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Overview

In a litigation practice, lawyers represent clients in a range of disputes, which can be either civil or criminal. Depending on the case, litigators will counsel clients through the pleadings stage, at trial, in alternative dispute resolution, or during internal investigations. Among the tasks that a litigator may perform are researching issues and writing memorandums; doing such discovery work as completing document review, drafting and responding to pleadings, engaging in meet and confers, and taking or defending depositions; preparing for and going to trial; conducting internal investigations; drafting and submitting amicus briefs on behalf of a client or organization, etc. Litigation is a broad career path that offers opportunities to work in a various areas, including—but not limited to—antitrust, appellate, bankruptcy, criminal law, environmental law, general commercial, insurance, housing, human rights, labor and employment, media, patents and intellectual property, product liability and mass torts, securities, white collar, and more. Those within large law firms will often practice general commercial litigation through which they advise companies on their litigation matters. At some law firms, litigators will operate as generalists, taking on a range of matters and not specializing in a specific subspecialty. Many litigators apply to become judicial law clerks to gain insight into the judicial process.

Featured Q&A's
Get an insider's view on working in Litigation from real lawyers in the practice area.
Yvette Ostolaza, Global Practice Leader
Sidley Austin LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

I lead complex internal investigations on behalf of companies, board committees, and individual directors and defend companies/directors in shareholder and securities class actions. I often litigate matters in U.S. state and federal trial and appellate courts, as well as a variety of arbitration venues. The critical aspect of my practice is treating my client’s issues like my own and really thinking about what a “win” is for them, truly from their perspective. This entails a thorough understanding of my client’s position and what I can do as their lawyer to provide them the most support. Sometimes a “win” is going through trial, and sometimes a “win” is another resolution. I always say it is like Goldilocks: What you’re paying me for is to get it just right—not too hot, not too cold.

What types of clients do you represent?

I represent highly sophisticated global clients across a variety of different industries that require advice and counsel related to complex and often cross-border legal issues. Most often, my clients are facing issues directly related to litigation or dispute resolution or are trying to take preemptive measures to avoid a dispute. Within these clients, I work with legal departments, C-Suite leaders, and board members. Among my clients are MGM Resorts International; Chuck E. Cheese Entertainment; Tuesday Morning Corporation; EnLink Midstream; Neiman-Marcus; MHR Holdings; Alix Partners; Airbus Helicopters; Michaels; HMS Holdings; JPMorgan; McAfee, Inc.; Special Committee of Southwest Airlines; SM Energy, Inc.; and VBH.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

I work on high-profile investigations and litigation matters for global companies. For example, I was recently retained by MGM Resorts, Inc. to represent the company in multi-jurisdiction litigation. I also represented Barclays Bank, Commerzbank, and Deutsche Bank in a multi-hundred million dollar fraud litigation brought by MGA Entertainment in California federal court with respect to MGA’s acquisition of a failed French toymaker, Smoby, SA; I obtained a motion to stay the proceedings on forum non conveniens grounds and in favor of pending proceedings in France. I also represented the Special Committee of the Board of Halliburton with respect to a shareholder demand and subsequent litigation in Texas state court relating to FCPA issues; I obtained a favorable, no-money settlement that was featured in The Wall Street Journal.

Additionally, a significant portion of my practice involves counseling boards, special committees, and directors on sensitive internal investigations, including with respect to whistleblower, accounting, and executive issues. For example, I advised a special committee of the Board of Restoration Hardware with respect to an internal investigation of a whistleblower’s allegations concerning the company’s former CEO. I also advised a special committee of the Board of Southwest Airlines Co. with respect to an independent investigation into various FAA issues.

I am also equally proud of my pro bono representation. I work with Disability Rights Texas, representing a putative class of intellectually disabled residents of nursing facilities in their quest to obtain access to community-based facilities and was awarded the 2013 Pro Bono Award by Disability Rights Texas.

How did you choose this practice area?

