In 2015, the ABA issued a report entitled First Chairs at Trial: More Women Need Seats at the Table.  The report used data from cases filed in the Northern District of Illinois in 2013, concluding that only 24% of the lead counsel across both civil and criminal cases were women (23% in intellectual property cases and 15% in contract cases).  The study also found that most litigation teams are all male:  67% of intellectual property cases and 70% percent of contract cases.   As relevant to the Next Gen initiate, the report concluded with Best Practices for Law Schools, Law Firms, Clients, Judges and Women Lawyers, noting:

Judges are also integral to the efforts to increase the number of female first-chair trial lawyers. Judges can be mindful of appointing experienced, qualified women lawyers as lead counsel, liaison counsel, or members of the steering committee in MDL class action cases.  Judicial appointments of women litigators as special  discovery or bankruptcy masters, trustees, or guardians ad litem can help increase the visibility and credibility of women lawyers, which will help them advance to equity partnership and develop as rainmakers.

In addition, a number of judges have sought to incentivize law firms to provide greater opportunities for courtroom experience to their women and minority associates. For example, certain judges around the country have made it a practice of allowing argument on motions that would otherwise not be heard, as long as the advocate will be the associate working on the case, rather than the partner.  (Page 16)

Written by: Kathi Vidal, May 3, 2016

Judge Paul Grewal’s Response in GSI when Parties Declined to Allow Junior Lawyers to Argue — March 11, 2016

Last Wednesday, in the GSI Tech., Inc. v. Untied Memories, Inc. case, No. 5:13-cv-01081, Judge Paul Grewal of the Northern District of California noted to the parties before him that the need for trial counsel to provide opportunities for junior lawyers, stating “who will try the technology cases of the future, when so few opportunities to develop courtroom skills appear.”  In response to the Judge encouraging the parties to allow associates to present argument on at least two of the six post-trial motions, the parties decided instead to stipulate to take all motions off calendar and submit them without any hearing. On Friday, Judge Grewal responded by issuing the following order:

The day before last, I expressed my concerns about the lack of courtroom opportunities for law firm associates in intellectual property cases like this one.1 Recognizing the court’s own important role in encouraging clients and partners to give up the podium once in a while, I asked that each party give associates the chance to argue just two of six motions set for hearing on Monday.2

This morning, the parties and their counsel responded. But rather than confirm their commitment to this exercise, the parties jointly stipulated simply to take all motions off calendar and submit them without any hearing.3 No explanation was given; perhaps associate preparation and travel costs were the issue. In any event, once again, another big intellectual property case will come and go, and the associates who toil on it will largely do so without ever being heard.

I appreciate that my order acknowledged the possibility that the parties would decline this opportunity and simply submit their motions on the papers.4 But I would be remiss if I did not observe the irony of another missed opportunity to invest in our profession’s future when two of the motions originally noticed for hearing seek massive fees and costs.5 To be clear, GSI asks for $6,810,686.69 in attorney’s fees, $1,828,553.07 in non-taxable costs6 and $337,300.86 in taxable costs,7 while UMI asks for $6,694,562 in attorney’s fees, $648,166 in expenses8 and $302,579.70 in taxable costs.9 That a few more dollars could not be spent is disappointing to me. My disappointment, however, is unlikely to compare to the disappointment of the associates, who were deprived yet again of an opportunity to argue in court.

Both of Judge Grewal’s orders are posted under the Judicial Orders Promoting Next Gen portion of this website.

Written by: Kathi Vidal, March 11, 2016