The Life and Career of David Morrison Employment Litigator

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"One of the biggest [stumbling blocks] that law school doesn't prepare someone for is the ability to juggle multiple matters—to handle client concerns and to be available and accessible at all times," he said. "They teach juggling to the extent that you need to juggle your classes and do well. One of those implicit lessons of law school is how to balance your workload and excel. But translating that into the time management skills on a day-to-day basis as opposed to over the course of semester is very different."

A 1993 cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Mr. Morrison is a labor and employment litigator who has handled discrimination, wrongful termination, harassment, and other labor-related cases.

Q: What attracted you to working as an employment attorney?

A: With respect to labor law, it was a combination of litigation and corporate counseling, so that you would be negotiating agreements at the same time as litigating matters in court. You become a more complete lawyer when you're doing both sides of the equation.

Q: What are some of the misconceptions or stereotypes of labor attorneys?

A: Oftentimes you find yourself arguing on the behalf of a company or the employee. You want to avoid allowing yourself to get into the trap where you just make a knee-jerk reaction to arguments. The best way to effectively represent your client is to put on the hat of the other side and give an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

Some people tend to think of labor lawyers as—well, you represent management or you represent employees, and you're either therefore incredibly conservative and only think one way or incredibly liberal and only think one way. Neither one of those things is true.

Q: What are some other hurdles for new associates?

A: One of the things that young associates have difficulty learning is the need to fully engage on the matters they're working on right away. When you're doing your summer internship with law firms, it tends to be a project-by-project basis: here's my next assignment, and I'll do that and then wait to get another assignment. When you're an associate in a law firm, you need to take ownership of your case—thinking on your own what kind of discovery needs to be done, where do I see this coming out in six months, be putting in the brainpower on case strategy. That's a skill that develops over time. The sooner a new associate develops that skill, the more effective he or she can become.

Q: What was your most humbling moment in law school or as a new lawyer?

A: You just have no idea how well you're going to do. You have all this confidence in yourself, and you go to a school like Michigan, and you're in a room with a whole bunch of other people who graduated with 3.8s and did very well on the LSAT. The first round of exams is probably the most humbling thing. By the time you graduate, hopefully you've figured out what it takes to do "A" work and what represents "B" work because you then apply that in your practice. You really want to try to give "A" work whenever you can.

Certainly when you're practicing, the humbling experiences can be those occasions when you're juggling, when you all of a sudden sit back and say, "Did I think about that issue?" Those are the things that keep lawyers up at night: Oh my gosh! Did I think about this issue when I was making that argument? Oh my gosh! Did I do that in the best way possible? The flip side is you've got to learn how to let it go and do the best job you can and not let it consume your life.

Q: What do you look for when hiring?

A: We look for students who are going to be bright enough to do the job, to be able to walk through complex legal problems, but also with a personality that allows them to comfortably interact with clients, with attorneys in the office. There are plenty of times we get students with great grades who we don't make an offer to because they don't have a personality that will mesh well in the office. And there are times when we see people where the grades aren't good enough even though they have one of the greatest personalities in the world.

Popular tags

David Morrison      Employment Attorney      Labor And Employment Litigator      Labor Attorneys     

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