In this installment of the Justice Team podcast, Bob Simon engages in a conversation with Casey Hultin, founder and lead trial attorney at Hultin Law. Specializing in personal injury cases, Casey shares her invaluable insights into the world of trial law, shedding light on the formidable challenges of securing courtroom time. Both Casey and Bob underscore the power of networking and maintaining a robust social media presence and delve into the emotional rigors of trial work, emphasizing the need for self-awareness and a supportive professional network. Whether you’re a newer trial lawyer or a long-standing pro, there’s something for everyone in this episode!
Casey Hultin, Hultin Law
Bob Simon (00:07):
Welcome, listeners or viewers, to this edition of the Justice Team Podcast. Today, we have on Casey Hultin, who is our favorite Swede, and she’s also very tall. Casey, how tall are you?
Casey Hultin (00:18):
I’m almost six feet.
Bob Simon (00:19):
Nice. That’s why she’s so intimidating in the courtroom, and we’re going to talk about that because Casey is what we call a paratrooper for trial, where she comes in later stages. They try a lot of cases here for a lot of people, Justice HQ people throughout California. Casey lives up in the Bay Area in North Cal, but she’s down here today in SoCal because where were you today, Casey?
Casey Hultin (00:38):
I was reporting ready for trial again.
Bob Simon (00:40):
What happened again?
Casey Hultin (00:42):
There was not an available courtroom.
Bob Simon (00:43):
How often does this happen to you?
Casey Hultin (00:45):
Approximately 75% of the time.
Bob Simon (00:47):
Wow. Yeah, so I think a lot of listeners, viewers are aspiring to do trials, to get into the courtroom, and a lot of people say, “It takes you years, you got to be second chair, you got to do all this stuff.” We see you especially have been getting in the ring a lot. How is it are you able to educate our listeners that, well, first of all, how long have you been practicing?
Casey Hultin (01:10):
I’ve been practicing seven years now.
Bob Simon (01:12):
Okay. How many of that have been doing PI what you’re doing the trials now, the personal injury trial.
Casey Hultin (01:17):
A little more than five has been that.
Bob Simon (01:20):
So five years doing this area, this practice area, and I mean, how many trials do you think you’ve gotten out in the past couple of years?
Casey Hultin (01:27):
Total? So I’ve done 14 as lead now, and I have to correct myself, I’ve been practicing for eight years. I just did quick math and realized I was three years of something else, but yeah, I’ve done quite a few as lead, and really in the first couple years I was in personal injury, I had about seven of them, so it went pretty quick. And then with the pandemic, it slowed, and in the last year, two verdict I’ve had four, and then I’ve had a couple settle in the middle.
Bob Simon (01:56):
And a lot of listeners or viewers don’t understand that a lot of cases do resolve even the middle of the trial right before trial and sometimes it’s the best place to do it.
Casey Hultin (02:04):
Bob Simon (02:07):
Yeah. And if you have any questions for Case here, they go to justice team network.com, click that case consultation button or one of the shows, we’ll get back to you with any of those answers. So Casey, for our young listeners out there, how are you able to get this experience to get into the courtroom, when some people tell you it takes years if not decades to do it?
Casey Hultin (02:24):
So my answer is not always popular. Some people find it to be a little opportunistic, but I’m a big proponent of squeaky wheel gets the grease. You need to let everybody and their brother know that that’s what you want to do. Trials are your goal, and then you take whatever opportunity you get and you crush it.
Bob Simon (02:40):
And I, like you, in my earlier years trying, Casey tried a lot of dog shit. If you’re watching, Casey’s laughing at. Same?
Casey Hultin (02:51):
Oh yeah. I mean my very first case at trial was a really difficult premises’ case where he fell off a platform that had no rails and dropped 10 feet, and they’re just hard cases. Premises’ cases are a really good place for young trial attorneys to get chances, but I’ve tried those. I’ve tried a lot of disputed liability cases where the odds are not great and that’s just the opportunities you get.
Bob Simon (03:17):
So walk us through, because a lot of people are maybe at a firm and they’re not getting any opportunity there. First, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th year associate. They’re not getting those chances in the ring. You now work for yourself. What’s the difference? You’ve been on both sides of that coin. What’s the difference?
