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Lights come up on the office of a first-year associate in a skyscraper above a sprawling eastern metropolis. It’s nighttime, and a distinguished senior attorney enters his office. “We’ve got everything covered for that filing in Los Angeles Superior Court tomorrow, right?,” she says anxiously. “You bet. It’s all taken care of,” the junior associate says. “And you checked all the rules, right, not just the Code of Civil Procedure, but all the other rules they have for L.A., right? I can’t remember all of them, but I know there are several sets we have to worry about.” “No problem, we checked them all,” says the junior associate, while making a mental note to check all the rules one last time , and to double check to make sure there aren’t any more rules out there that he missed the first time. OK. The quest for court rules is not the stuff of prime-time legal drama. In fact, it’s more of a pain in the side-but a pain that has become more nagging thanks to a trend in litigation practices that might be called the evolution of the national litigator. The emergence of the jet-setting litigator is a fairly recent phenomenon, fueled in part by societal trends toward specialization and legal business models that have fostered the creation of larger and more geographically dispersed firms. Historically, attorneys tended to build their practices around their geographic circumstances. This influenced their practice development in two ways: First, it tended to foster generalists, rather than attorneys who homed in on a very specific area of the law. Second, it spawned generations of attorneys whose generalist practice focused on a particular city. Put another way: In 1972, it would be very unlikely for a client to hire an attorney from Seattle to handle a case in Chicago. (The highly specialized areas of patent law and criminal defense are two possible exceptions to this rule.) In the 1980s, the business model of larger firms began to shift. Firms began to dramatically expand in size and scope, either opening offices in new cities or acquiring or merging with firms in target locations. Such tremendous regional expansion came at a time when the society at large was embracing specialization on an ever grander scale. One was no longer a golf pro; he or she was a short-game specialist. One was no longer a litigator; one was an intellectual property litigator or construction litigator. The convergence of expansion and specialization in the law firm environment had an unforeseen, and in retrospect, perhaps ironic result: Despite more offices and more attorneys than ever before, firms found their litigators traveling more than ever before. Thanks to specialization, attorneys have been compelled to expand the geographic scope of their coverage to meet client requests for on-demand expertise. And thus came the rise of the national litigator . . . and the increasing headache of locating court rules for jurisdictions that the attorney may barely have heard of, let alone visited or practiced in. No cookie cutter approach Despite some popular misconceptions, court rules are not handed down from the heavens-or even from the upper steps of the Supreme Court building. The truth is, there’s a great deal of variation in the evolution of court rules from one state to another. In some states there can even be a tremendous variation from district to district. In jurisdictions like Maryland and New Jersey, for example, there is just one set of statewide rules that applies to all courts. As long as you have solid grasp of the one set of rules for the given state, you are pretty well covered for each jurisdiction within the state. In other jurisdictions (New York, Illinois and California come to mind), there are at least two sets of statewide rules in place. There are statutes that have been passed by the state legislatures, and then the judiciaries are empowered to create rules. So, in California, you have the Code of Civil Procedure (created in the state Legislature) and the California Rules of Court (promulgated by the California Judicial Council).

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