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Coopers' Code

User Guide

Coopers’ Code contains collected wisdom we’ve learned during our years practicing law. We’ve learned from, worked for, worked with, and been up against some of the best lawyers there are. Every one of them taught us valuable lessons. We’ve collected the lessons and imbued them with the values we’ve learned. Be wise, nimble, stoic, and true. Be vulnerable and also capable of delivering a case’s killing stroke. Our practice is a path we walk, ever learning and ever expanding our knowledge. In doing so, we must all recognize we are human and sometimes misstep.

Each section contains an isolated 800-word lesson. We cover insurance bad faith or opposing summary judgment, for example. The lessons are how we at Coopers do things. It contains elements of a practice guide. But it goes beyond the practice to address life lessons themselves – empathy, addiction, and fighting cancer among them.

Every day we get to help people is a privilege. Our opposition becomes our learning partner. On our best days we reason and help them see what we see. On others we may use the trial sword. Every time, we better ourselves and the world around us.

We hope you enjoy the material as much as we enjoy learning the lessons that give rise to them.


Miles and Maryanne Cooper

1. The practice

  1. Law firm operations
    1. Personal insurance concerns-[An ounce of protection]
    2. Successful lawyering requires many different skills [A lawyer for all seasons]
    3. Balancing thinking work with lawyering’s responsive requirements [That’s deep…]
    4. Clearing out that which accumulates in a law practice [Squared away]
    5. Marketing
      1. Managing your personal online presence [Perception is reality]
    6. Technology
      1. Using technology to maximize untethered productivity [Have laptop, will travel]
      2. Case management software [It’s all relative]
      3. Managing device interaction for a more productive (and more fulfilling) life [I am not my smartphone]
    7. Managing a firm with remote workers (in a pandemic) [Enough Stuart Smalley]
    8. Time away from the practice-illness, injury, and vacations [Sudden emergency]
    9. Leaving a firm for other opportunities [Ch-ch-ch changes]
    10. Working through fear loops, our profession’s centuries-old resilience, and suspending judgment [Going viral]
    11. Developing and using firm values to succeed [Value proposition]
    12. Reaching maximum potential with managed personal growth [Growth plan]
    13. Planning and executing an effective firm retreat [Retreat!]
    14. Small changes can make big impacts in shortening a case’s duration [Efficiency Unit]
    15. An introvert’s guide to surviving and thriving at industry events [Work the Room]
    16. Management for those of us who never knew we’d need to do it [Managing expectations]
    17. Building teams with the right people in the right seats [Building teams with the right people in the right seats]
    18. Conducting meaningful After-Action Reviews for constant improvement [As the dust settles]
  2. Writing
    1. Legal writing [Hemingway, not Faulkner]
    2. Crafting language for maximum effect [A brief word]
  3. Decision-making
    1. Deciding how to make decisions, and what decisions to make [Decisions, decisions, decisions…]
    2. Making good decisions when group dynamics are in play [Sure footing]
    3. Applying Nobel Prize-winning decision-making theories to trial practice [Walking, fast and slow]
  4. Addiction
    1. Alcohol and attorneys [I got 99 problems but a beer ain’t one]
    2. Cramming down the demons that drive us differs from confronting them [Pandora’s Box]
    3. Helping the addict in our midst take steps toward recovery [Asking for a friend]
  5. The case benefits from active transportation [The people on the bus]
  6. The different stages and ages we go through as we practice [The lion in winter]
  7. Rapport-building in socially distant times [Strained relationships]
  8. On finding and being a good mentor [Learner’s permit]
  9. Effectively allying with female colleagues to foment change [Allied powers]

2. Intake and case evaluation

  1. The initial contacts with a potential client set the tone [First impressions]
  2. The duty to refer [Help! I need somebody]
  3. Minor impact, soft tissue cases [MIST me]
  4. How rational case decisions can lead to irrational outcomes [Rationally irrational]
  5. Brainstorming cases and maintaining relationships [Lawyers who lunch]
  6. Strategies for prosecuting the bicycle dooring case [When is a door not a door?]

