Hare Wynn attorney, Hughston Nichols was selected by Law360 to share his perspective on plaintiff work. Below is the article that was published on March 6th:
S. Hughston Nichols is a partner at Hare Wynn Newell & Newton LLP in Birmingham, Alabama. Nichols represents plaintiffs in matters involving personal injury, wrongful death, truck and automobile accidents, and breach of contract litigation. He has been involved in numerous successful cases, including obtaining a multimillion-dollar settlement stemming from the death of a 9-year-old boy. In addition to representing individuals, Nichols also represents small businesses in contractual disputes.
A campus leader as both an undergraduate and a law student, Nichols has continued to develop those skills as a member of the Birmingham Bar Association’s Future Leaders Class of 2010 as well as a member of the Alabama State Bar Leadership Forum Class 10. In 2016, Nichols was voted “Best Attorney in Birmingham” by Birmingham Magazine, and was recognized by Birmingham Business Journal as a “Rising Star of Law.” Additionally, he recently completed his term as the Alabama State Bar Young Lawyers Section President.
Q: What skill do you feel is most important for achieving success as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: Organization is critical to success as a plaintiffs attorney. You bear the burden of proof, so organizing your case to meet those burdens is at the top of the priority list. Of course, presenting an organized case to a jury also bears on your success.
Q: Share an example of a case that was particularly challenging, and how you handled it.
A: Oftentimes, the most challenging part of any case is managing client expectations. It is so important that the client and attorney have a relationship that runs deeper than one or two conversations. There has to be an underlying trust that the attorney is on the same side as the client in all aspects of the case. In one particular case, I was struggling to connect with a client. I ultimately attended his son’s high school baseball game as a fan with my client and overcame my client’s trust issues.
Q: What advice would you offer to young lawyers interested in practicing as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: I’ve heard it said that “finding your way to the courthouse” is not taught in law school. A good grasp of the laws of evidence and civil procedure are important, but practical experience may be even more important. Find an opportunity to shadow or intern with a plaintiffs attorney. Ask to sit in on new client meetings and attend depositions. This experience will not only allow you the chance to determine if plaintiffs work is right for you, it will also show you there is more to practicing law than what is found in the law school library.
Q: What’s one trend currently impacting your practice?
A: One trend impacting my practice is subrogation. While not a new concept, issues involving subrogation are becoming increasingly complex. Many personal injury lawyers, and insurance defense counsel, are cautious to the point of being paranoid when dealing with subrogation issues.
Q: What’s one thing defense attorneys don’t understand about practicing as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: Many defense lawyers despise keeping track of the billable hour. What they may not understand is the billable hour allows that attorney to see that something was accomplished that day, or week. There can be weeks, or months, in a plaintiff attorney’s year where it feels as though nothing was accomplished because there is no result achieved, or income generated.