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February 25, 2018

Redux: Southern District: “Slick Lawyer Answers to Lazy Lawyer Interrogatories”

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"The Lawyers", circa 1855, Honoré Daumier (1808-1879)

Our new associate. Nice guy, smart guy, and I really liked him--I still do. I always make it a point to take his cab whenever I'm in Flint.

Written discovery practice shouldn't be a joke. Not that long ago, in Manhattan's fabled Southern District, a fed-up federal judge, throwing up his hands during arguments by lawyers on a motion to compel discovery responses, referred to certain answers to interrogatories in the dispute as "slick lawyer answers to lazy lawyer interrogatories".

We do feel his pain. Feel free to color this all quite silly, and annoying, if you want--but we love and respect written discovery during the pretrial process in American federal courts.

In our firm, for a brief period of time, a fundamentally talented second year associate with the makings of a very good trial lawyer worked in our Pittsburgh office, after having spent one year at another firm.

One day, he complained to me that we were putting too much thought and effort into a set of interrogatories under Rule 33, Fed. R. Civ. P. So naturally I listened very carefully.

The new hire very patiently, calmly and slowly--so I could digest a great truth he'd discovered--explained to me that the exercise of serving interrogatories and other written discovery upon counsel for plaintiff was a "routine" and primarily "a way for lawyers to bill time so they could make money".

Nothing more, he said.

He was certain and even adamant about it, too. Nice guy, smart guy, and I really liked him--I still do. Shortly after that conversation, he left our firm. Did he quit or get fired? It does not matter. But it was a very good development for us when he left.

Complex and hard-fought civil cases really do turn in large measure on the quality and honesty of the discovery questions and requests, including deposition questions, and the responses to them. And well-thought out and strategically-timed written discovery is the best way there is to prepare great depositions--and get ready for trial.

Posted by Rob Bodine at February 25, 2018 12:01 AM

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