Casey Hultin (03:38):
I mean, it’s just a huge difference, and I think when you’re working for somebody else, it depends a lot on who you’re working for. There are firms, you and I started at the same place and if you can find a firm where maybe the main players don’t actually want to do the trials, that’s a great place to go get opportunities.
Bob Simon (03:54):
She and I both were baby lawyers, not at the same time, but different decades probably at Lederer & Nojima, big shout out to Dave and John and some of my mentors, but yeah, same thing. I was able to get some trial experience early on, but you have to, I’d go to a boutique smaller firm rather than where you’re like 20th in line.
Casey Hultin (04:12):
Right, and at Dolan where I was next, that’s a harder place to get trials because Chris likes to do the trials. He’s very good at doing the trials. So the goal there is less, do I get my own solo trial and ultimately I did, but can I go along on this trial? How do I get myself even on the trial team for that? Even if it means that maybe you’re not doing the work you want to do, it might not be realistic to get a witness right out the gate, but you just keep taking the opportunities and keep kind of chirping in people’s ear and eventually somebody will give you a shot.
Bob Simon (04:41):
And on your end when you’re working for yourself, now you get to decide if you take the case, what the fee splits are, how you get in there?
Casey Hultin (04:48):
Sure. And I also, I will just tell you, if you want to trial and you’re listening and your firm is open to it, please just email me. I will help you find a trial or a chance at it because people do send me a lot of their more last minute ones that are suboptimal and I can’t try them all. So I’m happy to give young lawyers a shot on that. I also really like teaching, and so I’m happy to bring people along as a second chair.
Bob Simon (05:14):
And I think a lot of people be willing to sometimes just try a case for experience points at the beginning, maybe one or two to get your feet wet and then work into having a rev share on the fees. I think a lot of people don’t realize there’s an opportunity where some lawyers have a lot of cases and they’re not interested in trying them, but they do have the money to finance them and they can give you the opportunity to well finance them while giving you a piece of the pie.
Casey Hultin (05:37):
Yeah, that’s a really good opportunity too. I think people get scared sometimes of taking their own cases to trial just on the cost end. And when I co-counsel with people, I’m very open about the fact that I am not the money person. Somebody else is going to fund that, but I’m happy to go in there and give it a good run.
Bob Simon (05:58):
And I think that’s the niche or niche if you want to say that, that Casey’s found herself in as kind of being like the trial director of Justice HQ was on our channels, telling everybody what judges are available and then helping quarterback and give cases, especially to other women that aren’t getting the opportunity, right?
Casey Hultin (06:12):
Yeah, definitely because I think that women do have a harder time getting in the courtroom for whatever reason, and I really want to make sure there’s more of us in there because frankly, we’re pretty good at it.
Bob Simon (06:22):
Right? Pretty damn good. Pretty darn good. Damn or darn, I think we can swear on this. It’s our show, so…
Casey Hultin (06:26):
I think so.
Bob Simon (06:27):
… We can say what the fuck we want, but I think it also is a lot easier if you have your own firm to create that own opportunity?
Casey Hultin (06:32):
Bob Simon (06:34):
Okay, so talk to us about, you parachute in and sometimes you already have that steaming pile of dog shit in front of you and you can’t really do anything with it, but when you’re coming in, and I’ve been in a situation before and it sucks. Experts have already been designated, sometimes expert discovery’s been done and you’re just doing the trial. You kind of walk our listeners and viewers through some practical tips of when that happens and what you can actually do?
Casey Hultin (06:57):
In terms of when we’re at the stage where we’re already there and it’s done and you’re showing up?
Bob Simon (07:01):
Let’s do the first one where you’re there, it’s done. Experts have already been disclosed. You actually maybe get to do a couple of experts, but your horses have been selected.
Casey Hultin (07:12):
Yeah, so I think my first advice on that is that your horses aren’t always as selected as you think they are. People get very set on, discovery is closed, things are locked in, and it’s my favorite thing to do is look at it and say, “Okay, well what moves can I make to make the game board a little bit different?” Because maybe we think we’re playing with one deck of cards, but actually I can start getting two or three other ones shuffled in. So discovery is not always as closed as you think is the biggest tip, if you’ve got a difficult liability case, you can always go find other information out there. So you just go and keep doing your own hunt for information, especially if you’ve got a government entity, it’s really easy to find more.
