For the next five Fridays, I will be running a series of twenty five tips for Northern District of Illinois litigation practice, with a focus on IP litigation.  The tips are not in a particular order, so I will not countdown backwards to tip number one.  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 opinion over the last four years.  As you read them, let me know if you come up with others.  I will be glad to include them as I go.  Here are the first five:

  1. Draft complaints to meet both the Local Rules and the Judge’s requirements. There are pleading requirements in the Local Rules that are pretty standard, but do not make the mistake of failing to review them because they may not be the same as courts you are more familiar with. And do not stop at reading the Local Rules, check out requirements of specific judges before deciding, for example, how many unrelated parties to put into a single patent complaint. Click here for some examples of opinions to consider.
  2. Repeat plaintiffs’ allegations in your answers. Local Rules require that you repeat the complaint paragraphs in your answer. Most judges will not return your answer for failing to do so, but some will. And even if they do not, you render your answer far less useful a tool for the judge and her chambers.
  3. Deliver courtesy copies. The Local Rules require courtesy copies be delivered within one business day, and some judges’ standing orders require same day delivery. Opinions chastising counsel for failing to provide courtesy copies are surprisingly frequent. But even if your judge does not penalize you for failing to meet the courtesy copy requirements (and some will) if your motion or response is on a tight schedule you run the risk of not being fully heard. For example, if you are filing a response brief the day before a motion is to be heard and you bring your courtesy copies with you to the hearing you have only the slimmest chance that your brief is being read and digested before the hearing.
  4. Certificates of service are not required when all parties are on ECF. This may not be mission critical, but using an unnecessary certificate of service signals to your opponent that you are not well versed in the Local Rules or custom. That is not necessarily a fact that you want to give away.
  5. Signature blocks require both email and a fax number. Despite the 2008 revision to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11, many litigators still do not add email or fax numbers to signature blocks. I have not seen anyone sanctioned or warned for this omission yet, but you do not want to be the first.