Posted On: March 24, 2009

Reporters Attending Depositions

The ongoing Caylee Anthony circus has underscored a valuable question for litigators: Can journalists attend depositions? It appears that the lawyer for the woman accused by the toddler’s mother (who is currently residing in jail) wants the grandparents deposed before reporters. The Anthony’s lawyer calls the plan “ludicrous” and plans to ask the judge to delay the depositions, if not bar the reporters from the deposition.

“Ludicrous” may be too strong an adjective, but certainly the plan is problematic. Although the public traditionally has a right to attend judicial proceedings, pretrial depositions and interrogatories are not public components of a civil trial, and as a result, pretrial discovery proceedings are generally conducted in private as a matter of modern practice. This does not mean that the public does not have the right to inspect the fruits of deposition discovery - the transcript or videotape - at an appropriate time and in an appropriate manner, but simply that the public has no right to observe the deposition process “in real time” as it is unfolding.

Not only is there no general public right to observe a civil deposition while it is occurring, the presiding court has the authority to restrict the right of a party to observe or participate in a deposition in its own case. In exercising their discretion to determine whether reporters may attend a deposition, the courts would generally engage in a fact-specific inquiry to determine if their attendance is appropriate and justified.

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Posted On: March 6, 2009

Rainmaking Strategies

The economic news for many new lawyers has been bleak over the past few months. Law firms nationwide are laying off associates seemingly every day. How can associates protect themselves? One of the best ways is to develop a stable of clients. Doing so is, of course, a challenge for young lawyers even with economic winds at their backs, much less blowing a gale against them. For trial lawyers, though, downturns aren't all bad news. As the economy de-leverages, many businesses are having to steel themselves for legal battles. With good habits and clear goals, even junior associates can make headway and establish a practice. I will be posting ongoing tips over the coming months on strategies I have found to be successful for rainmaking.

Here's one familiar pointer: find a mentor. Seek out a relationship with a senior lawyer or two. Discussing legal issues and your professional life with a role model can be invaluable, especially as your career changes over time. A good mentor will take an interest in helping you succeed and spend time explaining aspects of his or her practice, specific skills and techniques, and case strategies. You might find mentors within your firm or outside it. Bar associations and Inns of Court are good places to meet people who can counsel you on developing your career and perhaps, down the line, refer clients your way.

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