Before law school I read the book, Rage of Angels; it is the story of Jennifer Parker, a young prosecutor, that made me realize that women can be lawyers and litigators. After a criminal defense internship and experience as a summer associate handling commercial litigation, arbitrations, and employment law, I realized I had a passion for litigation and dispute resolution. For me, practicing litigation gives me the opportunity to provide assistance to my clients when they need it the most: when they have to make tough decisions to navigate a dispute or potential dispute. This aspect—assisting clients in their time of need—appealed to me early on and has been the cornerstone of my practice ever since.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

There is no typical day for me. In the firm, I really have two equally important roles: one as a leader in the firm’s management and the other as a practitioner and legal adviser to my clients. As a member of the firm’s Management Committee and global practice leader of the firm’s Litigation Global Group, I often have to make decisions that set the course for the firm and the litigation group. This may mean working with a colleague on an internal process or decision, providing another lawyer career assistance, or deciding how to allocate firm resources. As a practitioner, I have to work with my clients to address their legal issues, which can develop and evolve very quickly and are always unique. I love the lack of predictability and the fact that I really don’t have a “typical day” anymore.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

High-level legal knowledge has become the price of admission. The skill that most differentiates lawyers now is communication, understanding the client’s business, and client service. In high school, I worked in customer service at Sears, Roebuck. It was a tough job with long hours, but through those experiences, I learned the value of finding resolutions and seeing the issues from all sides. The ability to see an issue from the client’s perspective and make the client’s challenges my own is what has made me successful as a litigator and board advisor. I would recommend to any aspiring lawyer to be open to those types of experiences that bring you close to a client or customer and seek to learn how to gracefully find resolution, even in difficult circumstances.

What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?

I feel that it is a priority to get more diversity in the law firms. I have found, in advising clients, that it is extremely important to have a diversity of thought in considering different solutions or approaches.

What do you like best about your practice area?

Getting to really know my clients and helping them succeed is what I love about my job. I like to think of my clients as friends and want them to think of me as not just somebody who’s billing by the hour, but somebody who really cares about them and their businesses and will fiercely advocate for them and their business interests. The most satisfaction I get is when a client tells me that I have exceeded their expectations. Often clients have a preconceived notion of what a lawyer can do—I enjoy redefining that expectation and creating loyal, lifelong clients.

What is unique about this practice area at your firm?

I am passionate about mentoring, and I strongly believe that Sidley’s environment and culture of mentoring and developing young litigation talent is unique. As a member of the firm’s Management Committee and a litigation global practice leader, I see and support the investment and commitment Sidley makes to developing junior lawyers. This investment includes formal and informal mentoring, training, offering continuous and constructive feedback, and—most of all—really caring about the careers of our young litigators and making business decisions that prioritize the support of young talent. When a lawyer comes to Sidley and wants to be a part of the litigation practice area, Sidley always seeks to put that lawyer in the best position to succeed at the firm and in their career.

How do you see this practice area evolving in the future?

Information management and being an efficient user of artificial intelligence tools will be important for the future, as well as being a flexible and likeable lawyer that can prioritize and adapt to clients’ increasingly complicated and diverse business issues.

Yvette Ostolaza, Global Practice Leader—Litigation

Yvette Ostolaza is a member of Sidley’s Management and Executive Committees, the managing partner of the Dallas office, and global co-leader of the firmwide litigation practice. She has developed a national reputation as a versatile lawyer who excels in all aspects of complex disputes and investigations. Yvette litigates matters in U.S. state and federal trial and appellate courts on behalf of sophisticated, global clients. She coordinates and tries proceedings in a variety of arbitration venues and serves on both the Roster of Neutral Arbitrators for the AAA for commercial litigation matters and on the CPR Panel of Distinguished Neutrals as an arbitrator for the International Institute of Conflict Prevention & Resolution. Yvette also serves as the vice chair of the Ethics and Investigations Subcommittee of the ABA Corporate Governance Committee. Yvette’s range, experience, and results have earned her extensive recognition, most recently as one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators for Northern Texas and in the inaugural Benchmark Labor & Employment guide in 2018. She also received the prestigious Dallas ADL Schoenbrun Jurisprudence Award for her outstanding leadership and exemplary contributions to the community.

