Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference

Litigation is not what it used to be. The vast majority of lawsuits tend to settle rather than go to trial, due in part to high cost and the rise of alternative dispute resolution. This “vanishing trial” trend, first coined by Professor Marc Galanter in 2003,[1] means less than 1% of civil cases filed in the United States District Court system actually go to trial.[2]

Because trials are now relatively rare events, they are typically high stakes affairs reserved for the most experienced lawyers. This new practice is perpetuated by firms, and their clients, who are reticent to use a “bet-the-company” case as a teachable moment for junior lawyers. While practical, this approach stunts the growth of junior attorneys—often times delaying their exposure to courtroom oral advocacy by many years. Ultimately, this reduces the overall caliber of trial lawyers.

In response, at least 17 federal district court judges have made steps to remedy this problem.[3] Using the judicial version of a bully pulpit, they have issued standing orders that strongly encourage the active participation of junior lawyers in their courtrooms. For example, some suggest that litigants allow junior lawyers to argue motions and examine witnesses. Others offer incentives, such as the possibility of holding an oral argument on motions that would otherwise be decided on the papers if argued by a junior lawyer. All acknowledge the current dearth of junior lawyers appearing before them.

For the first time, an entire Circuit will be considering a resolution that promotes orders encouraging parties to allow argument by junior lawyers. Appellate lawyers representatives of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference plan to introduce a resolution next month that will “encourage judges and districts within the Ninth Circuit to adopt rules and orders which support the creation of opportunities for newer lawyers by rule and order.”[4]  The resolution can be found here.

This is an exciting time to be a junior lawyer. Hopefully other judges will soon join “the court[s] [that] believe[] it is crucial to provide substantive speaking opportunities to young lawyers, and that the benefits of doing so will accrue to young lawyers, to clients, and to the profession generally.”[5]

For detailed information about current judicial orders that promote the next generation of lawyers, stay tuned to this webpage, http://nextgenlawyers.com.

[1] Marc Galanter, The Vanishing Trial:  An Examination of Trials and Related Matters in Federal and State Courts, 1 J. of Empirical Legal Studies 459 (2004), http://marcgalanter.net/Documents/papers/thevanishingtrial.pdf.

[2] Marc Galanter and Angela Frozena, The Continuing Decline of Civil Trials in American Courts, Pound Civil Justice Institute 1,4 (2011),http://www.poundinstitute.org/sites/default/files/docs/2011%20judges%20forum/2011%20Forum%20Galanter-Frozena%20Paper.pdf (“Civil jury trial rates have now been below 1.0% since 2005, while bench trials dropped below 1.0% seven years earlier, in 1998.”).

[3] Next Generation Lawyers, http://nextgenlawyers.com (last visited June 27, 2016).

[4] 2016 Resolution, Encourage the Creation of Opportunities for Newer Lawyers by Rule and Order.

[5] Judge Gregg J. Costa, Court Practices and Procedures, United States District Court Southern District of Texas 1, 3 (2015), http://www.txs.uscourts.gov/sites/txs/files/costa_procedures.pdf; Judge Gray H. Miller, Court Procedures, United States District Court Southern District of Texas 1,7 (2015), http://www.txs.uscourts.gov/sites/txs/files/procedures%20with%20att%20forms.pdf.

Written by: Sara Townsend, June 30, 2016

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