Bob Simon (07:55):
You tried a very difficult government entity, sidewalk case in a very difficult part of LA County and won. No, kudos to that. I would’ve never even touched that case. Congrats to you, Casey.
Casey Hultin (08:07):
Bob Simon (08:09):
But I always tell lawyers, if you want to learn how to be a great trial lawyer, try those really hard cases that have all the bad facts. All the bad facts. Then you get cases with good facts that are easier.
Casey Hultin (08:18):
Yeah. Well, and honestly, sometimes I don’t even know what to do with myself if I get something that’s too good now because I’m so used to scrapping, I like myself in a scrap better than almost anybody else. If we’re going to have a case where nobody deposed experts and we’re flying in blind, I’ll bet on myself every single time.
Bob Simon (08:35):
Oh, that’s actually a better, in some states like Oregon, they have no expert discovery and it’s just like a free for all trial, which I actually like, but fine.
Casey Hultin (08:42):
Well, it’s just not, that’s surprising. What is your expert going to say? “He’s not injured. Okay, great.” Shocker.
Bob Simon (08:48):
“What else are you going to tell us? Right, it’s degenerative. Okay, next.” Yeah, so when you walk into that situation, first of all, where would you prefer to come and do a trial?
Casey Hultin (08:56):
I would love to come into trial before expert discovery.
Bob Simon (08:59):
Casey Hultin (08:59):
That would be the ideal because I can do a lot more for the case there, but that’s not generally when people call me because I’m pretty good at fixing mistakes. So if you’re coming in later and there’s been mistakes or it’s suboptimal, I guess is probably the better way to put it, you can keep, I build trap doors too where maybe it’s not something I’m going to get to use, but I have the opportunity in the event that the facts change.
Bob Simon (09:27):
And I think it’s important also for people that get a lot of cases that are thinking about bringing in co-counsel to help try it or co-try it or just give it altogether. Don’t be afraid to have somebody like Casey or our firm or any firm, have eyes on it earlier because you can go to Casey and say, “Hey, I want you to try this case if it gets there, how about I give you a lower tiered percentage just to be my consultant to make sure we hire those right experts in case you’re in place.” I think a lot of attorneys make the mistake thinking they have to hold it on too long and think it’s going to settle magically just by them hiring a bunch of experts they never talked to, and it makes it harder to resolve that case.
Casey Hultin (10:01):
And they don’t always understand too what experts are actually needed. So you see a whole list of a bunch of people that you definitely didn’t need and then perhaps a supplemental was blown and there was somebody that you should have designated in response to the defense. You can always consult somebody to get that stuff figured out earlier on. And the other thing I see, especially from younger attorneys, and I think I felt this way a lot too when I was more junior, I was so self-conscious of my own work product that I was really hesitant to get people involved. And I can guarantee you it’s not going to be the worst thing I’ve seen. And there’s not a single ounce of judgment at what you’ve done, because I get it. And I think that that’s most people who do this and come in later. So please, if you’re sitting there hesitating and going, “Oh gosh, my file needs to be in perfect shape and it’s not organized, and oh, what if I didn’t ask the questions right at Depo?” Well, you took the depo. That’s pretty good. So
Bob Simon (10:58):
As a start, yeah, people perfection stalls up. What that’s saying is progression or something like this, but don’t be worried about being perfect. Who gives a shit? Just go there, do the best you can. And most of the times what carries the day in trials, it’s going to be the story and then being prepared, all the facts.
Casey Hultin (11:14):
Bob Simon (11:15):
Okay. So a lot of people think that, Hey, Casey, you’re in trial all the time, it’s so sexy. You’re going from flying from Oakland down to LA, trying this case, going over to Sacramento to try that case. How sexy is that trial lawyer life?
Casey Hultin (11:31):
Oh, gosh. I mean I have Southwest A-list and I will say, when I get that seat on the over wing with the extra legroom, that feels pretty sexy.
Bob Simon (11:38):
Casey Hultin (11:39):
That’s cool, but no, I get so sick of takeout, all I want for my husband to cook me something instead, I get so sick of it. You start to just really value being in your own bed. I value that more than anything, but I grew up in a family where people were on the road a lot. My dad traveled a ton and when I started doing this, we had a conversation. He goes, Have you reached that point where you just can’t be around people yet?”
