Seeking to expand its litigation offerings, Dykema, a law firm with offices in Detroit and Bloomfield Hills, has assembled a national team of trial attorneys to litigate cases across the country. Even as fewer cases are tried, experience in front of a jury has become a specialized skill set.
“One of the realities of a law firm’s practice today is that fewer cases go to trial, so you have less trial experience to spread around — you can’t just assume the average litigator has trial experience,” says Dan Stephenson, leader of Dykema’s National Trial Team. In 2012, the U.S. Attorneys’ Office handled 42,140 criminal matters in which grand jury proceedings were conducted — a 10 percent decrease when compared to the year before.
A decrease in jury cases is happening at the local level, as well, says Mike Cooney, chair of Dykema’s litigation department. “There are many attorneys who litigate cases, but far fewer that actually try them. And much less try them on a national basis,” he says.
Cooney adds that the 27 trial team members — of whom just over half are based in Dykema’s Michigan offices — form a “support system that allows us to set up shop and litigate cases across the country as easily as we can as across the street.”
While being on the trial team is not a prerequisite for a Dykema attorney to try a case (the firm has 180 litigators), Stephenson says the team allows the firm to be better prepared at a moment’s notice. A team member may step in for a case that has been handled by another firm up until the point of trial, or may assist another Dykema litigator who isn’t as experienced in trying cases.
“Litigation is such a broad category,” Stephenson says. “You have commercial litigators, real estate litigators, product liability litigators, etc., etc. In my view, having the skill to try a big case is a practice area into itself. That’s a skill that you want to capitalize on.”