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Future Leaders Section Sidebar Series: Pennsylvania Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo

Take advantage of the opportunity to meet with a Pennsylvania Judge.  Contact the Future Leaders’ Sidebar Series chair James P. Goslee, Esq., of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, [email protected]

Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo is a newly appointed Federal District Court Judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Prior to being appointed to the District Court, Judge Restrepo was a Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and formerly served as an Assistant Federal Defender.

Q:  How has being a Judge changed your perception of what is important in successfully representing your clients?  

A: It has reconfirmed my perspective that it is very difficult being a lawyer.  Clients can be very demanding and have unrealistic expectations.  There is often a real tension between a lawyer and his or her clients, but one thing I suggest to lawyers is that they listen better.  Lawyers are trained how to speak and advocate, but listening is really a skill that a lot of lawyers would be well served to refine.

Q: If you could go back in time and tell your younger self what would be the most important thing to your career and your development as an attorney, what would you say?   

A: Speaking Spanish.  One of the most valuable credentials I had was that I am bilingual.  It is a tough job market, much more so now than before, and if you have something that really distinguishes you, it is value added.  I was very lucky that I grew up in a Spanish-speaking household so it came second nature to me, but I would really commit to being bilingual.

Q:  Do you have any advice on how attorneys can better control the pace of litigation in instances where you have an opponent who is pushing really aggressively or on the other hand intentionally delaying?   

A:  At the end of the day, we all go back to our reputation.  If people respect you as an attorney and like you as a person, you are not going to have as much difficulty.  I would encourage counsel not to go to the judge as your default mode.  It is best to get the judge involved only as a means of last resort on issues that really matter.

Q:  What kind of mistakes or missteps do you see attorneys making in their cases, in either briefs or during oral argument?

A:  Often times in oral argument attorneys don’t listen to the judge and don’t answer the judge’s questions.  It is really important to listen very carefully to what the judge is asking you because the judge may be trying tell you where he or she is going or what he or she is thinking.  If you’re not listening it is going to go right past you.  In terms of brief writing, being concise is really important, as is not attacking opposing counsel because that really distracts from your work product.

Q:  How can petitioners prepare for the proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, assuming they are adopted?

A: Be more efficient.  For instance, I think interrogatories are often times abused. I don’t think they typically advance the ball.  There are other ways to get the same information, including depositions.  At a deposition you can objectively observe the witness and assess how this person is going to play in front of the judge and or the jury.  You cannot get that through paper discovery.

Q: Do you have any advice or wisdom you can pass on to young trial lawyers?

A: My advice would be – don’t wake up with “Mister If.”  Thirty years down the line you don’t want to say “what if I had tried to do this,” “what if I had started my own firm,” “what if I had applied for that job,” “what if I had pursued that judgeship.”  You want to have the peace of mind that you gave yourself every opportunity to pursue your personal and career goals.  There are too many people that are unsatisfied because they didn’t really pursue opportunities when presented.  The other advice I would give to young lawyers is to get out of the office.  You need to get out of the office to establish your network and to develop relationships with clients.  Remember, life is short, enjoy it!

PAJ Member Jillian A. S. Roman is an associate with Cohen, Placitella & Roth’s Philadelphia office.

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