Bob Simon (12:08):
But you feel like a stranger in your own home? And I think that, well, we’ll do a whole trial error episode later, but you have that, even when you’re out of trial, you’re still in that fog of war and it takes a few days to get back acclimated to the real world. It was like you’re in prison for a month. You can be in jail, not prison for a month.
Casey Hultin (12:24):
Okay, well, but no, it takes forever too just to come back to reality and get caught up, and as far as the rest of your cases are concerned, it’s like you were on vacation except for you definitely weren’t at all.
Bob Simon (12:36):
And that’s the other thing, if you’re running a straight trial practice, like Casey is, it’s hard to maintain all your other cases if you’re constantly in trial.
Casey Hultin (12:44):
Very. Very. Which is why co-counseling is so great because you need, especially if you’re doing it like me and on your own, you really need to have other people you can trust.
Bob Simon (12:52):
So I mean, let’s pair this down. Are you trying intellectual property cases?
Casey Hultin (12:56):
Bob Simon (12:57):
Are you trying bankruptcy cases?
Casey Hultin (12:58):
Bob Simon (12:59):
Are you doing family law cases?
Casey Hultin (12:59):
Bob Simon (13:00):
Are you doing injury cases?
Casey Hultin (13:02):
Bob Simon (13:02):
All right. So you specialize in what?
Casey Hultin (13:04):
Bob Simon (13:04):
That’s right. So if you had had a trademark infringement case, would that be you?
Casey Hultin (13:09):
It could still be me, but I’m not going to tell you no.
Bob Simon (13:12):
The price may be right. Yeah. Get the right co-counsel and specialist in, but I think that people just make the mistake of hiring a non-specialist for what they need. So okay, it’s going back to a lot of our young listeners want to aspire to be Casey’s of the world. So what is it like because trying to get ready for a trial and it doesn’t happen. What’s that like?
Casey Hultin (13:31):
I have learned to accept the emotional comedown because even like I did today, where I went and reported ready, there’s always the possibility I actually do start, and that’s where my brain’s at, and I’m revving up emotionally. And I know on days today where I go, I have to have a low expectation of getting other stuff done because that come down, I’m going to go to bed early tonight. I guarantee you, I’ll be asleep by 8:00 PM. It just is emotionally draining, so a lot of it is just learning yourself and learning what your own ebbs and flows are, and that’s tricky if you haven’t gotten to do a lot of trials. There was nothing worse for me in the beginning than I’d be fully ready, all my exams outlined and perfect, and then something happens and we have to kick it three months, and then I would forget what I did.
Bob Simon (14:18):
And then another case, come back and then relearn, relearn, relearn. And it is what it is, but I think one of the things we were discussing before you came on, is one of the bigger trials you have coming up has like 50 witnesses or something?
Casey Hultin (14:30):
57 witnesses, 38 of which are non-retained experts.
Bob Simon (14:36):
And that’s where, if that trial goes and you have to do all those witnesses, that’s six weeks of your life.
Casey Hultin (14:42):
Yes. And I have co-counsel on that one because that’s not a thing that you can, I think humanely do to yourself alone.
Bob Simon (14:48):
Casey Hultin (14:48):
So I don’t like trying cases alone, that’s kind of a different thing, but…
Bob Simon (14:52):
I agree a hundred percent. I always have somebody else, at least. At least.
Casey Hultin (14:56):
Yeah. It’s kind of the old way of doing things. I find a couple of things. One, I actually get to rest and have some semblance of balance and health.
Bob Simon (15:05):
And you actually, it’s actually way more fun…
Casey Hultin (15:06):
Bob Simon (15:06):
With somebody else.
Casey Hultin (15:08):
Yes. It’s way more fun, and I get in my own head when I’m by myself, I get a little bit and I’m not sure how things went and I need that other person to say this was the right thing to do and bounce ideas off of somebody.
Bob Simon (15:20):
And I think it’s good, longer trials that I’ve had to be like, okay, this is my heavy lift day where I got four or five witnesses and then maybe the next day, laboring wars with the other person I’m trying to case with, so you can get a break, prepare for the next one.
Casey Hultin (15:31):
Bob Simon (15:32):
Because it is a gauntlet. I mean, the only drug I do is trial work. I mean, it is like an ultimate high. You get that cross and you fuck somebody up. It’s like, “Oh boy, that was the best day of your life.” You do another one, another one, and it’s like this ultimate high that you have all day.
