Tessa L. Dysart

Not too long ago I was driving in the car with both junior associates. I was talking to my spouse on the phone (safely via hands free), and in the course of the conversation I used the “s” word–“stupid.” An adorable little 4 year old voice called out from the back seat, “Mommy, we don’t say ‘stupid.'” To which I said, “you are right, I am so sorry.”

This little episode, which has sadly happened more than once, got me thinking about the advice that judges give attorneys. Judges are often very quick to give excellent advice to attorneys, but
Continue Reading Do as I do: Tips on writing briefs … and opinions

Last month, I noted two April 8, 2022 federal Court of Appeal decisions on attorney sanctions where the courts reminded us claims of experience are no excuse for improper behavior. I focused on the Fifth Circuit’s reminder: “When litigating in…
Continue Reading Fifth & Seventh Circuits Uphold Sanctions for Seasoned Attorneys, Rejecting Their Requests for Relief Based on Their Experience–Part Two

In terms of pro bono service, our profession has a long way to go.

Model Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 makes clear that “[e]very lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay.”  To that end, the Rule says that lawyers “should aspire to render at least fifty (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.”

Let’s be honest, though: 50 hours is pretty paltry.  If you take a two-week vacation, you can still satisfy Rule 6.1 with just one pro bono hour per week.  Even for busy lawyers, that’s hardly “aspir[ational].”  Yet
Continue Reading A plea for pro bono service

Rebuttal provides an advocate with an opportunity to point out otherwise undiscussed weaknesses in an opponent’s argument, as well as to emphasize the superiority of the evidence, precedents, and reasoning that supports your client. Five points fundamental points should guide rebuttal:

  • Answer your opponent’s best argument. During your opponent’s argument, you can evaluate your opponent’s framing of the argument and the court’s reaction to them. Many advocates go after the obvious weakness in the argument the court just heard. Doing so can be effective, but, if the argument is available, demonstrating why your opponent’s best argument should not prevail can

  • Continue Reading The art of rebuttal