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May 03, 2024 Did You Know?

When I Was a New Lawyer

Mark Curriden

What inspired you to become a lawyer? And what did you do prior to becoming a lawyer?

I love law and history, but I always wanted to be a journalist. I had an opportunity to go to law school, and I knew a law degree would be a great benefit in my journalism career.

How did you become involved with the ABA?

While in law school, I started writing for the ABA Journal. My first article was in 1986 about a criminal trial of a defendant, Bobby Hoppe, charged three decades after the crime occurred. Then I did a profile of legendary trial lawyer Bobby Lee Cook of Georgia and followed that with an article about seven frozen embryos at the center of a divorce case in Maryville, Tennessee. Once I became a lawyer, I joined the ABA as a member. I love the educational and social aspects of TIPS and the ABA.

What is the benefit of a new lawyer becoming active with the ABA?

The best benefits are definitely the educational and networking opportunities. The people I have met —Linda Klein, Tennessee Justice Penny White, Gail Ashworth, and so many others—have become wonderful friends and tremendous sources for great stories.

What early career practices led to your success?

During advocacy class in law school, I came across U.S. v. Joseph Shipp, a U.S. Supreme Court case about a Black man from Chattanooga falsely accused of rape. This led me to research and write Contempt of Court. As the legal affairs writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I covered many high-profile trials and witnessed the execution of Warren McCleskey, who was put to death in 1991 in the Georgia electric chair. With The Dallas Morning News, I covered every aspect of the tobacco litigation over five years and wrote several exclusive articles that led to the indictment and conviction of then-Texas Attorney General Dan Morales.

What early career mistakes did you make and what did you learn from them?

I made way too many mistakes to count. Nearly all of my errors were due to me not taking the time to do the appropriate amount of research.

What is your advice for dealing with difficult partners, colleagues, or counsel?

Never tell people what you think they want to hear. Tell them the truth but do it in a gracious and humble manner. Be respectful of those who have sacrificed and put in the hard work. Never be afraid to stop and ask for directions or to ask people why.

Also, work every day to protect the civil jury system and judicial independence. Nothing short of the future of our country depends on it.

What is your advice for a new lawyer seeking to acquire, retain, and nurture client relationships?

I’ve interviewed so many corporate general counsel and so many individual plaintiffs and have come to realize one primary thing: Their story is important. Listen to the stories. If more people on both sides of the docket would just stop and listen and try to understand, they would find that there are solutions. By the way, the same is even truer for appellate court judges. Facts matter.

What challenges you the most?

Getting old sucks. There is just not enough time in the day to get everything done. I am working on two additional books. Finally, I work every single day to make The Texas Lawbook the best online legal newspaper in the United States.

What gives you the most satisfaction?

I’m simple, like a Labrador retriever. People telling me that they enjoyed an article or learned something new from my writing just means the world to me.

What are your future ambitions for the next five to 10 years?

I have two books that I need to finish researching and writing.

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Mark Curriden

Texas Lawbook

Mark Curriden is a Texas Lawbook reporter and lawyer.