Teamwork: Dykema forms 'National Trial Team' for significant cases


 By Steve Thorpe

Legal News
It takes a team. At least when you’re headed to a courtroom with a complex and potentially expensive case.
Dykema recently announced the formation of their “National Trial Team,” intended to be able to respond quickly with attorneys who have extensive trial experience. 

Twenty-seven attorneys from firm offices in Michigan, California, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas and Washington, D.C., will make up the team. Members of the group have taken more than 650 cases to verdict, including 94 in the past five years.

Team members have tried cases covering a wide range of areas including product liability, intellectual property, antitrust, securities, and employment with clients from major industries including automotive, pharmaceutical, aviation, healthcare, financial services, computer technology, entertainment and telecommunications.

Mike Cooney, Detroit-based member and chair of the Firm’s Litigation Department, heads up the Michigan contingent on the team, which comprises slightly more than half of total team members. Team members were selected based on trial experience and their areas of specialization, as well as geographic location. 

“Trying significant cases requires a certain skill set and a familiarity with the process,” says Cooney. “Not just getting in front of a jury and trying the case, but all the preparations to try the case.”

And those preparations are getting more complicated all the time. Cooney stresses that not only can the new team coordinate all that work, but they can get it done fast.

“Preparing witnesses, getting the IT support you’re going to need together … we’ve done so much of it that I could call our folks today and say ‘we’re going to trial in a week and a half in Mobile County, Alabama,’ and we would have a war room set up down there and be ready to go. That’s something not a lot of firms can do.”

The national team is led by Dan Stephenson from Dykema’s Los Angeles office with more than 30 years of trial experience. His clients have included some of the biggest companies in the world including General Motors, Rolls-Royce and Procter & Gamble.

Stephenson’s case with the highest local profile was litigation resulting from the crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255, which occurred after takeoff from Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Dykema represented aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas in the 18-month jury trial that resulted in a jury verdict in favor of the client. Coverage of the crash and the legal battles that followed was so intense that it was named the top news story in Michigan during the 1980s.

Cooney says that the origins of the trial team were based on the growing realization that trial experience was the key in many of these cases.

“A lot of people are experienced litigators, senior partners and excellent attorneys, but have little or no trial experience,” he says. “As a result, trials are becoming a specialized area of litigation. For various reasons, we have a collection of attorneys across the country who have tried a lot of significant cases involving many millions of dollars. And we’ve tried them in some of the most difficult jurisdictions for a corporate defendant.”

Some of those cases aren’t measured in just millions, or hundreds of millions of dollars. Dykema has experience with even more zeros in the sum.

“We recently tried a $2 billion case (truck dealers against Ford Motor Company in Cleveland, Ohio), says Cooney. “People don’t try a lot of cases that size.”