The law firm of Hill Wallack LLP has three offices in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, each with diverse areas of practice. That means it has a lot of reach. But it also means the attorneys in the firm work hard to stay connected.
One way the firm is doing that is its evolving Women’s Forum — a venue to recognize the achievements of the firm’s many female attorneys and to promote their continued professional development.
Denise Bowman, Esquire, and Suzanne Marasco, Esquire, are partners in the litigation division. They are also both part of the Women’s Forum who want to share their experiences as attorneys who spend much of their professional lives appearing in court ‒‒ as opposed to, say, hammering out contracts or negotiating deals.
That’s not to say that trial law doesn’t have its share of deals and negotiations. Litigation attorneys, Bowman says, need to be zealous advocates not only in the courtroom but in the context of settlement negotiations. To do that and do right by a client, however, a trial attorney needs to be able to balance that advocacy with an ability to work with the attorneys representing the other side.
“You have to be thick-skinned,” Marasco says. “You can’t take things personally.”
And if the best result for your client takes the form of a settlement, you will need to be able to set your own ego aside and talk professionally and with civility to your opponent. If you don’t have a good working relationship with other attorneys from other firms, you could actually end up harming your client’s interests.
In other words, Marasco says, being a litigation attorney is about having good relationships, with the client, with the adversary, and with the courts themselves. The legal community is, after all, a small one. Attorneys see each other and try cases against the same adversaries all the time. And while litigation attorneys need to have the skills to be hard-hitting in the courtroom, reputations, Bowman says, are also made and broken on the level of professionalism exercised in these interwoven relationships.
Bowman graduated from Temple University Law School, where she was involved with the school’s Trial Advocacy program. That and her first position out of law school with a private law firm exposed her to trial work early and often and, she says, “it stuck.” She has since focused on commercial litigation and has built her career on representing commercial clients in cases ranging from products liability to shareholder disputes.
Marasco, a graduate of Rutgers School of Law-Camden, first stepped into the court room during her first job with a prosecutor’s office before she was officially admitted to practice law. She quickly learned that working for the state has its limitations, so she moved into civil law, where her court room experience led her straight into a trial. Since 1994 she has been with Hill Wallack, where she focuses on employment and insurance matters.
If there’s a common lesson learned for both Bowman and Marasco, it’s that success as a litigation attorney depends on keeping the client’s best interest at the forefront at all times. And that means knowing what you’re walking into court with.
“The only thing you can control,” Bowman says, “is how prepared you are.”
Hill Wallack LLP. www.hillwallack.com.