I loved the cases I handled in BigLaw. What could be better than working with preeminent attorneys on challenging issues for top notch clients? Work was plentiful and I gained great experience. In my first few years of practice, I briefed dispositive motions in multi-million dollar disputes, handled depositions with a half-a-dozen insurance companies on the other side, presented witnesses, argued complex motions in federal and state courts and participated in the planning and implementation of case strategy and settlement negotiations with some of the most skilled attorneys in town. I also handled a number of significant pro bono cases with the strong support and resources of my big law firm.
What I didn’t love about BigLaw was its inefficiency. Did the client really need a fifty-state memo on an issue being litigated under a single state’s law in one particular court? No, I knew we could prove our position without it. Did it make sense that the attorney who took longer to complete a task earned more for the firm, while the attorney who provided better client service by efficiently attaining the client’s goals ran the risk of not meeting the firm’s billable hour “target”? No, of course not.
So I left BigLaw to join a small firm, where fewer attorneys could translate to a greater client focus. I relished getting to know my clients, their businesses and their needs, and I enjoyed guiding them through the resolution of the legal issues they faced. I handled a diverse commercial caseload, as well as matters of civil rights. The work was intense and it was rewarding. But the small firm was modeled too much like the big one, and I was acutely aware of the disconnect between the goals of the firm and those of the clients eager to get back to their non-litigation businesses and lives.
When an opportunity to focus on counseling while simultaneously assisting the court arose, I took it. In 2006, I helped to launch the U.S. District Court Pro Se Assistance Program, a groundbreaking program providing free legal assistance to unrepresented litigants in federal court. In that role, I conducted over 1,000 legal consultations with pro se litigants and educated hundreds of people on substantive law, procedural rules and more effectively litigating their federal court disputes.
After the program was up and running, I joined the chambers of two of the finest U.S. magistrate judges around. There, I drafted judicial opinions on countless legal issues ranging from complex commercial matters to class action, labor and employment, contract, torts and constitutional law. I also aided the court in a diverse set of federal trials, and saw time and time again how attorneys can miss the forest of a lawsuit for the trees of every little fight. “Make it easy for the judge to rule in your favor” - that’s the number one lesson of clerking for the federal court. Unnecessary motions and overindulgent arguments not only disserve the client, who is paying top dollar for those things, but they also clutter the court’s docket and work to delay the ultimate resolution of the larger legal battle.
The guiding principle of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is easily overlooked by attorneys who have never had the privilege of seeing things from “the other side of the bench.” The very first rule mandates a focus on the “just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” In my experience, that aligns nicely with a client’s goals too. That’s why I knew I found my place when I discovered Valorem. Intensely driven and completely client focused, I’m proud to have joined a team of smart and talented attorneys thinking outside of the traditional litigators’ box. Valorem’s strength is its innovative proactive and collaborative approach to serving our clients’ legal needs. Removing the billable hour from the equation only strengthens the alignment of our interests with those of our clients, and keeps us focused on that very first litigation rule: its quick, just and inexpensive resolution.
Margot Klein began her career at Jenner & Block where she focused her litigation practice on insurance coverage and other complex business disputes. Margot has litigated multi-layered insurance and reinsurance coverage disputes, and has handled a host of commercial matters involving contracts, corporate statutory compliance and directors’ and officers’ liability. She has also litigated cases involving civil rights, defamation and consumer fraud, and has done extensive pro bono work on a range of matters involving violence against women. Margot has practiced before several federal and state courts as well as in multiple alternative dispute resolution forums.
Before joining Valorem, Margot worked for the federal court for five years, drafting judicial decisions in all manner of federal litigation including complex business disputes, class action, labor and employment and constitutional law. As a critical part of a chambers operation, she assisted the court in presiding over a diverse set of federal trials. Through her time with the court, Margot gained notable expertise on core discovery disputes and the procedural rules governing federal court litigation. She also developed a unique understanding of what’s central to a court’s analysis of an issue, and how to effectively present it.
Margot is an extremely active and public-minded member of the bar, serving as the president of the Northern District of Illinois Court Historical Association, and as an appointed member of both the U.S. District Court's Pro Bono Advisory Committee and its Pro Se Assistance Program Advisory Committee. Margot also serves as general Chair of the Seventh Circuit Bar Association's Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, Illinois Chair of its Pro Bono & Public Service Committee, and a member of its Board of Governors, as well as on the Executive Committee of the Chicago Bar Association Alliance for Women, a committee she previously chaired. In addition, Margot serves as vice-president of the Board of Directors for Connections for Abused Women and Their Children, and served for many years as President of the Board of Directors of the non-profit coalition, Women Everywhere: Partners in Service Project, Inc.