Casey Hultin (15:44):
Oh, you can’t beat it. It’s every trial. I have a day like that, where it’s like, “This is the greatest job on the planet.” And then I have this other day every trial, it’s also about knowing yourself and energy on it. I call it my enterprise rental car day because it just feels so shitty, I have the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach lie, “Everything has gone wrong. Why did I pick this job? I could have gotten a job at enterprise Rent a car where they give you the tools to succeed.” And that’s why I call it that because I made a stepbrother’s joke the first time I did that rant and nobody got it, and I was like, “Uh, come on.”
Bob Simon (16:15):
Casey Hultin (16:18):
There you go.
Bob Simon (16:18):
Yeah. Did we just become best friends? So my stepbrother’s actually a lawyer, actually him and my stepsister. Yeah. Wow. Yeah, just thought of that in my head. Interesting. So being a trial lawyer, if you had to define it, you’re in the trenches. It’s not somebody that just puts on their email signature trial lawyer, which is a thing of all of it own. If you had to describe it for the young lawyers, just break it down simple terms, what’s the best way for them to get their foot in the door?
Casey Hultin (16:48):
When the doors open, go.
Bob Simon (16:49):
Love it. Love it. And what are some things that they could be doing if you had to rewind time? If you were starting in law school, what are some things that you would be doing to try to get trial experience or trial work?
Casey Hultin (16:59):
Trial team, a thousand percent. I was mock trial, high school, college, law school. And is it different? Sure. But those basic skills are very similar.
Bob Simon (17:09):
And I think what people lose sight of is that basic skills, good connections, great.
Casey Hultin (17:13):
Yes, exactly. And if you are, most of the people running your trial programs are trial attorneys or they know trial attorneys.
Bob Simon (17:21):
A lot of the judges for the mock trials are real trial lawyers. That’s where I actually, one I did in Santa Monica year, I was trying a case in Van Nuys, a sexual assault, sad case, and I was doing, went to Santa Monica Van Nuys to Santa Monica to judge, and Alexis Gambly was in law school and she was doing a mock court, and I was like, remember? I was like, that’s a special lawyer.
Casey Hultin (17:38):
I competed against her.
Bob Simon (17:39):
Casey Hultin (17:40):
I lost to her at AAJ, her and Sophie actually.
Bob Simon (17:42):
Casey Hultin (17:43):
I lost to them at a AAJ Regional semifinals. I don’t want to blame it on the judge, but I’m going to…
Bob Simon (17:49):
It was the judge.
Casey Hultin (17:50):
Well, he was one of those judges who starts the competition with, I’m not going to interfere that much, and I’m like, Oh, God.
Bob Simon (17:54):
Oh, God, you know where that’s going.
Casey Hultin (17:56):
Yeah, no, and my co-counsel, it was her first mock trial competition and she was great. She was just a complete natural, but she had not dealt with that before. So I got to close in nine minutes, which in law school competition time is that’s short for that. And then we lost by one point to Alexis and Sophie who are now friends.
Bob Simon (18:12):
That’s so funny.
Casey Hultin (18:12):
But yeah, it’s a very small world.
Bob Simon (18:15):
Yeah. I think that’s for young listeners. Those are good pointed things to do. And then just keep putting your name in the ring. I mean, almost what’s the worst thing they say? They say no. Just being so aggressive about, the reason I know that I get a lot of you, a lot of people saying, I need somebody to try this case, this case, and it’s not a fit for my firm because we take bigger ones. It’s like, “Well, here’s some options for you.” And that’s because people keep telling me, reminding me that they’re available.
Casey Hultin (18:38):
Yeah. It literally is, squeaky will gets the grease. I don’t know any other way to say it. The more you tell people, “I want trials”, and the more you are about, “I’m just about trial, I want to be in the courtroom, that’s what I want.” You will be front of mind and don’t feel like telling somebody one time is enough. We’re all busy. It’s really about at the moment that somebody gives me a trial I can’t do or calls me about it, it’s pretty much a recency bias of who did I last talk to that said they wanted trials.