Yehudah L. Buchweitz, Partner
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Weil’s Complex Commercial Litigation practice marshals litigators around the U.S. and Europe who collectively possess comprehensive experience in successful high-stakes litigation on behalf of sophisticated clients around the world. Our priority is to assist our clients in obtaining the best results in litigation, managing risk and capitalizing on strategic opportunities. The practice consists of more than 130 attorneys in Boston; Dallas; Frankfurt; Houston; London; Miami; Munich; New York; Paris; Princeton; Silicon Valley; Warsaw; and Washington, DC. We have a reputation for defending, prosecuting, and coordinating some of the largest, most complex cases ever filed in courts, before arbitration panels, or in private mediations.

What types of clients do you represent?

We have a long record of successfully resolving these proceedings on behalf of clients across all industries. Likewise, our experience covers a broad range of substantive areas of law, including fraud, bankruptcy, media and entertainment, trade secrets and restrictive covenants, unfair and deceptive trade practices, RICO, insurance and reinsurance, breach of contract, consumer protection, product liability, and antitrust, among many others.

Some of the clients we have successfully represented include: C&S Wholesale Grocers, Showtime Networks, Univision, Illumina, Marsh & McLennan, Sanofi, Procter & Gamble, CBS, Credit Suisse, Discovery Communications, ESPN, ExxonMobil, Farmers Insurance, Nuance Communications, and Forbes Media.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

The types of client matters I have worked on cover a wide range of areas: multiple television programmers in disputes with cable operators concerning the implications of significant cable operator acquisitions and mergers; a pharmaceutical company in an antitrust case alleging market exclusion by a competitor; a major cable network in connection with numerous high-profile disputes regarding the broadcast of professional boxing matches; an energy company with a multibillion-dollar valuation trial; a major television broadcaster in its successful early dismissal from a multi-district litigation relating to professional football programming; global pharmaceutical companies in several contract disputes in multiple international and domestic arbitral fora arising out of drug or device development collaboration, licensing, and merger agreements; a publisher of e-books in cases alleging a conspiracy to fix prices; a sports radio station in a nationwide class action alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act; a radio broadcaster in connection with an arbitration regarding the creation of a national sports radio network; a multi-media rights organization in a contract dispute with a major state university; a private university in its successful withdrawal from a Division I athletic conference; and a portfolio company of a major private equity firm in a series of multi-jurisdictional bankruptcy and turnover litigations concerning ownership of shares of one of its minority shareholders.

Among the clients I have represented are CBS, Providence Equity Partners and some of its portfolio companies, Showtime Networks, Sanofi, Entercom, and Simon & Schuster. I have represented both plaintiffs and defendants.

How did you choose this practice area?

My area is general commercial litigation. It allows me to remain a generalist and to interface with many colleagues throughout the firm in order to bring the best solutions for our clients. I rarely repeat the same problem, so it keeps my work very interesting.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

There’s no typical day, and there are definitely no common tasks. First, I scan a variety of news and information channels to get up to speed on what’s new with my clients—the companies and my in-house colleagues who work there. If a new complaint has been filed or an appellate court has issued an opinion that affects their businesses, I assess and communicate with them to offer our assistance and counsel. Then I turn to new business, reading briefings and updates from my team so that I can revert to my clients to discuss next steps, whether it is resolving a brewing dispute via a business-oriented mechanism, finalizing a draft complaint, or writing letters to opposing counsel. Afterwards, I catch up on longer-term matters, typically including reviewing and revising briefing and pleadings, assessing deposition testimony, and discussing strategy with co- and in-house counsel. Oftentimes I’m on the road, attending court hearings and arguing motions, so a lot of this is done by phone. The entire time, I’m always thinking about what’s next—planning business meetings and lunches with clients, checking LinkedIn and using it to interface with colleagues, reading the trade publications, and generally staying in front of my contacts. There is a great deal of work under intense pressure—a work environment I thrive in.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

We don’t require that new lawyers have specific classes under their belts. With our excellent mentoring and coaching programs, you will learn what is needed on the job. However, we do need lawyers joining our practice to have a high degree of writing acumen. We look for people with good judgment who are willing to work hard and stay focused. We value attorneys with an entrepreneurial mindset who are not afraid to take risks, rather than particular courses or training.

