The American Lawyer Speaks to David Elsberg on Developing First Chair Trial Lawyers


Earlier in the week, The American Lawyer spoke with Elsberg Baker & Maruri partner David Elsberg about becoming a first chair trial lawyer. “What it takes, I think, is the ability to lead a trial team, meaning that you have to have the strategy, you have to be able to know which person to put at which spots, you have to be able to deal directly with the client, and the client has to have confidence in your judgment,” Elsberg said. “Obviously, you have to be successful in the courtroom. That takes experience. That's directly linked to how we approach training our associates—to get them experience right from the start. We take that very, very seriously.”

In the first 90 days of existence, the Firm has been to trial twice, with other trials scheduled before the end of the year. Every one of the Firm’s first year associates have been to trial already, with others poised to be at trial by the year’s end. The trial focus, according to Elsberg, is one of the key drivers in attracting talent. “So far, we've been very lucky in the sense that the associates that we've hired have not been through headhunters. These are people who have reached out directly to us. Some of them are people who worked at our former firms.” Elsberg continued, “then there are people that we've never met who have reached out to us directly even through things like LinkedIn or emails. We also have had current associates who will say, ‘Oh, I know somebody who I think would be a really good fit.’ And there are judges who tell their clerks, ‘Hey, you might want to consider this firm.’ So far, that's how it's been.”

To create an environment that fosters young lawyers’ growth, Elsberg explained, “It's very important for the more senior lawyers to make sure that more junior lawyers really know and feel that they're going to get support. In the event that an error is made, the attitude is going to be: ‘What do we do next? How do we fix it?’ The most senior lawyers—the best lawyers on the planet—are going to do things that don't go right. They're going to be mistakes. You don’t want young lawyers to feel that it's a tremendous risk if they make a mistake or they're going to be vilified for it.”