Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Day in The Life of a New Law Partner

Well, folks, it's not all glamorous.  People go to law school so they can make partner at a law firm.  I did the same thing.  And now I'm positive that it's not all it's cracked up to be.  I mean, sure, you make a lot of money, but at the end of the day, is it really worth it?  At times, it's just exhausting, and every day is a repeat of the last. 

This December, much like last December, much like the past year, we are crazy busy.  I'm not sure why it is, but cases always seem to be either settling or in full throttle fact discovery during the holidays.  While settling cases is good, there is still a lot of back and forth over the terms and language, and you end up fighting over totally stupid things just because you can, or because the other side wants to bill a few more hours.  Fact discovery is pure hell.  Both sides always wait until the very end to schedule depositions, so inevitably you are trying to take and defend 10 depositions over the course of a month, which involves a lot of travel and prep time.  And that's only one case.  At my firm, most of us have a workload of around 6-10 cases at any given time.  So, multiply all that by six or ten and it's a total clusterfuck of work compounded by a constant feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are forgetting something really important.

This was my day today:

I got in the office at around 7:30 a.m., which is fairly early for me.  Usually I get in by around 8:30.  The reason I got in so early was because I knew I had so much to do in the day ahead that when I naturally woke up at 6 a.m. I couldn't fall back asleep.  So, I got up, got ready, and went in to the office.  When I got there, the receptionist wasn't in yet, so I had to use the entry code to get in through the back door.  Now, I use this entry code probably 20 times a day, so it is second nature to me.  It's so much second nature, in fact, that I don't even know what the numbers are.  I just walk up, punch it in, and go without even thinking about it.  Not this morning.  I made a colossal mistake by walking up to the pinpad and thinking "what are the numbers?"  I overthought it so much that I couldn't make myself just punch it in.  And once I started trying to remember the numbers, I was screwed.  So then I went into the bathroom and tried to think about something else, fix my lipstick, brush my hair, clear my head.  I did that about three times.  Finally I had to text one of my co-workers and embarrassingly ask him for the code.  The day was not off to a good start.

From 7:45 a.m. until around 10:00 a.m., I continued the massive project of determining the best evidence we have to prove our inducement and contributory infringement claims in the trial we have in January.  ("Case 1").  This involves reviewing document production, interrogatory responses, and request for admission responses, reading deposition transcripts, and researching the case law to make sure we aren't about to make a colossal blunder that gets flipped or JMOL'd at trial because we didn't prove up everything we needed to prove.  Inducement law and the proofs involved has been  like shooting fish in a barrel lately, and becoming progressively harder to prove, so I wanted to make sure I was on the up and up on where it stands.  For now.  The Supreme Court is taking on inducement in the near future, so that should make things more clear -- except, not.  The Supreme Court usually only succeeds in making patent issues less clear.  This is a project I could've given to an associate, but since I wasn't working on this case during fact discovery, I need to familiarize myself with all the evidence anyway, so I'm doing it myself.

From 10:00 until 10:30 I reviewed a draft patent owner's statement for a reexamination proceeding in another case ("Case 2") because from 10:30 until around 11:30 we had a call with the attorney who is prosecuting the reexamination, and had to give him feedback on the patent owner's statement.  This ended up being tabled, somewhat, because the statement isn't due in the USPTO until sometime in January, and all of us involved felt we needed to review it and think about it some more once the discussion got going.  I was also given the job of drafting the motion to stay in the pending litigation, based on the reexamination that was filed. 

From 11:30 until around noon I ended up discussing another case ("Case 3") with one of the other partners, and somehow got myself roped into addressing discovery deficiencies (which means I will ultimately need to write a motion to compel), taking two depositions during the week before Christmas, and calling two people the other side wants to depose to find out if they want us to represent them at their depositions, and to try and get dates from them for those depositions. 

At around noon I ran out and grabbed a sandwich at Au Bon Pain.  I brought it back to my desk and ate it there, while reviewing a draft license agreement for one of the other defendants in Case 3.  I then wrote a letter about the discovery deficiencies to opposing counsel in Case 3 and sent that off.

