Q & A with Robert K. Neiman

Robert K. Neiman, an equity principal at Much Shelist, has been in the practice for 27 years. He is a litigator, with a concentration in commercial litigation, health care regulatory litigation and employment defense litigation.

Why do you find most interesting  about your practice?

Solving the puzzle that each new matter presents. In each case, the facts and law give you a finite number of pieces to the puzzle, and your client’s goals define the borders. My job is to fit the pieces together to achieve those goals as efficiently as possible. Litigation is the ultimate liberal arts education, in that every new case teaches me something new and gives me the chance to hone and polish my skills as a lawyer. So no two days are ever the same.

What makes a good lawyer?

Thinking like your client. That’s the paradox of practice. Knowing the law is only half the answer to your client’s problem. A good lawyer not only knows the law but also has the ability to take off his or her lawyer’s hat and think through the problem from the client’s perspective to figure out a way to achieve the client’s goal in keeping with the law. The only question that truly matters is, “What does the client want?” To answer that question, you have to ask the client to define victory. Remember that Lincoln was right when he said, “Avoid litigation.” Litigation is like surgery: If you can avoid it, you should avoid it. A bit of humility helps, too.

What is the biggest legal news now, and what is its impact?

The biggest news for the profession is how the recession affects clients, lawyers and law firms. More and more clients, even Fortune 500 companies, are starting to move away from the huge international firms to midsize firms that do the work just as well at lower rates. They are also demanding alternative fee arrangements from their firms. Over time clients and lawyers will migrate to the firms that best adapt to these demands. The biggest substantive legal news is the health care reform law that Congress is expected to pass this fall. Whatever form the new law takes, health care providers, insurers, regulatory counsel, tort lawyers and insurance defense counsel will have to adapt quickly.

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