Even for a trial lawyer, Mike Alder is pugnacious. As he puts it, he has “destroyed,” “punched in the head,” “killed” and “kicked the crap out of” opposing attorneys in trial. It’s the kind of attitude that has made him, at the age of 44, a big name among the plaintiff’s bar, with a 10-attorney firm and major victories that include a $49 million verdict in a Ventura County personal injury case last year. In 2005, he became the youngest attorney to ever be named Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles; today, he is the organization’s president. Lately, he has also found success litigating business cases on contingency, winning a $33 million verdict last year against Pentel of America Ltd. for intellectual property theft on behalf of El Segundo ad agency Concept Chaser Co. Inc. But attitude alone won’t get you very far. In his Beverly Hills offices, Alder sat down with the Business Journal to discuss the tricks of the trade, why he wears the same outfit during every trial and growing up in the South.
Question: Is it true that you have “groupies” – other attorneys who follow you around?Answer:
That’s extraordinarily embarrassing. I have a lot of people who have come to the trials and watch. I’ve got a couple of friends that have been to probably 25 trials of mine. You can call them groupies, yes.
They’re not following you around the courthouse too, are they?
Oh, yeah. I’ll invite whoever’s there to come with me and buy them lunch. I was trying a case last year up in Ventura and somehow the word got out I was doing closing arguments and there were 125 people in the courtroom. It’s empowering but you gotta perform. They’re either going to go back and say you were awesome or you were terrible. You better be good.
What makes you a successful trial attorney?
I’m a fast thinker. I have an aptitude for cross-examination. I love collecting good cross-examinations and reading them and calling the guy and saying, “Dude, that was awesome!”
You’re good at getting people to tell you things they don’t want to, then.
This morning I took a deposition. I talked to my associate; I said, “What do we need to win this case?” He said, “You need to get this guy to admit X, Y and Z.” By the end of the depo I had him admitting X, Y and Z.
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