Labor and Employment Law

Ca. Labor & Emp't Rev. January 2020, Volume 34, No. 1

Fresh Perspectives: How to Add Value to Your Firm

By Scott M. Stillman

Scott Stillman is a partner at McGuinn, Hillsman & Palefsky who specializes in employment law. He represents workers in a wide variety of cases, including discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment, and wrongful termination matters throughout the State of California. He graduated from Stanford University and received his J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. Before joining McGuinn, Hillsman & Palefsky, Mr. Stillman worked as an extern for Judge Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, as a legal intern for the San Francisco Office of the Public Defender, and as a law clerk for Altshuler Berzon LLP and Greater Boston Legal Services—Employment Unit. He serves on the Diversity Committee of the California Employment Lawyers Association. He is also a member of the National Employment Lawyers Association and the Bar Association of San Francisco. Additionally, he is a regular volunteer with Legal Aid At Work.

Law school taught me a lot of things, but not much about the daily practice of law. I learned about the latter only once I became an associate at the firm where I’m currently a partner. And the learning curve was steep. My firm was small (8 lawyers at the time), so I was asked to perform many tasks for which I felt completely unqualified. Can you draft some special interrogatories for this case? Uh, sure. Can you put together possible exhibits for the upcoming deposition? I think so. Can you do a meet and confer with opposing counsel ahead of the case management conference? Probably . . .

I tried to project that I wasn’t entirely clueless, but in my head I frequently thought "why didn’t I learn how to do any of this in law school?" Over the course of those early years, filled with moments of panic, floundering and "faking it until making it," I developed a few simple ways to add real value to my firm’s practice, even as an inexperienced lawyer still learning the ropes. Here are a few of those techniques.

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