What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?

The most challenging part of our practice is having to master many areas of the law and in fact become what I call a “multi-specialist.” You really must be able to represent clients, as either plaintiff or defendant, across any type of cases and jurisdictions and understand the risks and opportunities involved from a business and legal perspective. For me, the litigation practice has included prosecuting a major antitrust complaint for Sanofi; defending media companies in IP, antitrust, and contract disputes regarding everything from college athletes to text-message-based sports promotions; and handling a confirmation trial in a billion-dollar bankruptcy.

What do you like best about your practice area?

The flip side of the need to acquire specialist-level skills across many areas of the law is that my practice is extremely interesting and exciting because of the variety of matters I handle. I think that is what I like best about it. One moment I am representing a client in an antitrust MDL in Kansas federal court, while the next I am advising private equity clients on warding off legal claims before they enter the courtroom, and still the next I’m preparing state-by-state assessments of laws governing everything from the right of publicity to gambling. The variety is seemingly endless.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

First, there is a misconception that a commercial litigator’s job only starts when a dispute has come to the surface. In reality, much of my practice is advising my clients on potential rights and obligations if certain situations were to come to pass and then walking them through how to protect themselves and their businesses. In that sense, we are risk counselors and business advocates first and litigators second—not strictly confined to active disputes.

Yet the biggest misconception about commercial litigators is the idea that, once actively representing a client in a dispute in court, they are all about resolving disputes before trial—either through motion practice or settlements. We are here to achieve the right outcome for our clients’ business needs. If that means taking the case to trial, we are certainly ready to
do that and have shown that we are among the finest trial litigators in the world. If, on the other hand, negotiating to resolution is the better option for the overall needs of the business, we of course are extremely skillful at resolving disputes that way as well.

What is unique about this practice area at your firm?

One major way that Weil differentiates itself from other firms is through our trial resume. Drawing on the robust experience of leading trial lawyers across all of our practices and offices, we have the tools to take any matter to trial—and win. We always seek the most cost-effective, efficient, and judicious solution from a business standpoint for our clients—but our clients and our adversaries always know we are prepared to advocate in the courtroom. That knowledge impacts how adversaries assess risk along the way. Associates have the opportunity to play lead roles in the trial engagements at an early stage of their careers. Lawyers in our practice also have the opportunity to work a wide variety of engagements and become multi-specialists. As I have mentioned, my own areas of specialization range from pharma antitrust and media company IP to sports contract disputes and a multibillion-dollar bankruptcy. Finally, our breadth of clients is remarkable: We represent financial institutions, corporates and private equity, and more.

Weil has an excellent record in defending complex, multi-plaintiff actions, including proceedings before the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (MDL) and under various state multi-district litigation statutes, as well as class and collective actions in state and federal courts around the U.S. From multi-hundred-plaintiff MDLs regarding health care reimbursement rates and product defects to significant class actions asserting claims for treble damages under the antitrust laws and RICO statute, Weil’s commercial litigators have extensive experience litigating high-value claims, cases of first impression, and other significant issues in these contexts for clients across the industry spectrum.

In 2018, the New York Law Journal recognized the firm as Class Action Litigation Department of the Year, and Weil was one of 10 firms nationally that received an Honorable Mention in the General Litigation competition of The American Lawyer’s Litigation Department of the Year contest. Weil is currently ranked as one of the Top 12 firms in New York for General Commercial Litigation: The Elite by Chambers USA 2018. Weil is also a Legal 500 U.S. 2018 top-ranked Tier 1 firm for General Commercial Litigation.

