Wednesday, December 7, 2011

4L: What to do when . . . You get your first responsive pleading

From the Gemini Geek -
Come one! Come all! Welcome to the emotional roller coaster! Step right up! And defy your inner constitution!  Your one ticket gets you one responsive pleading! Prepare yourself as you're taken to the top of the track and dropped 300 feet in two seconds . . .!

If you're a new attorney and you've already received your first responsive pleading, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.  If you're not a new attorney, and you've received a reply brief, or Suggestion in Opposition recently, you're in the same spot.

Let's deal with the new kids on the block first.  Chances are, you've gotten an answer to a complaint.  And that first answer completely took the wind from your sails.  Well, here's the first piece of encouragement.  IT WAS A PLEADING AS A MATTER OF COURSE for your opposing counsel (OC).  OC didn't personally tell you're wrong, you're inexperienced, or you'll pay their attorney's fees.  That was probably one of several answers they filed this week, and most of them probably look very similar.  I'll bet they all asked for dismissal with costs paid by someone other than them.  That's just how it goes . . .

The other piece of encouragement comes now: Tom Bender, a very experienced, highly respected, successful attorney told a bunch of us youngsters something that I've tried to remember every day I file something against BigLaw.  He said this, "You younger attorneys, at the beginning of your career, are probably only 5% less competent than successful attorneys that have been doing it a while."  And I believe him.  After all, you do have the same degree and professional licensure.  You just have to learn how to use it.  And you will.   And you are.  Don't sell yourself short.

My story:  My first responsive pleading came one month after I became an attorney.  And the OC happened to be at one of, if not THE biggest, most reputable firms in the city . . . My next responsive pleading? Bigger city; bigger firm.  Do you know what these did to me?  I saw the outside of the envelope with "BigLaw" letterhead addressed to "Mr. Jonathan D. McDowell, Esq." and started shaking.  I started reading the answer and became nauseous.  Then I read, "dismissed with costs . . ." and it nearly knocked me off my feet.  I can remember reading it while standing in front of my office chair.  I sat down with all confidence sucked from my being . . .
From Boxing 360 -

Once I recovered a few days later (by that I mean "after laying in fetal position for three days"), I did some research, I looked at my facts again, I realized my client's case was great, and then I responded.
For the experienced folks:  I don't think this changes, does it?  Although I don't feel AS bad when I get a reply, I still panic and think that my case is terrible and we're gonna lose!  The Chair of the Missouri Bar Solo and Small Firm Committee, Chris Wendlebo and I were discussing this exact issue.  He has been practicing for about 12 years.  He told me that almost every time he gets a response telling him he's wrong, he panics.  And then he looks at his arguments again, realizes they're strong, and understands he has the higher ground. 

From Tech Shout -
Bottom line kiddos: You're not alone.  You're panicking with the rest of us!  However, just know that some of these responsive pleadings are a matter of course and are no reason to get excited.  When you do get the wind knocked out of your sails, try to get your sails back up as soon as possible.  You're not dumb.  You're not a loser.  You don't have a terrible case.  You're smart.  You're passionate.  You're competent. 

You're an attorney.

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