Trial Pros: Fox Rothschild’s Stephanie Resnick

March 3, 2016 – In The News

Reprinted with permission from the March 3 issue of Law360. (c) 2016 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.

Stephanie Resnick is a partner with Fox Rothschild LLP and chairwoman of the firm’s directors and officers liability and corporate governance practice. She is consistently ranked among the top litigators in Pennsylvania and handles high-stakes, complex business disputes in the federal and state courts of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and beyond. She has served as lead counsel in numerous high-profile litigation matters.

A senior trial lawyer, Resnick has served on the firm’s executive committee for three consecutive three-year terms. She previously chaired the firmwide litigation department, overseeing more than 200 attorneys, a position she held for seven years. Her clients include corporate executives, Fortune 500 companies and family-owned businesses.

Q: What’s the most interesting trial you've worked on and why?

A: I represented a lawyer in an action involving the split-up of his law firm. During the course of the trial, he tearfully disclosed to me that he had stolen millions of dollars from his clients’ settlements. Of course, this was a total shock to me and put me in a situation where I had to figure out what to do with that information. Years later, I learned that while I was negotiating his voluntary disbarment from the practice of law, he had stolen several more millions of dollars from his clients. It was unbelievable.

The interesting turn in the case came when the trial judge asked me to disclose certain information that I could not divulge as it was protected by the attorney-client privilege and was not required by law to divulge. Nevertheless, the judge threatened to hold me in contempt. We concluded the trial and thereafter my firm withdrew as counsel.

My takeaway from that case is that whether you like your client or not, you have a duty and an obligation to zealously represent your client and protect their interests, provided that your actions are within the boundaries of the law and the rules of professional conduct.

Q: What’s the most unexpected or amusing thing you've experienced while working on a trial?

A: The most “unexpected” thing that ever happened when I was trying a case was a situation where the trial judge had narcolepsy. It was a challenge for both sides to make sure that the most important testimony was presented to the court in a manner in which it would be heard. It wasn’t that the trial judge was disinterested. He was extremely smart, but was obviously suffering from a disability. My client, who was the CEO of a startup company, and who was in the courtroom at the time, was extremely disappointed and upset that his case was not receiving the attention it deserved.

Over the course of my years of practice, I have felt that judges have been overwhelmingly attentive, smart, thorough and responsive, and have been able to identify and analyze the issues and then rule upon them. In this particular case it was an unexpected and challenging issue to deal with.

Q: What does your trial prep routine consist of?

A: My routine is significant preparation to either prove or defend against the allegations that have been made. I’m very focused on determining the best evidence, documentation and testimony. The case will often come down to how well you know the ins and outs of your client’s case, the proposed witness testimony, and the documentation.

Q: If you could give just one piece of advice to a lawyer on the eve of their first trial, what would it be?

A: Be prepared and be as calm as you can be. Put your trial face on and get ready to go into battle. Have the mindset that you’re going to be as aggressive as possible in advocating your client’s position.

Q: Name a trial attorney, outside your own firm, who has impressed you and tell us why.

A: There are a handful of outstanding women trial attorneys I admire most ... in particular; Roberta Pichini, former president of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, who handles cases and trials involving serious and catastrophic injuries; Roberta Liebenberg, who handles antitrust and class action trials; and Liz Ainslie, who handles and tries white collar criminal matters, among other things. All possess the qualities of being outstanding lawyers, calm under pressure, are smart and focused and are great advocates for their clients. They are also responsive to the court, courteous to opposing counsel and receptive to a jury.