Denver’s legal community has no shortage of litigators, or ones with impressive track records. Best Lawyers recognized stalwart trial lawyers for its “Lawyer of the Year” distinctions within litigation specialties.
David Mayhan, a Butler Snow partner who was recognized by the attorney ranking as “Lawyer of the Year” for personal injury litigation – defendants, joked that he thought he received the recognition because he “had been around for a while.”
Mayhan’s practice spans a range of litigation specialties, including products liability, commercial litigation, contracts, business tort and copyright infringement cases. Within personal injury, his cases range from premises liability matters to serious truck and automobile accidents. The variety is what keeps him interested, he said. And having that range of experience might be part of what makes him stand out.
It’s not exactly news that litigation is expensive, or that the rising costs — as well as the time and emotional investment of litigation as well — keeps cases out of trial. Because of that, Mayhan stressed the importance of litigators developing skills to help them in arbitration and settlement, perhaps more than trial. After all, 95% of cases won’t make it to trial.
“There is a lot of satisfaction in avoiding a trial,” Mayhan said. “Trials are inherently unpredictable, and if you do it enough, you’re going to wind up on the [losing] side. … We can guesstimate certain outcomes, but we have no crystal ball, and these are difficult matters to predict. That’s the art form, to me,” he said.
As for reaching favorable settlements, Mayhan said it’s important to work with the other side, to have face to face interactions and to remain professional. “You’ve got to have the opportunity to get face to face with the people you’re negotiating with,” he said. Litigators might pick battles on either side of a case, but it’s important to still respect one another, he said.
Murray Ogborn, who was recognized as “Lawyer of the Year” for professional liability litigation – plaintiffs, highlighted the importance of professionalism as well. Over his 51 years in practice, his work has spanned multiple areas of litigation on both the plaintiff’s and defense side, but his work now is focused mostly in the niche of professional liability.
Those cases typically involve someone defending their reputation or, often they feel they’re defending their integrity, he said.
As a result, those cases tend to be more hard-fought than some other types of litigation might be. And in that area, the defense lawyers tend to be high-caliber attorneys as well. With attorneys as defendants and defense counsel, it’s important to have good relationships with the parties on the other side.
“I’m a great believer in professionalism — civility is a more descriptive term,” he said. “A lot of clients believe you have to be in the boxing ring at all times, but that just costs more money.
There are a lot of things you can agree on.” He said that also helps cases by moving things along more quickly. “I don’t have to hate my opponent to do a good job,” he added.
Mayhan and Ogborn also said they believe it is important for the practice for attorneys to share their skills with younger colleagues.
Mayhan said he was encouraged to join the Defense Trial Lawyers Academy a few years ago after being reminded that he had a responsibility to teach younger lawyers how to be better lawyers, he said. One example was in handling an asylum case with an associate out of Butler Snow’s Alabama office. He said helping mentor a young lawyer on the skills of trial and presentation of argument was one of his prouder moments as a lawyer.
Ogborn similarly said he was proud of the younger attorneys at his firm who have developed their own way as lawyers. Ogborn Mihm saw seven other attorneys listed on the Best Lawyers list, several of them younger attorneys, Ogborn said.
He said he was “very proud of our younger lawyers. “I worked hard to train them, get them in the court room. … It gives me a lot of gratification to watch them grow and become effective in their own right.”
— Tony Flesor