Yehudah L. Buchweitz, Partner—Litigation

Yehudah Buchweitz is a partner in Weil’s Litigation department, where he focuses on a wide spectrum of complex commercial litigation and arbitration arising out of high-profile disputes regarding sports broadcasts, rights of publicity in amateur athletics, real estate development projects, and multibillion-dollar drug development joint ventures, among other things, for clients such as CBS, Showtime Networks, and Sanofi. In 2015, Mr. Buchweitz was recognized as one of just five “MVPs” nationwide for Media & Entertainment by Law360, and since 2015, he has been annually named a “recommended” lawyer nationwide by The Legal 500, including in the areas of general commercial disputes, antitrust, media & entertainment, and sports. In 2018, he was named a Life Sciences “Star” for non-IP litigation and enforcement by LMG Life Sciences and a “Future Star” by Benchmark Litigation, after being named to that publication’s “Under 40 Hot List” for three consecutive years.

Mr. Buchweitz also has an active pro bono practice, where he primarily focuses on representing religious organizations in protecting their constitutional rights against unlawful encroachment in municipalities across New York and New Jersey—including through a number of successful and high-profile federal civil rights litigations.

Hartley M. K. West, Attorney
Kobre & Kim LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

I focus on complex white collar criminal and asset forfeiture matters, and I specialize in cross-border representations. Due to Kobre & Kim’s conflict-free model, I am often brought in by referral law firms as special counsel and rarely handle repeat clients. I have handled cases involving alleged criminal antitrust, trade secret and economic espionage, securities and other types of fraud, and money laundering violations. I also handle internal investigations and play a role in the firm’s burgeoning whistleblower practice.

What types of clients do you represent?

I represent a wide variety of individuals and organizations from the technology, biotech, pharmaceutical, and financial industries—no surprise given that the San Francisco Bay Area is a technology, biotech/pharma, and fintech hub! These clients range from tiny startups to widely known corporate entities. Due to our firm’s focus on cross-border disputes and investigations, the majority of my clients come from North America and Asia.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

I have represented multiple Asia-based companies in cases alleging theft of trade secrets, as well as economic espionage, and am currently representing a Chinese technology company in challenging export enforcement actions taken by the U.S. government.

I have represented a Fortune 50 company in a DOJ antitrust investigation involving a joint venture in Asia and a major pharmaceutical company in another criminal antitrust investigation.

In the traditional financial fraud arena, I have represented U.S. and foreign companies and individuals who are alleged to have violated securities laws in matters before both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice. I have represented a trading firm in a criminal investigation of alleged “spoofing” violations, as well as cryptocurrency companies and affiliated individuals in connection with DOJ investigations and allegations of sale of unregistered securities.

How did you choose this practice area?

I fell in love with criminal law in law school. After a few years practicing criminal defense in private practice, I spent 15 years with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California investigating and prosecuting fraud, national security, and other white collar crimes. Many of the cases required coordination with other countries through Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties to obtain documentary evidence, interview witnesses, or extradite defendants. Now with Kobre & Kim, I have the opportunity to apply this experience to assist clients facing criminal investigation or prosecution.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

I typically wake up at 5:35 (because it is more palatable than 5:30) and check emails for anything urgent. Assuming there is no work emergency, I work out—usually a run or power yoga—between 6:00 and 7:00. I use runs to think through thorny legal issues and yoga to stop thinking and be present. Between 7:00 and 8:00, I help get my kids ready for school and out the door, sometimes while juggling emails or calls. By 8:15, I am typically responding to emails or reviewing briefs on the ferry. Once I am in the city, it is pretty much nonstop between meetings and calls until I head home. After helping my kids with homework and getting them fed and to bed, I get an undisturbed chunk of time to get through more emails and talk with clients and colleagues in my Asia matters.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Having the opportunity to be on both sides of the criminal bar is a terrific advantage, allowing an attorney visibility into likely strategies and challenges for one’s adversary. Plus you cannot beat the trial and writing experience. And legal writing, in my view, is an incredibly important skill that many attorneys should put more effort into perfecting.

What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?

The need to think creatively. As a prosecutor, you read the law, review the witness statements and documents, and decide whether to ask the grand jury to indict. As a defense attorney, you need to brainstorm innovative strategies and novel arguments.

What do you like best about your practice area?

I enjoy helping my clients navigate what are typically new and frightening circumstances to achieve the best result possible. For individuals and small companies, this is almost certainly the first time they have encountered the criminal justice system, and it can feel quite overwhelming. For larger companies who are more sophisticated in dealing with, for instance, grand jury subpoenas, the process may not feel scary, but it is still important and one that they take extremely seriously (for good reason).

