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Los Angeles-Associate Aliza Reder craves the adrenaline rush and fast-paced action of trials. But with more cases ending in summary judgments and out-of-court settlements these days, it’s increasingly difficult for young lawyers like Reder, a second-year associate at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, to get that coveted trial experience. Last month, the Los Angeles-based litigation firm took the unusual step of creating a trial practice coordinator position. The move is a key part of the firm’s strategy to ensure that all associates try a case by the end of their second year at the firm. “People who come to our firm are clamoring for trial experience,” partner John Quinn said. “With jury trials becoming rarer and rarer, how are we going to train young trial lawyers?” The 262-lawyer firm hired Mindy Alger, a Los Angeles attorney, to maximize those opportunities by lining up pro bono cases and teaming associates with partners for week-long stints on their trials at no cost to the client. Alger previously worked at The Public Law Center in Santa Ana, Calif., where she was the directing attorney of family law. Alger heard of Quinn Emanuel’s new position through her husband, Timothy Alger, a partner at the firm. “It seemed like a great opportunity to combine what the firm is looking for and the public interest side, which is near and dear to me,” Alger said. “You’re giving your associates great experience and helping people who otherwise wouldn’t have access because of a lack of financial resources.” Alger has already set up an agreement with the Western Law Center for Disability Rights, where Quinn Emanuel associates can work on several special education cases. She’s been meeting with various nonprofits in the area to pinpoint other options. Sense of commitment Associates at Quinn say the program underscores the firm’s commitment to developing trial lawyers. “When it’s time to take a case to trial, we’ll be ready,” said David Azar, a sixth-year associate who moved from Sullivan & Cromwell to Quinn Emanuel because he wanted to work at a firm with a strong trial practice. The program benefits clients by rounding out the associates’ skills, which will improve their pretrial work, such as discovery, Quinn said. “You don’t fully understand why you’re doing it until you see how it plays out in the end,” Quinn said. A decline in federal court trials was documented in a 2004 article by University of Wisconsin Law School professor Marc Galanter in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. From 1962 to 2002, the number of civil trials dropped from 5,802 to 4,569, even as overall dispositions multiplied fivefold. That’s a problem, especially for litigators, said Jon Tigar, a superior court judge in Alameda County who has spoken about the implications of the drop in various legal forums. “Less trials make the profession much less fun, much less rewarding. It makes recruitment more difficult and impairs the professional development of young lawyers,” Tigar said.

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