Follow Along With Our Summer Clerks
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!
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!