Bob Simon (19:06):
It’s a hundred percent true. For listeners, just put, if you’re on social media, just put on your handle, your description, “We’ll work for trials” or “Ready for trials.” Big, bold or be aggressive about it.
Casey Hultin (19:21):
You cannot message me too many times. If you want to text me once a week and say, “Hey, you got any trials for me?” Great. Honestly, I’ll respect that.
Bob Simon (19:29):
See, I love that. I love it. I love it. Love it, but yeah, I mean really drop into Casey’s DMs. What’s your handle so people can find you.
Casey Hultin (19:35):
Casey’s on the case.
Bob Simon (19:37):
I love that. It’s so easy. Every time I tag her in something, it’s so easy as when Casey on the case. I’m also very, very entertaining as most good trial lawyers are. If we have up and downtime, you could tell when Casey’s in trial, because it’s like total darkness, total darkness, and then all of a sudden we get to the weekend and it’s soccer a little bit.
Casey Hultin (19:53):
It’s a lot of sports, it’s a lot of, I would probably describe by Instagram stories as chaotic. You don’t really ever know.
Bob Simon (20:02):
Chaotic good. Chaotic good.
Casey Hultin (20:03):
Yeah, but you’re right. It goes all of a sudden it’s like crickets, and people, I think people know now I’m in trial and I try to put something up that says I’m in trial, but otherwise they get worried about me.
Bob Simon (20:12):
I remember back and they’re like, wow, people would be texting me, “Are you okay?” They didn’t see at plan upon Bob wasn’t doing something, and I was like, no guys, “I’m just in trial. I’m a little fucking busy here.”
Casey Hultin (20:21):
Bob Simon (20:22):
People get worried for you.
Casey Hultin (20:23):
No, they do. And I do generally my Monday morning sports and pop culture recap, just so people know kind of basics of what happened over the weekend. And if there’s not a recap for a couple weeks, people are like, “What’s going on?” I’m like, “Well, I can’t really do this in the morning. It doesn’t take me that long anymore, but I can’t just film this before trial.”
Bob Simon (20:39):
For listeners join, be on listeners, be in communities, be active even in chats. Be active in emails and responses. Be on social media. Let people know you’re there and exist. The worst thing I can hear when people tell me, oh, I’m available to try cases, they tell me that, “Why didn’t you suck me on that case?” I was like, “I had no fucking clue that’s what you wanted to do.”
Casey Hultin (20:59):
No. Yeah. And you can do it whatever way makes sense for you. Are you a big in person person? Okay, go up to people at events. I befriend people on Instagram all the time. I’ve made so many new friends just in my DMs of maybe they message me, maybe I message them and I have these different friendships there. So you can, whatever works for you, however you’re comfortable, but if you want trials, tell people.
Bob Simon (21:21):
Yeah, tell people. And I also, last piece of advice for me, it’s very hard. It’s harder to transition from doing criminal to civil trials. It’s a different genre and you have to learn, actually, there’s depositions, there’s discovery, there’s a lot of great trial lawyers that came from criminal into civil, but the learning curve, some people think they can go to PD if they want to go do civil trials, they think they have can start in the criminal, be a good transition. It is harder than they think. It’s doable.
Casey Hultin (21:44):
Way harder, way harder. And it’s so different. Their voir dire is so different. I think there’s a lot more nuance in what we do with very specific verbiage on how we’re presenting things, that you don’t have on the criminal side. So if you are, look, all that skillsets always going to be transferable and it’s better than having not been in the courtroom, but if you are coming out of that world, you got to team up with somebody who knows what they’re doing.
Bob Simon (22:08):
It takes, one of the great trial lawyers I work with all the time, Sienna Kojado, she came from criminal to civil and we try to first few cases together, they don’t have discovery, there’s these different things, but that transferable skill, that killer instinct, I call her the cross killer. She’ll just eviscerate people when we try cases together, but yeah, have a mentor if you’re looking to get into that space, work with trial lawyers that can help you find a lot of work. People like Casey and I get a lot of trial asks, so there’s a lot of ripple effects that goes down into it, but if you have any other questions, Casey, thanks for coming on.
Casey Hultin (22:38):
Thanks for having me.
Bob Simon (22:39):
For fun. You want Casey on the case. Any other questions? Go to justice team network.com. Find us there. Thank you for coming to this edition of the Justice Team podcast, everybody.