June 17, 2016

Mike Volpe discusses ways to be a first chair employment attorney with Law360

2 min

Venable partner Mike Volpe was interviewed in a June 17, 2016 Law360 article on best practices for employment attorneys to be first chair trial attorneys. The article focuses on building experience, being comfortable in the courtroom, exceeding expectations as a second chair attorney, dealing with mistake professionally, and seeking out skill building courses.

To help build confidence, Volpe suggested younger associates and second chairs familiarize themselves with the courtroom where their case will be tried, the judge handling their cases, the law clerks, and the jury selection process. "Second chairs have to feel comfortable with all of these elements if they are handling a case and their comfort can in turn showcase their preparedness," said Volpe. He added that an attorney’s reaction when they enter the courtroom could be an indication they are not ready to be a first chair. He said some second chair attorneys can be "surprised or intimidated" by a large courtroom while others could be thrown off their game in a smaller one.

Another key for second chairs looking to move up according to Volpe is "prepare, prepare, prepare." He said second chairs should "know the documents in a case cold." He suggested having a checklist of 15 to 20 items to help stay organized. "If you have a really strong second chair and [they] recognize the elements [needed to be lead counsel], it tells me they're prepared, ready and anxious to want to be first counsel and lead chair," Volpe added. "A lot of people say they want to be a trial lawyer, but many can’t be because they don’t have the stomach for it and are not prepared."