Welcome to Torts and Cupcakes!

Welcome to Torts and Cupcakes!

This is a blog about my life as a new lawyer and a passionate baker. Some of my posts will be about law, some will be about my baking escapades, and some will be both. You see, lawyering and baking do have some things in common. In both, changing just one simple element can alter the result entirely.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog. If you have any questions, please contact me at LindseyAnderson@dplaw.com

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My First Arbitration and a Jets Cake

As promised, I want to tell you readers all about my very first arbitration.  Let me first explain what an arbitration actually is, and then you will see why I was so excited to have gotten the opportunity to do this so quickly in my career.

Arbitration is a form of what they call Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR.  In most of the cases we handle, ADR is mandatory.  Arbitration is like a mini trial.  It happens, usually, in an attorney's office around a conference room table.  The plaintiff's attorney and the defendant's attorney are there, along with an arbitrator (usually a lawyer or retired judge) and any witnesses.  The lawyers give opening statements, examine the witnesses, and do closing arguments.

The case I was working on went to a high-low binding Arbitration.  That means that the parties agree to dollar amount parameters (say - $50,000 - $100,000), and the arbitrator, without knowing the parameters makes a decision about the value of the case.  If, in our $50k-$100k example, the arbitrator awards $15,000, the plaintiff gets $50,000.  If she awards $65,000, the plaintiff gets that, and if she awards over $100,000, the plaintiff would get $100,000.

Ok, enough with the logistics - now onto the case.  I represented a woman who was in a car crash.  The defense attorney agreed that his client (the person who hit my client) was at fault.  Since the fault part of the case was not in dispute, we were able to focus just on my client's injuries from the crash.

I started with an opening statement.  Now, I had written out what I was going to say and I practiced it, oh, about 100 times the night before.  Of course, I knew the case very well.  I had worked on it since the beginning.  I had even drafted the lawsuit papers that we used to file the suit.  Still, it was not coming out as I wanted. I. sounded. like. this. very. choppy.  What was wrong with me?  I practiced over and over and yet, to my surprise, I kept forgetting important points.  Oh, and I should mention, I am NOT at all afraid of public speaking.  And I was getting mad at myself for being so choppy...which was making me even more choppy.  UGH!

So, we get to the afternoon of mediation.  I am pumped.  I'm wearing my Monica Malpass suit (you know, the kinds she wears with the fun lapel).  The receptionist compliments my suit, and asks if I am the court reporter (you know, since I have 6 bags with me - brought the entire file cabinet).  I have my opening statement there with me, printed in large font so I can peek at it if necessary.  I wonder - should I have brought a dozen cupcakes?

Just before it was time to begin, though, I put my opening statement out of sight. When it was time to start, my opening statement came out beautifully (if I do say so myself).  Really, it just rolled off my tongue. No. Problems. At. All.

Next, I had the chance to do a direct examination on my client.  This means that I asked her questions about her medical treatment and she described what she went through physically as a result of the crash.  You see, I had planned those questions too.  Earlier that week my boss, who is a veteran attorney, gave me a tutorial about what to ask and how to ask it.  Once again, my printed questions just rolled off my tongue.

Finally, we go to the closings.  I got to make an argument for why my client is entitled to money for her pain and suffering.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love to argue so this was truly natural for me.  I'd say it was the best part.

I'm still waiting for the decision from the arbitrator.  I could say that I am patiently waiting - but that would be a lie.  It's more like I am waiting - not so patiently - and stalking our receptionist for the mail.  Everyday.  This could be more exciting than when bar results came out.

With all this excitement at work, I haven't had too much time to bake.  Over the weekend, though, I was able to make a cake - in part for a birthday, in part for the Jets' payoff game.  It was a vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream and raspberry jam in the center.  I doubled the butter in the recipe of the cake so it was EXTRA delicious.  I will be doing that from now on...shhhh...don't tell my co-workers.  They are all on diets.

Next up...being appointed as an attorney and writing an appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court.  Stay Tuned!

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