February 26, 2016 Articles

Key Tips for Junior Lawyers Practicing Before State Administrative Agencies

Differences and similarities between litigating before a state administrative agency and litigating before a court.

By Mark DeMonte – February 26, 2016

Matters before state administrative agencies provide junior litigators with the opportunity to gain substantive knowledge of a specific area of law, but they can also provide great opportunities for getting practical experience as well. Whether through a pro bono representation or through representation of a paying client, a junior lawyer can often take the lead on a particular issue or area of the law, work up a case, and present it to a fact finder, much like at a trial litigated in state or federal courts. And while there are some rules that apply no matter what venue lawyers may find themselves in, junior lawyers should be mindful that some specific issues can arise in state administrative matters that may require some adjustments from the traditional application of the rule.

First, many lawyers have spoken or heard the advice: “know your audience.” Identifying and analyzing the characteristics of one’s anticipated audience frames both the substance and delivery of any presentation. Presenting evidence and argument to a fact finder is no different. For example, cases tried to a jury require adjustments to tone, order of evidence, and themes that may not be necessary when trying a case to a judge. The same holds true when trying a case before a new judge rather than a more experienced judge. Connecting with the fact finder and creating a conducive environment to understand (and agree with) your version of the case can be critical to a successful outcome. That may be what drives many lawyers’ decisions to spend time and resources on jury consultants or researching a judge’s demeanor and prior decisions.

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