts and bolts of my responsibilities here for the summer.
I finished up some of my assignments and started on some others. I really enjoy the variety of tasks I encounter. Although there is research to be done, I am not digging through Westlaw and writing memos all day. My last research assignments have concluded with me giving my opinion on the likelihood of “X” or “Y” happening. It is nice to offer some subjective analysis of our particular case and how it may be impacted by the objective legal analysis. Obviously both are important, but it feels as though you are making more of a contribution when you get to apply the law rather than just outline it.
I ended up working on so many different cases and issues that I have a hard time recalling the specifics of what I worked on just days earlier! I think that is a testament to the efforts of the firm in exposing me to very diverse cases and experiences. Of course, it could also speak to the overload that my memory is experiencing- but I choose to put more weight on the former reason rather than the latter.
As far as live litigation experiences go, I attended a hearing in chambers for an asbestos case. These cases, apparently, attract an audience of interested defense attorneys (we went simply to observe and take notes) as there were six or more onlookers stuffed around the outskirts of the room. There were two defense attorneys who argued their motions against a lone plaintiff attorney. The plaintiff attorney made good arguments but he went off the rails when he suddenly quipped to the judge that he “appears to have already made his decision.” The judge assured plaintiff’s counsel that he wanted to hear all the arguments.
As an onlooker, it appeared to me that the judge was just reviewing the submitted filings but the plaintiff’s attorney saw something else. Inexplicably, a short time later, the same attorney said: “I can tell you already have made up your mind about this.” Unsurprisingly, the judge was not pleased and told the attorney that he would be very sure when his mind was made up because he would be walking out of the room (among other things delivered with heightened vigor). I saw firsthand how a mistake can mess up a good thing.
Robert and I also participated in the Motions workshop taught by Dan Gerber. In my previous mock trial experience, I felt confident about my motions arguments; I was nervous but still confident. I had practiced over and over standing up and delivering my arguments in person.
For this workshop I was arguing this motion while sitting at a table via teleconference. I did not anticipate how strange that would be. - Do I look at the camera? Do I look at the monitor? Is he about to ask me a question or just adjusting in the chair? – It was a different experience and it took a moment for me to shake that awkward feeling and get into my argument. As is the case for most things, you just have to jump in and get over the initial uneasiness to start building confidence and comfort. With that in mind, I feel like I did much better on the second round of arguments.
After our discussion, Robert asked the question we were both thinking. “Who won?”
Dan, with a confident lawyerly delivery, quickly responded “you both did.”
I’ll take it. And in truth, I think he was right. I feel like Robert and I both did better when responding as Plaintiff’s counsel and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was the calm of having already seen what your opponent has to say; maybe that side of the argument was an easier case to make, or both. Either way, having the opportunity to refine my advocacy skills (as unrefined as they may be) with the help of a seasoned trial attorney is a tremendous opportunity that I truly appreciate.
Robert Barton - Don't Be Fooled By Informal Hearings
Things are picking up around here. Week two was a bit more diverse and full of assignments. In total, the assignment count is now up to sixteen! But, as opposed to week one, where I spent the majority of my time working on assignments, this week I was able to get out of the office and attend several motion hearings.
My first hearing was with my mentor, Chase, down in Osceola County regarding a motion to strike a certain paragraph from the Plaintiff’s complaint. The hearing itself was very informal, which was interesting to me. In law school, every mock hearing that I performed was very formal and included me standing behind a podium during argument. This one, however, was in the judge’s conference room, sitting down, with Plaintiff’s counsel calling in remotely. The whole atmosphere was very casual and collegial. I paid attention to Chase’s style and argumentation. He was very clear, organized, and articulate, and when offered the chance, used case law to his ultimate benefit. Sitting down arguing did not seem to bother him at all.
My next hearing was with another associate, Cristina Cambo, here in Orange County. This hearing related to a motion for entry of final judgment. Again, the hearing was very casual and collegial; we were sitting down in the judge’s conference room with Plaintiff’s attorney calling in remotely. Cristina did a great job, but I was nonetheless kind of puzzled why we were even there. When Christina got started, Plaintiff’s attorney did not oppose the motion, but instead wanted to ensure that his client was still entitled to certain benefits under the contract that was being disputed. It seemed to me that Plaintiff’s attorney could have resolved this issue with an email or a phone call. In any event, it was still interesting to experience another fairly casual hearing. It was also pretty cool that both Chase and Christina won their hearings!
Workshop #1 – Motion Practice
Fittingly, after attending two motion hearings, my second week ended with TJ and I arguing a motion to compel arbitration. We both got the opportunity to argue for Plaintiff and Defense. Although I had argued formal mock motions in the past through my law school trial advocacy class, this motion hearing replicated the same type of informality that I had just witnessed at Chase and Christina’s hearings. I am here to tell you, however, that although on the surface the informality of Chase and Christina’s hearings seemed less taxing and more relaxed, when I was faced with the same situation, I found it interestingly challenging. Turns out, arguing sitting down is not as easy as it seems. Regardless, as my mentor told me, it gets easier the more you do it. All in all, I got some great feedback from our judge, partner Dan Gerber. Of course, as with everything, there is always room to improve, and I look forward to another interesting week!
