Haynes and Boone Houston associate Mini Kapoor
Haynes and Boone Houston associate Mini Kapoor ()

A federal judge’s “young lawyers” rule enabled Haynes and Boone Houston associate Mini Kapoor to argue for a summary judgment that dismissed a client from a suit dealing with allegedly unpaid charges for carrier transportation services.

On June 29, U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett of the Southern District of Texas issued an order granting the Hess Corp.’s motion for summary judgment in Universal Truckload Inc. v. Dalton Logistics, et al.

Kapoor, who has about five years of experience as a lawyer, had argued for the motion before Bennett at a Feb. 24 hearing. It was her first substantive hearing argument in a court, Kapoor said.

Bennett, a former state district court judge, said he included the young lawyers rule in his written procedures and practices within the first six months after he went on the federal bench in April 2015.

“I put it on the radar of lawyers and firms that young lawyers need these opportunities and often don’t get them,” Bennett said, noting that there are not that many trials and not that many hearings on dispositive motions today.

Bennett’s rule reads in part:

“The Court strongly encourages litigants to be mindful of opportunities for young lawyers (i.e., lawyers practicing for less than seven years) to conduct hearings before the Court, particularly for motions where the young lawyers drafted or contributed significantly to the underlying motion or response.”

Bennett said he got the idea for the rule from Gregg Costa, a former judge in the Southern District of Texas who now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Costa had taken the idea from Barbara M.G. Lynn, chief judge for the U.S. Court for the Northern District of Texas, he said.

At least three other judges for the Southern District have rules that are similar to the one in Bennett’s court.

Before Kapoor got her opportunity to argue before Bennett, Haynes and Boone partner Michael Mazzone of Houston had filed a motion requesting that oral argument be set. The motion noted that Kapoor, who “contributed significantly” to the motion for summary judgment and “has been practicing for less than seven years,” would present the oral argument.

When alerted to such circumstances, Bennett said, “I almost automatically schedule a hearing with the expectation that the young lawyer will be arguing.”

Mazzonne said he ran the idea of having Kapoor argue in favor of the motion by his client, telling the client, “We have an opportunity to get a hearing.” The client readily agreed to the proposal.

Bennett said he takes into consideration that young lawyers may not have much experience in arguing before a court and he gives them “the space to make their argument.”

Kapoor said she generally is nervous before she begins an argument, “but once I begin, I just get in the zone.”