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

Perhaps the biggest misconception is that criminal defense attorneys are unethical. The vast majority of criminal defense attorneys, in my experience on both sides of the aisle, are extremely committed to the rules of ethics, and our justice system truly requires zealous advocacy on both sides to make it work.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

At most firms, including my former firm, junior attorneys review documents and take notes at witness interviews, sometimes also taking the first crack at drafting important documents like deposition outlines, briefs, and investigation reports. At Kobre & Kim, we do not have junior associates. Instead, analysts—extremely smart college graduates from the top universities—have these opportunities under attorney supervision. And our clients benefit from the cost savings.

Hartley M. K. West, Attorney—Government Enforcement Defense, Investigations, & Monitorships

Hartley West is an accomplished trial lawyer with extensive experience in white collar criminal and asset forfeiture matters. She has handled cases and investigations involving alleged violations of antitrust, trade secret, securities fraud, tax fraud, health care fraud, money laundering, public corruption, national security, and export enforcement laws. These matters often involve a connection between Asia-Pacific and the U.S.

Before joining Kobre & Kim, Ms. West served as a prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California—most recently as deputy chief of its Economic Crimes and Securities Fraud Section. Earlier in her career, she clerked for the Honorable John T. Noonan, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Brian Stekloff, Founding Partner
Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

I am a trial lawyer, and that means I am always ready to jump into a case heading to trial at any stage. Our firm is a true trial boutique firm where we specialize in litigating cases at trial, rather than in any single practice area. I believe that great trial lawyers can learn about the facts and law associated with any case in any industry and figure out how to best advocate for their client before a jury. What stands out to me about trials is not necessarily the subject matter, but rather the experience of developing the core themes, identifying the key witnesses to communicate those core themes to the jury through the evidence or expert testimony, and ultimately trying to convince the jury and judge.

What types of clients do you represent?

I represent plaintiffs and defendants in a wide range of subject areas. The common theme among my clients is that they are headed to trial and looking for experienced trial counsel. In the past year alone, I have represented Bayer, the NCAA, and FedEx in cases involving different subject matters, including mass torts/products liability, antitrust, and the alleged illegal shipments of cigarettes into NY.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Cases that are likely headed to trial. This past year, I served as lead trial counsel on behalf of Bayer in a three-week jury trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas regarding allegations that the manufacturer of the blood thinner Xarelto failed to adequately warn of its risks. At the end of that trial, a 12-member jury returned a complete defense verdict. Because cases in products liability/mass tort actions often go to trial, it is an area where I have a great deal of experience, though it’s not my sole area of focus. The next case on my calendar is another product liability case: I am currently slated to lead the second trial on behalf of Monsanto regarding allegations that Roundup causes cancer in its users.

How did you choose this practice area?

At Georgetown, I participated in the Criminal Justice Clinic, which allowed me to represent defendants charged with misdemeanors in DC Superior Court. That work inspired me to become a public defender, following my clerkships and three years working as an associate at Latham & Watkins in Washington, DC. In 2006, I started serving as an Assistant Federal Public Defender for the Southern District of Florida. Over the next four years, I tried 22 felony jury trials and obtained 7 full acquittals for my clients—an acquittal rate far above the national rate of less than 5 percent in federal criminal trials. Those experiences confirmed that I wanted to try cases for a living, and I’m now lucky to do that for some of the biggest companies in the world.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

As lead trial counsel in several cases, my days typically involve making strategic decisions in cases with trial in mind. From day one, we work to develop our core themes and to figure out how best to introduce them before a jury. As trials approach, my focus is on refining the core themes and preparing for the numerous steps of trial, including working on key motions, preparing for opening argument and direct and cross-examination of witnesses, and working with our fact and expert witnesses in advance of their testimony. As a founding partner of our firm, I also have management responsibilities. For the past three years, I have served as the firm’s recruiting partner and have been responsible for the development and oversight of counsel and associates at the firm, including staffing and evaluations. On a daily basis, I help mentor the younger lawyers at Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz, who are being trained to be the next generation of elite trial lawyers.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