3. Client support

  1. Maintaining the personal touch in personal injury [I am the business…]
  2. The lives that touch us [A death in the family]
  3. Casual inquiries from friends and family [All in the family]
  4. Case value-the difference between what they need versus what the case is worth [Deserve’s got nothing to do with it]
  5. Social media [The tweet’s the thing…]
  6. Considerations when representing multiple plaintiffs in the same case [Party bus]
  7. Helping people with multiple incidents [One crash, two crash, red crash, blue crash]

4. Insurance coverage

  1. The ins and outs of underinsured motorist coverage [A brush with death]
  2. Pointers and pitfalls when a client has workers comp [Compensating for something]
  3. Bad faith planning [Make them an offer they can refuse-in bad faith]
  4. Lessons learned from the bad faith front lines [That’s not our policy]
  5. Intentional acts, insurance/defendant friction, and creating collectability [Road Rage]

5. Early case investigation

  1. The importance of visiting the scene [The map is not the territory]
  2. Using jury instructions for more than just instructing juries [I’ve got a CACI jones]
  3. Track down all the incident reports and data to gain a better understanding of what happened [Reporting for duty]
  4. Social media investigation in cycling and athletic incidents [Ride sharing]
  5. Weeding through medical marijuana issues [It’s for my glaucoma]
  6. Focus groups highlight case strengths and weaknesses [Don’t lose focus]
  7. Evaluating bicycle product liability cases [Give me a break]
  8. Examining common liability issues presented by e-bike cases [E-xhilerating]
  9. Understanding and enforcing public records act requests [Let the sunshine in]

6. Government claims

  1. Traps for the unwary in government claim land [Not on the roster]
  2. Road surfaces and notice against governmental entities [Pave the planet]

7. Pre-litigation negotiation

  1. Settlement efforts before filing suit are worth the effort [Pre-party]
  2. Successful time-limited pre-filing demands after C.C.P. § 999’s arrival [Demanding times]

8. Preparing for and filing suit

  1. Developing and drafting discovery before filing suit [Discovery Process]
  2. The art of crafting a complaint [Complaint department]
  3. Finding the right entities in a premises case [Naming rights]
  4. Avoiding traps: central differences between federal and California state courts [Federated states]

9. Engaging with opposing counsel

  1. Inexperienced opposing counsel require special consideration [Whippersnappers]

10. Pleading battles

Reserved for future topics.

11. Discovery

  1. Planning exhibit use from the very beginning [The exhibit’s the thing…]
  2. Answering discovery helps one gain greater appreciation of the case [Self-discovery]
  3. Electronic discovery and metadata [The document speaks for itself]
  4. Discovery disputes [Land wars in Asia]
  5. Inadvertent disclosures and clawbacks [Read it and weep]
  6. Admissions [Admit nothing: Practical and tactical use of requests for admissions]
  7. Strategic uses for requests for production [Production line]
  8. Depositions
    1. The strategy, art, and irritation inherent to deposition objections [Objection!]
    2. Taking person most knowledgeable depositions [The Know Nothing Party]
  9. Using and responding to interrogatories [Interrogation room]
  10. Major California civil procedure changes bring mandatory disclosures [Show me what you got]

12. Damages development

  1. Putting yourself in your client’s shoes [I feel your pain]
  2. Identifying and proving mild traumatic brain injury [Brain drain]
  3. Identifying and proving wage loss without a W-2 [Wage war]
  4. Household services [Help around the house]
  5. Medical billing and ICD codes [The Code War]
  6. Framing the case [A child’s eyes]
  7. Cameo witnesses and their importance in describing the impact of an injury [Out of character]

13. Experts

  1. Working with green experts [An expert is born]
  2. Treating doctors [Treat them right]
  3. Understanding bicycle experts’ evolution [Relax, I’m a professional]
  4. Preparing for and attending the defense medical exam [Okay, now cough]
  5. Preparing for the defense expert’s deposition [Publish and perish]
  6. Helping your expert’s direct examination shine [Expert examination]

14. Motions and Summary Judgment

  1. Winning law and motion practice through focused communication [Motion to pass]
  2. Opposing summary judgment helps ready a case for trial [Don’t throw me in the briar patch!]
  3. Preparing for and delivering motion practice oral argument [Argue your position]

