The Importance of Being Versatile in the Legal Profession
by: Jonathan Knoll, Attorney
One of the most important qualities for a young associate, as well as any person starting out in their profession, is being versatile. Whether it is volunteering for an assignment or pitching in at the last minute to help finish a project, being flexible is not only an essential element of your day to day practice but it is also a valuable tool to help you gain experience in other areas of the law.
I began working as an associate at Cohen & Malad, LLP nearly two years ago. Since that time, I have been fortunate enough to have had a very hands-on experience in assisting the medical device and pharmaceutical litigation team. In doing this work, I have enjoyed a close mentor relationship with a few of the partners at the firm and have been able to learn some “best practices” for trial preparation and settlement negotiations in the cases that I have worked. I feel that this experience coupled with my education will continue to make me a better lawyer and help me more effectively serve my clients. Some of the tasks that were assigned to me in the drug and device litigation include: helping lead counsel prepare for trial by meeting with experts and clients, assisting in focus groups and writing and responding to legal motions and briefs. These tasks gave me the opportunity to put into practice many of the things that I learned in law school while also using the advice that the more senior attorneys gave me. I found this to be a great way to hone my skills as an attorney.
So when the opportunity to work on the BP gas litigation now pending in the federal court in Chicago came up, I knew I had to jump at the chance. Many of the legal issues in the BP case were similar to those that I was more familiar with in dangerous drug and medical device cases such as products liability, breach of warranties and negligence.
Working on the BP litigation has given me the chance to apply my experience and knowledge regarding dangerous and defective products to the class action arena. Prior to this case, I had not had much exposure to class action litigation because my workload in the drug and medical device litigation had kept me quite busy. I was excited to take such an active role on this case. For example, I got to be instrumental in the drafting of the class action complaint– and in the process learned a lot! The BP case has also given me the opportunity to be mentored by our partners, including the managing partner. As a result, I am learning a great deal about class action litigation.
As litigation ebbs and flows, the lesson in all of this is that even if your practice is focused on a particular area of the law, don’t be afraid to take part in opportunities that arise in other areas of the law. Not only will you gain valuable experience and a possible mentor relationship, but you will be able to better assist your clients, whether that be on an individual mass tort basis or through a class action.