I recommend that younger attorneys who want to try cases take every opportunity to find stand-up time in court so that they can find their voice, practice their techniques, and make mistakes that they can learn from. I do not believe there’s any single path to take this step. For me, I was able to get on my feet in law school in the Criminal Justice Clinic at Georgetown. I also encourage attorneys to continue to seek out these experiences after law school, whether in the government (e.g., as a public defender or prosecutor) or at their firms. At law firms, taking this step may require working on smaller matters or doing more pro bono work. At the end of the day, it takes practice to become a trial lawyer, so younger attorneys should look for any opportunity to hone their skills.

What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?

The most challenging aspect of trial work is the travel. The diversity of our client base and the types of matters that we take on are such that trials are not likely to take place locally. The preparation for trials and trials themselves can take you away from home for long periods of time. I’d never give up trial practice, but it forces you to take advantage of those times when you are at home by carving out time throughout the year to spend with your family and friends—whether through vacations or otherwise. At Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz, we work hard and then aim to play hard by taking significant downtime following trial, but there’s no doubt the travel can be challenging. We’re lucky to have clients who acknowledge this challenge, including because they are also traveling and spending time away from home.

What is unique about this practice area at your firm?

At Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz, we bring large teams to our trials and give all of our attorneys substantial responsibility. We meet as a group regularly and do not “silo” any attorney into a specific, isolated aspect of a case or litigation. It’s this team approach and the depth of experience across our firm, from the most senior attorneys to the most junior ones, that’s led to our success in trying cases. In developing our core themes and in preparing opening statements, closing arguments, and witness examinations, I rely heavily on the remarkable skills of my colleagues at Wilkinson Walsh. Every one of our attorneys brings a fresh perspective to what will help persuade a jury or a judge at trial.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

We rely heavily on our junior lawyers to help us prepare for every aspect of trial. From day one of starting at our firm, our newest recruits can expect to join a team in the middle of a case headed toward trial. Junior lawyers draft key briefs, prepare witness examination outlines, help prepare key fact and expert witnesses, and work on nearly every aspect of trial from jury instructions to opening statements and closing arguments. At Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz, we are devoted to training the next generation of trial lawyers, and I take that responsibility seriously. We don’t view junior lawyers as attorneys who can only conduct research or draft legal memoranda; we want them to understand everything that goes into trying cases the moment they join us.

How is practicing litigation in a boutique different from practicing in a large law firm?

Having worked at three large law firms throughout my career, I can say that working at a boutique has many advantages. First, I know every attorney at the firm and can tell you on any given day what matters he or she is handling. That familiarity and closeness with one another not only creates a nicer working environment, it leads to better results for our clients. Second, as a partnership, we are able to be creative and quick in our decision-making. We have been able to add some remarkable attorneys from around the country to our firm because of that creativity, whether in our ability to overcome geographic constraints or in order to accommodate individuals’ needs for part-time flexibility. And finally, at Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz, we do not bill hours (yes, you read that correctly). Nearly all of our matters are billed on flat-fee schedules, which not only benefit our clients in many important ways—including certainty—but also our attorneys, who are not living their lives in six-minute increments. This type of fee structure and lack of billable-hour requirements would not be possible at a large firm.

Brian Stekloff, Founding Partner

Brian Stekloff is a founding partner of Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz. He is a dedicated trial lawyer who has successfully tried numerous civil and criminal cases before both state and federal juries across the country. Brian has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in a variety of practice areas, including products liability, sports, financial services, and health care. His client roster is made up of Fortune 500 companies, including Bayer, Eli Lilly, JP Morgan, the National Football League, and Pfizer. Brian clerked for the Honorable Catherine C. Blake and the Honorable J. Frederick Motz in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. He received his J.D., magna cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and graduated, with distinction, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Brian is also a member of the Board of Directors of DC Law Students in Court, an organization devoted to ensuring that low-income residents of the District of Columbia receive the highest quality legal representation and to training law students to be committed to public service.

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