Hare Wynn attorney, Tempe Smith was selected by Law360 to share her perspective on plaintiff work. Below is the article that was published:
Tempe D. Smith, a trial lawyer with Hare Wynn Newell & Newton LLP in Birmingham, Alabama, grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and has lived in Alabama ever since making the move to attend the University Of Alabama School Of Law.
Smith has practiced law for five years and joined Hare Wynn in 2015. Her practice focuses primarily on complex litigation, including class actions and mass tort cases. What she enjoys most about her job is meeting new people and applying her problem-solving skills to achieve favorable results. Seeing how her work affects her clients’ lives brings her much joy and satisfaction.
Recently, Smith was selected as one of Birmingham’s “Top Female Lawyers” by B-Metro Magazine and was selected as “Rising Star” in the “Top Attorney” category by Birmingham Magazine. In her spare time, Smith enjoys hanging out with friends and family, attending Alabama football games, and spending time at the lake or hiking.
Q: What’s the most rewarding aspect of working as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: The most rewarding aspect of working as a plaintiffs attorney is using my legal skills to solve problems for my clients. I enjoy helping my clients, but I also enjoy the satisfaction of investigating the facts of a case to discover what really happened and figuring out legally what relief my client is entitled to.
Q: What skill do you feel is most important for achieving success as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: People skills are some of the most important skills a plaintiffs attorney should have. A plaintiffs attorney needs to be able to relate to and work with all sorts of different people when resolving an issue for a client — including the client, insurance adjusters, defense counsel, witnesses, the judge and, of course, the jury.
Q: What advice would you offer to young lawyers interested in practicing as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: Be assertive. Unlike with big defense firms where associates are often hired after a summer clerkship, there is no typical path to follow to get a job at a plaintiffs firm. Young lawyers should look for any opportunity they can to improve their litigation skills so that when an opportunity arises they will bring something to the table. And, once they have been hired, young lawyers should continue to strive to make themselves indispensable to their firm.
Q: What’s one trend currently impacting your practice?
A: The recent increase in lawyer advertising has changed the landscape for plaintiffs firms. Plaintiffs firms simply cannot conduct business the way they did 50 years ago. With the evolution of technology and the rise of the digital age, it’s more important than ever for plaintiff firms to both create and follow a strategic marketing plan as part of their business model.
Q: What’s one thing defense attorneys don’t understand about practicing as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: Defense attorneys would be surprised at the money and effort plaintiffs’ attorneys spend to process and evaluate cases that they ultimately turn down. For example, on any particular case, we may order medical records, consult with experts, and conduct extensive research — all before deciding whether to take a case. For firms that rely mostly on contingency fees, performing this due diligence is critical.
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