By now, it was around 12:45 p.m.  Oh, and by the way, throughout the day the paralegal from Case 1 has been ringing my phone off the hook about a variety of minute issues relating to our Exhibit List and technology for the courtroom at trial.  She is also my paralegal on Case 4, and has been asking about various document production issues therein.  She's very thorough and good, but almost to the point of annoyance.  Our client is considering selling the patents at issue in Case 4, so I gathered up and slightly modified the latest claim charts for those patents for one of the other partners, and reviewed the letter he was sending to the interested party.

At around 1:00 p.m., one of the other partners asked me what I wanted to do about Case 5, which I had prepared and distributed claim charts for last week.  He told me the changes he thought needed to be made, and I followed up with the client to find out any changes he had to the claim charts.  I made the changes to the claim charts, and we all decided that we would send out notice letters by the end of the week to the accused infringers, once we (meaning = me) finalize the list of accused products.

I then called the two deponents from Case 3, wherein one agreed to let us represent him and was generally very friendly to me, and the other told me he would get back to me.  What can I say?  No one is excited to have their deposition taken, particularly around Christmas.   

From around 1:30 to 2:30, I returned to the inducement/contributory infringement issues for Case 1, fairly uninterrupted, except for an e-mail from the managing partner asking me what was going on with Case 5, to which I promptly responded with an update.  I also got an e-mail from one of my law school professors, who wanted me to help out with an IP trial advocacy course in January, but I can't, since I have trial at that time.  Oh well, maybe next time.  That is really something I would like to do in the future. 

At 2:30, we had a trial team strategy meeting for Case 1.  I did not have my inducement/contributory infringement plan finished, and told them I would get it to them by end of day tomorrow.  I also got roped into figuring out how we can either file a surreply or a notice of new authority for a motion to compel that was filed against us about a month and a half ago, that has been fully briefed.  The information we want to add is not technically new authority, but there is some new information that has come to light that we want to tell the Judge about.  This kind of thing is never easy to slip in, and the last thing you want to do is piss off the Judge, so I'm about to get creative.  This meeting went on for two hours.  There is a lot involved with going to trial.

At 4:30 I got to my desk and looked at the local rules in the district where Case 1 is pending, to see if there was an easy answer.  There, of course, was not.  I decided to table it until tomorrow, and continued to work on the inducement/contributory infringement solutions. 

At around 6:30, I got an e-mail response from the opposing attorneys on Case 3, telling me they were available for a meet and confer in two weeks about my discovery deficiencies issues.  I "politely" responded that I wanted to do it this week or early next week if possible.  These guys like to have two hour meet and confers, when that is just not necessary.  I need to know two things:  (1) are you going to respond; and (2) if not, what is your basis.  This is a five minute phone call that they insist upon making into a drama filled ordeal.  This is because they normally don't do litigation, I suspect.  One thing I've learned about litigation is that you aren't going to convince me, and I'm not going to convince you, so let's not waste our time.  We do what the local rule requires, which is to have a call, and we agree to disagree.   

By this point in the evening, I was kind of beat.  I worked late Monday and Tuesday night, and had been in the office for 11 hours pretty much without a break other than a trip down to Au Bon Pain and a couple quick smoke breaks throughout the day.  There were also minor calls, e-mails, and issues that came up (as always), but this was the main thrust of my day, which is a fairly typical day, other than that the cases change.  There are always fires to put out, research to do, discovery to answer, claim charts to review, and settlement agreements to finalize.   

So, I decided to leave and go shopping.  I bought a pair of plaid Hue tights at Macy's on State Street, and a skirt at Nordstrom Rack.  When I got off the el at North and Clybourn, Uncle Julio's Hacienda was calling me, so I pulled up a seat at the bar and got some enchiladas and a Corona with a lime.  And I got home at around 8:30 p.m.  Sometimes you just need a break.

The sad part is, it's all waiting for me again tomorrow morning.  That's life in litigation, and it is not at all what you see on television.   

1 comment: