How do I submit a nomination?
Just email me (rtodd at alm.com) a quick overview of the win and why it’s significant. It also helps to include relevant court docs or other media coverage. Feel free to nominate yourself. I promise we won’t think you’re conceited.
When are nominations due?
Wednesdays by 5 pm ET. We decide the winner each Wednesday night.
Are there any eligibility restrictions?
Yes. The win has to have happened in the previous seven days (from Wednesday to Wednesday) and you have to be able to do a Q&A about the case. If you can’t discuss the win on the record, then I’m afraid we can’t feature you.
How do you pick the winner?
We look for cases with an impact, where the outcome matters to more than just the parties involved. We’re impressed by high stakes, long odds, new precedents, bold strategies—and cases that are just plain interesting.
A Few Insights on How We Choose Litigator of the Week
I often tell litigators with whom I’m speaking for the first time that The Am Law Litigation Daily has four columns per week that are not the Litigator of the Week just to put things in perspective.
So, it’s with some hesitation today that I’m putting an additional spotlight on LOTW on one of the four days when I’m not chopping it up with the week’s winners or digesting the runners-up and shout outs.
If the size of my “Litigator of the Week” email folder is any indicator, the feature doesn’t need much more attention than it already gets. Clearly, many of you care about Litigator of the Week. I do, too. I take the decision the team and I make each week very seriously. And after having been the lead LOTW judge for nearly two years now, I have some thoughts about what’s working and what might need some work in the process, both on your end and mine.
I’ve been discussing my ideas up in conversations I’ve had with some of you of late. In interest of fairness and having us all on the same page, I thought I would share those thoughts in column form.
Please Don’t Wait Until Deadline
Listen. I know how litigators operate. Your internal clocks are set based on deadlines. If a court is going to give you until midnight to file a particular motion or a response, many of you take every single second you can to perfect your arguments, language and spacing before getting it in.
Here’s the thing: We here at The Litigation Daily are not a court of law. Even a court with a statutory deadline for responding to your motion is going to have days and possibly weeks to chew on your arguments. The Litigation Daily is a journalistic enterprise with a constantly rolling daily deadline. And the deadline for Litigator of the Week entries lands at 5 p.m. ET each Wednesday, right in the middle of our regular daily column cycle. Given the way the schedule falls, we choose a winner, draft questions for the Q&A, and get them out the door while simultaneously wrapping up the column you read on Thursday morning.
Please keep that in mind.
The truth is, given how closely I watch the litigation news cycle throughout the week, I often have a pretty good idea of who the top contenders are hours, and sometimes days, before that deadline. To get a better handle on those top cases, I’ve been reading the news clips, diving into the dockets, vetting the nominations with colleagues, and chewing on the decision as the deadline approaches. If you’re just making me aware of a case for the first time at 4:45 p.m. ET on a Wednesday — especially if it’s a result that landed days beforehand that’s novel, precedential or outstanding — you’re doing yourself a disservice.
I understand that getting client sign-off on participating in the whole nomination process can be tricky and take time, especially when it comes getting the go-ahead to participate in the Q&A necessary to compete for the top spot. But I would suggest that something as simple as passing along a copy of a decision or a link to prior media coverage, with a note saying “we’re considering nominating this one for Litigator of the Week” would allow the team and me more time to get up to speed on a case. The more time we have to sit with a litigation result, review the briefs and the transcripts that went into achieving that result, the better it is for your nomination. If you ultimately hold off submitting a nomination, we won’t hold it against you.
One more thing on this point: I’ve heard through the grapevine that some firms wait to submit a nomination to try to make sure they don’t have a result that might make a stronger candidate land later in the weekly cycle. That’s wrong-headed. Let me tell you why: There’s no cap on a single firm’s nominations. I’m not shy. I’ll let you know if you’re flooding me with results that aren’t quite on par with the competition.
By All Means, Please Talk to My Colleagues About Your Win
This has happened a handful of times: A big patent litigation result lands and a firm reaches out to me to ask me if talking to my colleague Scott Graham would take them out of the running for Litigator of the Week.
My response is usually something along the lines of “Are you kidding me?”
If you send a patent litigation result my way, you better bet I’m going to track down Scott to talk shop and get his thoughts on the result. I’d be negligent not to. The same goes with Amanda Bronstad and any result coming out of the world of mass torts and class actions. Or a result coming out of any of the regions where I have a colleague who sits on our national litigation desk. Part of my vetting process is reaching out to beat reporters who are covering the dockets, hearings and trials that yield these results to get their impressions of a particular decision and the lawyering that went into making it happen.
How could not talking to those folks be to your benefit?
Sharing Credit Is a Strength, Not a Weakness
If co-counsel or a co-party got the same result you did, let me hear about it. Our vetting process is going to suss that out anyway. It’ll only raise more questions about your nomination if you don’t raise their contributions in the first place.
In a case where multiple lawyers or law firms come together to achieve a result, it’s worth considering pitching jointly. Our general rule is to limit nominations to just three lawyers, but we’ve made exceptions to that rule in cases where firms came to us as a group. Two examples immediately come to mind: We recognized the trial teams at Kirkland & Ellis, Hueston Hennigan, O’Melveny & Myers and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius who scored a bench trial win last year in state court in California for drug companies facing claims related to the opioid crisis. And just last week, we recognized the defense teams who represented five poultry company executives who beat criminal antitrust charges after two mistrials.
There are also clearly cases where some lawyers deserve more credit than others for a particular result. If you think that’s the case for you, spell it out explicitly. What did you and your firm do that led to the result? Why might you deserve more credit than your co-counsel or the co-party? If you don’t come out and tell me, I’m going to ask anyway.
All that said, we’re always looking for feedback on the process. What’s working and what needs work from your perspective? What else do you want to know about the LOTW process? Feel free to touch base with me via email at [email protected].