At the start of the new year, many of us are spending time looking back at where we have come from and forward to where we want to go. As part of that process, many are making resolutions to make 2015 better than ever. In that spirit, over the next several weeks, I am reposting a popular series of practice tips for the N.D. Illinois (with a focus upon IP litigation of course) that I ran a few years ago, with slight modifications for 2015.
The tips are not in a particular order of import. Why twenty-five? I found that beyond twenty five, the tips became focused upon minutia. The tips are gleaned from my practice in the Northern District, my time as a law clerk for the Hon. Gordon J. Quist in the Western District of Michigan, and my reading of all of the Northern District of Illinois intellectual property opinions over the last eight years. As you read them, let me know if you come up with others. I will be glad to include them as I go along. Here are six through ten:
6. Redact personal information. Make sure that you are redacting personal information, social security numbers, phone numbers, etc., from any papers filed with the Court. Most litigants are good at this in their pleadings. But there is a significant drop off in attention to this rule in exhibits and other filed papers. There can be serious consequences to running afoul of this rule both to the litigator and to the individual whose information is publicly disclosed.
7. Attend hearings. Parties often do not attend hearings because they expect a motion to be granted (for example, an extension of time or motion to withdraw when other counsel has appeared in the case) or because they do not have a stake in the motion between their opponent and a co-defendant. This can be a critical mistake. First, most judges require all parties’ attendance at all hearing on a case. Second, you cannot guarantee that issues implicating your client will not be addressed at the hearing. And if they are addressed, you cannot necessarily count upon either your opponent or your co-defendant to protect your interests.
8. Pay attention to the court reporter. The hardest working person in the courtroom is almost always the court reporter; help them out. Offer a card or spell your name on the record. Speak clearly and at a modest speed. As much as you may feel the need to, do not speak over your opponent. If you are on a telephone conference, announce yourself when you speak. This both helps the reporter and makes the record much more clear.
9. Attend hearings by phone sparingly. In deference to the cost of bringing non-Chicago counsel to every hearing, many judges in the Northern District liberally permit attendance by telephone. This is an enormous convenience and cost-savings, but when not used carefully can have a negative impact on your case. It is impossible to interpret a judge’s visual cues on the phone, unless they describe them to you at which point it is far too late. If the hearing is of any import, either attend live or send local counsel fully prepared to address all issues, if live attendance is not possible.
10. Listen on phone hearings. Too many lawyers when given an opportunity to argue their point during a telephonic hearing, speak until they are done. That has the advantage of getting your point across, but you have no idea if the judge is trying to ask you a question or even stop you completely. And when you are speaking into a speakerphone, you cannot hear anyone else, most importantly the judge, that may be trying to stop you or ask you a question. In the best case, that leaves the judge exasperated, and in the worst case the judge may view you as disrespectful, unnecessarily argumentative and as not listening to the Court. None of these are good results, and it is easily avoidable if you teach yourself to pause periodically. The pauses give you the time for the Court to give you verbal cues that you could get visually or verbally in the courtroom.