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Managing a High-Volume Practice: Tips for Young Attorneys

By Melisa A. San Martin

By implementing basic but essential strategies into your everyday practice, you can effectively and efficiently progressed toward managing a high-volume caseload.


Mentoring: The Rules of Engagement

By Patricia K. Gillette and Katherine M. Larkin-Wong

The authors, who were matched in a mentoring program, offer their "rules of engagement" for forming a successful mentoring relationship.


"Preservation" in the Constant Litigation Environment

By Meaghan G. Boyd

In essence, the duty to preserve evidence turns on case-specific, fact-intensive inquiries of "when" and "what."


Resources

Brush up on the basics and advance your knowledge with the Young Lawyers' Division 101 and 201 Practice Series on environmental law. The practice series is a free online resource for new lawyers covering basic training in both substantive and practical aspects of law practice. Available topics include "Electricity Regulation 101—Basics for New Lawyer," "An Introduction to Water Law," "Understanding the Basics of CERCLA," and many others.


Ask a Mentor

 

Experienced attorneys in the Environmental Litigation Committee will be responding to questions with their thoughts and advice for younger practitioners or those just starting out in the environmental field. If you have any questions that you would like answered here, please email Lauren Godshall and we will send your questions to leading members of the committee.


 

June 18, 2013


In this edition of  Ask a Mentor, we have some advice from committee member Mark M. Myers. Mr. Myers is a member of Williams Kastner in the Seattle office. His practice emphasizes environmental remedial actions and sediment cleanups, environmental-contribution litigation, and toxic-tort litigation. He also has substantial experience in product liability and landslide/geologic movement litigation. Mr. Myers has represented clients in federal and state courts throughout the state of Washington. He was named by Seattle magazine as one of Seattle’s "Top Lawyers" in environmental law, 2003. He has also been recognized by the Seattle Met magazine as a “Top Lawyer” in environmental law for 2010, a designation based upon Martindale-Hubbell's ranking of those practitioners in King County who have been judged by their peers to be “AV Preeminent”—the highest peer-review rating available.


What do you think is the best way to build business as a junior, mid-level, and senior environmental-law associate?

Get known in the business and real-estate community. Join an industry group that includes other environmental professionals—consultants, scientists, etc. Clients typically hire lawyers they know and like. Get known by the people who hire or refer business.


Do you have any tips for young lawyers struggling to balance career and personal life?

Get to work early and get your work done. If you come in at 8:00 or 8:30 (or heaven forbid, later), you cannot make up for lost time during the work day. Be productive and get work to clients and colleagues before they arrive at their respective offices.


 

September 14, 2011


In this edition of Ask a Mentor, Kevin J. Bruno will be answering questions posed by young lawyers from the ELC. Kevin is a partner at Blank Rome, LLP in New York City, and has 25 years of experience in complex commercial litigation, concentrating his practice in environmental, mass tort, products, and insurance recovery litigation.  Kevin is a former chair of the ELC and now serves a member of the  Section of Litigation’s Advance Planning Leadership Committee. Since 2009 he has served as the Section’s liaison to the ABA’s Standing Committee on Environmental Law. These appointments are in recognition of his earned reputation as one of the nation’s leading environmental litigation attorneys. 


What do you think is the best way to build business as a junior, mid-level, and senior environmental law associate?

First and foremost, don’t make marketing more complicated than it needs to be; otherwise, you’ll never get started on the right path. We’ve all heard this before and it’s true—business development is all about building relationships. That typically means, especially for junior attorneys, that you’re in for long term projects, starting with the people who already know and trust you. I say this to our associates all the time—keep and strengthen the relationships you developed with friends from school and your colleagues at work because they eventually will be in the position to hire or recommend counsel. When they do, you want them to be thinking about you. To state the obvious—people will look for help from those they know and trust. You need to make sure that you’re in that group. As for getting started, email certainly makes staying in touch a much easier thing to do than it used to be, but don’t get too reliant on it. Pick up the phone and call your contacts. Better yet, have lunch or dinner with them to catch up and discuss what they’re doing, and maybe how you can help. Keep it real and always be supportive. Beyond that, and in particular for mid-level and senior associates, try to develop a niche for yourself, a specialty that you can focus on in your discussions with those who might be sources of business, whether they be in-house counsel, business people, or other referral sources. Even in the environmental field, as specialized an area as that may be, you want to be mindful of, and looking for, experiences that set you apart and make you more “memorable.” This “specialty” is not necessarily limited to case experiences; it can take the form of an expertise you’ve developed in a specific industry group or with a particular environmental issue. Look for ways in which these case and matter experiences set you apart, and develop “talking points” that you can use to discuss those experiences in a casual, positive way.


Do you have any tips for young lawyers struggling to balance their careers and their personal life?

My initial reaction to the question is that it probably depends on the track young lawyers are looking to take in their careers. If the partner track is not what they are looking for, most firms have become more flexible in offering their attorneys alternatives to the typical billable hour and firm commitment hour regiment. Assuming that is not the preferred option, and it isn’t for most, my first tip is that achieving the right balance first and foremost requires an organized and well planned approach to your work day. How young lawyers get there is going to depend on how they’ve learned to manage their time in other stressful situations, but the sooner they start to develop that skill set the better they will be at finding the balance we all want. I’ve seen too many young lawyers immerse themselves in work and not recognize that it is just as important for them to set aside time for their personal life. The end result is not good, for them or their firm.  Second, I encourage young lawyers to reach out to and learn from other attorneys at their firm who seem to have that right balance. Experience will teach, and most of us as more senior attorneys have not only learned how best to keep a balanced life but also are very mindful of the importance of this issue to the growth and well-being of our junior and mid-level associates. Just as we teach our young lawyers to manage their case load through advanced planning and effective communication with their supervisors, most of us are well prepared to do the same for others when it comes to life-balance issues.


