Spontaneous Exclamations: Gasp! Transactional attorneys litigating?

Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held LLP.  He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, commercial finance, and non-profit law.  Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or akatz@harrisonheld.com.  Comments on all posts are welcome!

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You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, unable to sleep.  All sorts of legal arguments are running wild through your brain.  You recite your well-rehearsed words carefully in the hope that they will lull you back to sleep.  No such luck.  You’re a wide awake clammy mess on the eve of the most significant entry on your calendar for weeks… and you’re a transactional attorney going to trial!

One thing I feel young lawyers should never turn down is solid litigation experience.   Arguing a few motions or participating in a trial here and there will produce the following three results:  (i) you will become a well-rounded attorney able to take on additional types of matters leading to more billable hours (what associates crave!); and (ii) you may not realize it, but handling litigation matters will make you a better drafter; and (iii) you will gain important experience in managing clients’ anxiety, expectations, and emotional well-being.

Now, I’m not advocating for young transactional lawyers to become expert litigators.  Just enough experience to become confidently capable of arguing motions, taking depositions, conducting cross-examinations and the like.  Try to involve yourself in lawsuits of transactions gone bad.  What better way to understand what you are drafting than to see what happens when agreements are breached?

Crossing over to litigation will also give you valuable experience managing jittery clients.  Parties involved in high-stakes transactions frequently are anxious and emotional.  However, the apprehension and emotions can reach entirely new levels when your clients are being sued and their livelihoods are potentially on the line.  Managing expectations becomes an entirely different animal when negotiations fail and you then must win at all costs.  While discussing the lawsuit with your clients, you must keep in mind that, no matter how good you think your case is, the judge may disagree.

So when you wake up in that cold sweat pondering all of your evidence and preparing for all those curve balls opposing counsel might throw you at trial in the morning, hold your head up, have some confidence, and consider all of the great experience you are receiving on your path to become the best lawyer you can be.


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