Labor and Employment Law

Ca. Labor & Emp't Rev. March 2020, Volume 34, No. 2

Fresh Perspectives: Gaining Trial Experience

By Tierra Piens

Tierra Piens is an associate at Orrick, Herrington, and Sutcliffe, LLP, who represents employers in high stakes and complex employment litigation. She also devotes a portion of her practice to providing pro bono services to nonprofit organizations and low-income individuals. She has been recognized for her pro bono contributions by the Justice and Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco. Tierra received her undergraduate degree from UCLA and her J.D. from Berkeley Law. She can be reached at

Participating in trial is an important milestone for an employment litigation associate. If your practice is like mine, gaining trial experience as a junior or midlevel associate is no easy feat. The vast majority of my cases either settle or are dismissed before reaching the courtroom. Sometimes, after weeks or even months of intensive preparation, a settlement is reached in the days prior to trial. I once received the "pencils-down" instruction on the eve before trial was set to begin. Although I am proud that we are often able to score great victories for our clients without the expense of a lengthy trial, as a junior associate, I simultaneously crave the opportunity to gain trial experience.

For this Fresh Perspectives column, I am writing about nontraditional ways that junior or midlevel associates can experience the inner workings of a trial. These opportunities fall into three categories: (1) shadowing; (2) coordinating witnesses; and (3) taking on rewarding pro bono assignments. The following tips may help you gain critical trial experience and add value while doing so.

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