Michael W. Stocker shares what it means to be a successful plaintiffs attorney
Featured in Law360’s Plaintiffs Bar Perspective Q&A Series, Firm partner and general counsel Michael W. Stocker shared his insights on what it means to be a successful plaintiffs securities attorney. He stresses the importance of understanding human nature, the ability to assess risks, and debunks the plaintiffs attorney-frivolous cases myth: “If we pursue a case, it’s because we think we can win.”
Q: What's the most rewarding aspect of working as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: In the plaintiff’s seat you have considerable influence over the direction and pace of the litigation. A defense attorney’s position is closer to that of an undertaker or a divorce lawyer — by the time they get a call, something bad is already well underway.
Q: What skill do you feel is most important for achieving success as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: In plaintiffs securities work, nothing is more important than understanding human nature. Proving fraud turns on showing what was happening in someone’s head when a statement was made. Knowing when and why people lie is a huge advantage in constructing the theory of a fraud case.
Q: What advice would you offer to young lawyers interested in practicing as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: Take advantage of your own ignorance. When you’re 40, eyebrows are raised if you don’t understand basic legal concepts or points of procedure. When you are starting out, you can ask questions and seek explanations from more experienced attorneys without losing face.
Q: What's one trend currently impacting your practice?
A: There is great uncertainty about the future direction of regulators and the U.S. Supreme Court. Uncertainty is bad for plaintiffs and defense lawyers alike, because it clouds the ability of both sides to assess risk.
Q. What's one thing defense attorneys don't understand about practicing as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: If contingent-fee lawyers pursue frivolous cases they go out of business. Because plaintiffs class action firms are largely self-funding, pursuing cases with no merit means throwing your own money out the window. If we pursue a case, it’s because we think we can win.