Part 1 of Interview with Litigation Attorney Maura McIntyre

As promised, today I’m posting the first part of my recent interview with Maura McIntyre.  Ms. McIntyre is a fifth year commercial litigation associate at Ungaretti & Harris LLP in Chicago. She earned her undergraduate degree from Boston College in English and Philosophy.  She then earned her J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law, where she served as Notes Editor of the University of Illinois Law Review.

In the first installment of my interview, I asked Ms. McIntyre to give us a picture of her daily life practicing litigation at a large urban law firm. As I noted in a earlier post, Ms. McIntyre has graciously agreed to answer your follow-up questions, so feel free to ask follow-up questions in the Comments section following the post. The future installments of this interview will focus on what she learned from her experiences as a beginning associate and on her more recent experience supervising junior associates.

INTERVIEW, PART ONE:

Q [Elizabeth Inglehart]: Where do you work and how long have you worked there?

A [Maura McIntyre]: I work at Ungaretti & Harris LLP in Chicago.  I started working at Ungaretti as a Summer Associate in 2006 and have worked there as a commercial litigation associate since September of 2007.

Q:        What’s your practice area? Or do you have more than one?

A:        I am in the Litigation Department at Ungaretti, but I also work with attorneys in Ungaretti’s Labor & Employment, Healthcare, and Trusts & Estates Departments from time to time.

Q:        What made you choose to join a relatively large firm rather than a small one, and what made you choose litigation rather than corporate or another practice area?

A:        I ended up choosing a large firm for the same reasons that many law students choose large firms – it had a summer associate program.  When I started as a summer associate at Ungaretti, I was interested in a number of different practice areas, including litigation, corporate, and healthcare.  Throughout the summer, I worked with many attorneys in each of those departments and asked them questions about their experiences, what they liked and disliked about their practice, etc.  Before I received my offer, I was asked to rank the practice groups that I would want to work with if I returned as a first year associate.  Litigation was my first choice; I enjoyed most of the assignments I received from the attorneys in the litigation group and I thought that we would work well together in the future.  There was no single deciding factor for me—it just felt like the best fit at the time.   Fortunately, I ended up in the right place, but I recommend talking to attorneys who practice in areas of interest to you and taking your long term career goals into account before committing to a particular practice area.

Q:        What kinds of cases do you work on?

A:        I work on a wide variety of cases proceeding in both state and federal courts, including commercial contract, employment, real estate, product liability, defamation, intellectual property, and insurance coverage disputes.

Q:        Tell us about your daily life as a lawyer. How many cases do you usually have open? How many are usually active at one time? How many hours do you usually work per day? Per week? Per month? What does a typical day look like? What kinds of activities do you do each day and what percentage of time do you spend on each? Anything else you think law students would like to know about your daily practice life?

A:        My daily life as a lawyer has greatly evolved over the past five years.  As a first and second year associate, I was consistently staffed on four or five active cases and assisted with other cases as needed.  If I was staffed on a case, I was typically responsible for researching legal issues that arose during the course of the litigation, drafting various motions, assisting in drafting and responding to written discovery requests, reviewing documents in preparation for depositions, and representing clients at status hearings and case management conferences. As you may have guessed, if I was brought on another case “as needed,” it was often to assist with document review.

            As I moved from a junior to a mid-level associate, I began taking on more responsibility in my cases.  I am currently staffed on twelve or thirteen active cases, including a few pro bono matters.  I try to spend at least a few hours on each matter every week.  My responsibilities vary depending on the complexity of the case and the number of other attorneys involved at my firm.  Typically, however, I am responsible for drafting pleadings and dispositive motions, drafting and responding to written discovery requests, interviewing clients, preparing witnesses for depositions, taking and defending depositions, negotiating settlements, drafting settlement agreements, and representing clients at various court proceedings.

Every day is different.  I try to get into the office every day between 8:30 a.m. and 9:15 a.m., but I never seem to leave at the same time.  Today, for example, I got to the office around 8:30 a.m., spent two hours in state court arguing a number of contentious motions, an hour responding to emails and updating my colleagues on the status of various matters, three hours preparing for and participating in a settlement conference on behalf of a pro bono client, and an hour revising and preparing to file an answer in a new federal lawsuit.  I left the office around 6:45 p.m. and spent a few hours this evening reviewing research performed by a junior associate in preparation to discuss litigation strategy with a partner tomorrow morning.  It was a busy day.  Tomorrow, however, I will likely spend the majority of the day behind my desk reviewing deposition transcripts and conducting research in preparation to draft a motion for summary judgment.

As for my hours, like most firms, my firm has a minimum billable requirement.  With that in mind, I try to bill 170-180 hours a month.  Unfortunately, there is a great ebb and flow in litigation – so I often end up billing 140 hours one month and 215 the next.

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