What is your biggest frustration with young lawyers, and how do you think this frustration can be avoided?

It’s hard to truly get frustrated with young lawyers, given the learning curve they’re going through in managing their case load and all that comes with getting to understand and cope with the demands of a new career. But the one thing that will always frustrate me is when a young lawyer gives me a product they know is not their best. Often times, this can be a young lawyer’s reactive approach to managing a busy work schedule. The idea seems to be that it is best to just get the document off of the young lawyer’s desk and in the hands of someone they know is going to edit it anyway. It is a terrible approach though and robs the young lawyer of the opportunity to learn as much as they can from that project. Most partners will tell you that it is fairly easy to see when this is happening. When it happens, I will give the document back to the young lawyer and ask them to work on it until they believe it is in good enough shape for us to file in court or send to the client. I will always get a much better product the second time around, and that’s the frustration—I should have seen that quality the first time.


What has been the most fulfilling case or deal that you have worked on?

If it’s okay with you, I’ll substitute “most fulfilling” case with “most interesting and challenging” case. Years ago, we defended the United States Radium Corporation in an environmental property damage lawsuit stemming from radioactive contamination caused by its former radium processing plant. The plant had operated from 1918 to 1926 and was literally a stone’s throw away from Thomas Edison’s original plant in Orange, New Jersey. Believe it or not, we actually had two former employees of the plant testify at the trial, one 94 years old and the other 92. The state of the practice issues, and the abnormally dangerous issues we had to address under the Restatement’s strict liability analysis, were challenging to the extreme, especially in trying to educate the jury, and the judge, to the historical knowledge and health effects of exposure to radiation. We won a defense verdict following an eight-week jury trial, but the case ultimately ended with the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling against us in T&E Industries Inc. v. Safety Light Corp., regarded as one of the seminal environmental decisions in the United States.


What can membership in the ABA—and the Environmental Litigation Committee specifically—do for younger or newer lawyers?

I can only speak to my own experience, obviously, but the relationships and contacts that I have developed through my ABA membership, and in particular my work within the Environmental Litigation Committee, have been extraordinary. I started my involvement with the ABA in January 1996 when I had the chance to speak on a panel moderated by John Barkett at the committee’s annual CLE conference in January. The panel included our committee’s cochair, Doug Arnold, which was the first time Doug and I had met. I have never missed that conference since then, 16 years and running, and years later Doug and I had the chance to serve together as cochairs of the committee. Through that time, I have developed friendships that will last the rest of my career. Yes, I’ve generated some business through my membership, but I would not highlight that as a necessary end. If it happens, it happens. Otherwise, the relationships, the networking opportunities, and the client appreciation for your participation in such professional activities is absolutely worth the membership. There is no reason at all why others cannot have the same experience and the same rewards. The only thing I can say in that regard is that if a young lawyer is going to join the ABA and, hopefully, the Environmental Litigation Committee, they need to truly get involved. As for how to do that, become a subcommittee chair, write an article for the website or the committee’s award-winning newsletter, and/or volunteer to be involved in a regional workshop or the committee’s annual CLE event. At the very least, get active with the committee’s Young Lawyers Subcommittee; they are a great group and opportunities for additional involvement are sure to come along. 


 

May 27, 2011


In this edition of Ask a Mentor, Ted Warpinski will be providing his answers. Ted A. Warpinski is a partner at Friebert, Finerty and St. John. S.C., in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he has been practicing environmental, land use, and construction law since 1987, with an emphasis on environmental and construction litigation. He has represented individuals, community groups, local governments, Indian tribes, small businesses, and large corporations in a wide variety of matters in state and federal courts across Wisconsin. He is currently serving as an elected member of the board of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Environmental Law Section and as a chair of the web subcommittee for the ABA’s Section of Litigation’s Environmental Litigation Committee.


What is the best way to build business as a junior, mid-level, and senior associate?

Ted: This is always a tough question and it likely depends a great deal on the type of firm you are at. At the very junior level, the most important thing to do it good, timely work. Your firm will notice and see you as a go-to person. At the mid-level and senior associate level, you certainly need to put yourself out there as someone knowledgeable in your field. Writing for the ELC website would be a great way to start.


Do you have any tips for young lawyers struggling to balance their careers and their personal life?

Ted: This is not a question unique to young lawyers. We all search to find balance and that balance is different for everyone. As an attorney, though, we must be mindful of our ethical duty to our clients and give equal attention to even small matters.


What is your biggest frustration with young lawyers, and how do you think this frustration can be avoided?

Having work sink into a black hole. Some projects are hard, some are boring, but they all need to be done. If you take on too much or find a task difficult, be sure to keep people apprised of the status and if there are problems.


What has been the most fulfilling case or deal that you have worked on?

I met my wife when I represented her mother’s estate in a well contamination case.


 
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