TJ Harvey - Competition and RedemptionIt has been a busy week! I started week one with a day of training at the Orlando office. I left early from Tampa to avoid the almost certain I4 traffic but, mercifully, there was none. I always welcome a smooth commute but this time it put me at the office around 7 a.m. (90 minutes ahead of schedule). I walked into the office and was warmly greeted by several early risers. I milled about in the lobby for another hour or so until Robert arrived at a much more appropriate time. We met a handful of friendly faces and then went to a breakfast where the introductions continued. It was a bit of a whirlwind but it was a very nice and welcoming reception. Robert and I then participated in an awkward photo shoot for the website. Modeling comes naturally to some people; I am not one of them. Robert, on the other hand, seems to have some formal training because his “blue steel” was undeniable!
We completed some training in the morning and were treated to a lunch with Chase Hattaway and Brett Carey. It was a nice reprieve from the boardroom and we were able to ask questions and get a feel for what was to come over the next 10 weeks. More training followed lunch until we left for the bowling alley in the evening. As I left to head home to Tampa I thought about how I was unimpressed with my score (93, really?) compared to how impressed I was with the hospitality of the firm and the honest dialogue I shared with the attorneys.
The next day I was at the Tampa office. My refusal to upgrade my phone burned me again as I had to spend some time trying to force an ancient phone into a modern email system. We got it all sorted out and I met everyone in the Tampa office. The rest of the week flew by. I was given several assignments - 9, but who is counting? We had some surprises that caused due dates to be moved up and I was able to help with those issues. I was concerned that I might have a hard time keeping on top of my work assignments and the Summer Associate Program events but it has gone extremely well thus far. I am looking forward to the Seminars and Workshops of the Summer Associate program. After attending one seminar I can tell that it is going to be extremely beneficial to get the guidance and feedback from partners as I attempt to learn how to argue motions, take depositions, and make closing statements.
On Thursday night we watched the Rays beat the White Sox and I redeemed my bowling performance when Josh Gehres and I went undefeated in cornhole. I have really enjoyed the camaraderie of the office and am excited to see what comes in the next 9 weeks.
Robert Barton - From Basic Training to Discussing Case StrategyWell, week one has come and gone, but not before exposing me to several different areas of law and providing me with great insight on how this summer is going to go.
Day one began with a very hearty summer-associate breakfast where the firm welcomed all the new summer associates. The other summer associate, TJ, and I laughed a bit about the two of us being at the center of attention. Once things got started, though, it was nice to catch up with the members of the firm that I had met with during the interviewing process. After breakfast, we began our long day of seminar instruction which introduced us to a wide variety of topics that were relevant to how the firm operates. When lunch came around, my mentors, Chase Hattaway and Brett Carey took us to a nice local spot where we enjoyed some great food and good candid conversation. After lunch, we got right back to training. Finally, at around 5:00pm we finished with training and made our way to the after-party! Some members of the firm and the new summer associates broke to enjoy some food and drinks at a nearby bowling alley. After a long and somewhat overwhelming first day of classes, it was nice to unwind a bit with some of the firm’s associates and partners.
After day one, the rest of the week was a blur! All in all, I was issued eight assignments by the end of the week. They ranged from the quintessential research assignments requiring memorandums to the somewhat more complex drafting assignments. One of the things I thought would be difficult for me was managing so many assignments and conveying realistic due dates with the assigning attorneys. That concern, however, was quickly dispelled. The attorneys I’ve dealt with thus far have been extremely realistic and helpful. Because of that, I found myself managing due dates with ease. Also, the assigning attorneys have done an exceptional job describing exactly what it is they need me to research, which has helped me to be more efficient in my research.
One of the things I noticed after only one week with the firm was their willingness to collaborate with me. For example, the firm is well known for its exceptional litigation skills. In preparation for litigation, however, collaborating with partners and fellow associates, in anticipation for trial, can help the trial team to formulate a trial strategy and develop theories and ideas for successfully litigating their upcoming case. Feeling like a member of the team is crucial to me, and this week I experienced just a little taste of that when, during a phone conference, a partner at the firm, Charlie Mitchell, and I used my research to bounce ideas off each other to develop a strategy on how to proceed on a particular case. It was nerve-racking and exciting! I know it was just a taste, but I hope to see more of it as the summer progresses!
Welcome 2017 Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell Summer Associates!
We are so pleased to have you working with us for the next ten weeks. Our goal is to expose you to virtually every aspect of being a trial attorney. Our program is designed so that you will be attending presentations that will cover everything from handling written discovery, preparing and taking expert testimony to opening and closing statements. You will then participate in practical workshops and apply the knowledge you just gained. All the while, you will be handling billable client work and getting to know your RKC colleagues.
Then the most exciting part of the program takes place – the Mock Trial. You will be placed into teams and given a case packet that contains the fact pattern, exhibits, deposition transcripts and more. Each team will prepare its case under the guidance of RKC attorney coaches, and then you will present to a panel of judges comprised of RKC partners. Each team will participate in two trials, once as plaintiff counsel and the second as defense. You will be applying everything you learned in the workshops. Be prepared to give opening and closing statements, argue motions in limine and question witnesses.
So get ready for a whole lot of experience in a ten week period. We hope you have a remarkable summer with RKC!