15. Settlement talks

  1. Strategic settlement [The Pincer Move]
  2. Persuade the other side [Show and tell]
  3. Collecting damages when the defendant is underinsured [An important asset]
  4. Overcoming the inherent challenges when negotiating policy limit cases [Take it to the limit]
  5. Mediation
    1. Right-timing is everything [Avoid the green ones]
    2. The right mediator makes the process go smoother [Pick a winner]
    3. Preparing a client for mediation [Settle in]
    4. Mediators need our help to settle cases successfully [Mediator, go work your magic]
    5. Making the best use of first-dance mediations [First Dance]
    6. Preparing for and mediating cases with multiple clients [Joint and several mediation]
  6. Mandatory settlement conferences: Getting the most out of a Mandatory Settlement Conference [Settle up]
  7. Helping clients find fiscal responsibility [Help them keep their settlement]
  8. Shifting the driver-centric attitude in disputed liability bike and pedestrian cases [The road more traveled]

16. Trial preparation and strategy

  1. Lawyers lean and improve by watching trials [The Watcher]
  2. Beware the compromise verdict [I dialed 911 a long time ago]
  3. Be aware of current culture and sports [The Ministry of Culture]
  4. Get the lay of the land well before trial [So this is what a courthouse looks like]
  5. Witness order at trial [Order out of chaos]
  6. Expedited jury trials for some cases [One day, one trial]
  7. Expedited jury trials-tight time requires lots of planning [Chance favors the prepared]
  8. Managing back to back trials [Under pressure]
  9. The great learnings from jury service [Duty calls]
  10. The best trial testimony comes from a prepared witness [The prepared witness]

17. Trial

  1. Meet the staff who control the courtroom [Staff privileges]
  2. Back up plans for back up plans [Department Zero Dark Thirty]
  3. The effective second seat [Never a second’s hesitation]
  4. Confidence and superstition [Very superstitious]
  5. Mini-openings, neutral statements, and overselling in the name of primacy [Prime time]
  6. Jury selection
    1. Who shows up? Jury summons yields and county polling [Selective Service]
    2. The mechanics of jury selection [Selection criteria]
    3. Effective use of jury questionnaires [Questionnaire questioner]
    4. An “on-shoulders-of-giants” primer on successful jury selection cause challenges [Entirely Impartial]
  7. Teaching anatomy to the jury [Anatomically correct]
  8. Handling sub rosa video [What the camera doesn’t show]
  9. Evidence admissibility
    1. The business record exception [The price of admission]
  10. Lay witness direct exams [Directing the direct when your witness is not an expert]
  11. Cross examination
    1. Pressure, energy, breath, and brevity [The Cross Whisperer]
    2. Using visuals to improve cross-exam’s effectiveness [The right cross]
  12. Using video depositions in lieu of live witnesses [Portions of this trial were previously recorded]
  13. Settlement talks during trial [Settlement-It’s not over until the foreperson sings]
  14. Preparing for and using the special verdict form in trial [The verdict]
  15. Creating and delivering compelling opening statements [Opening up]
  16. Talk to jurors post-verdict to learn, improve, and evaluate the verdict [Jury research]
  17. Get the right equipment to present successfully [The show must go on]
  18. Nuts, bolts, and strategic considerations for trial exhibits [Exhibiting behavior]

18. Post-trial motions

Reserved for future topics.

19. Appeals

  1. The trial lawyer and appellate lawyer’s delicate pas de deux [How appealing]

20. Case resolution

  1. Where the funds go when resolving a minor’s claim requires due consideration [A minor compromise]
  2. Concluding client representation at the end of a case [This is the end]
  3. Evaluate healthcare liens at a case’s beginning, when you have the most leverage [Lien Times]
  4. Making case closing an essential part of office hygiene [Boxing day]

21. Maxims of Jedi prudence

  1. Being grounded [The way of the Jedi lawyer]
  2. Opening yourself to outcome [The Stoic]
  3. Staying relevant [Who moved my typewriter]
  4. Life lessons in the law following a life lost [The man comes around]
  5. The future is not ours if we do nothing to safeguard it [Future shock]
  6. Lessons learned from a case with personal impact [Personal jurisdiction]
  7. Focus on the goal, not the obstacle, to achieve the desired outcome [Target acquired]