Inside the Advocate's Studio with Leading Attorney Lawrence Lustberg
On-the-ground advice from a lawyer who handles 185 cases at a time and receives 100 emails an hour
Gibbons P.C. attorney and the New Jersey Law Journal’s 2013 “Lawyer of the Year” Lawrence Lustberg (pictured above, left) spoke to first-year students during a special Introduction to Lawyering class. He shared advice, insights, and lessons learned from practice on oral argument, brief writing, the challenges and rewards of practice, and the core professional values that guide his work.
Introduction to Lawyering Professor Jamie Pukl-Werbel (pictured above, right) interviewed Mr. Lustberg talk-show style and framed the event as “Inside the Advocate’s Studio.” The event kicked off the Lawyering exercise on oral argument, so Professor Pukl-Werbel began with questions about strategizing and preparing for oral argument.
Over his 32 years of practice Mr. Lustberg, recently named among New Jersey's Top 10 "SuperLawyers," has presented hundreds of trial and appellate oral arguments, including many in the New Jersey Supreme Court, so he had many helpful pieces of advice. He urged students to see oral argument as a “conversation” with the judges, and an opportunity to “address their concerns.” What makes a lawyer successful at oral argument is “listening hard to the judge’s question, understanding what they are worried about, and addressing it.”
He spoke about the extensive preparation he does for each oral argument and the need to think through every eventuality. He showed the students a copy of the notes he used for one of his most recent oral arguments at the New Jersey Supreme Court and demonstrated how he outlines responses to the most difficult questions that he anticipates he will be asked.
Professor Pukl-Werbel asked Mr. Lustberg if he had a professional motto and he replied that he once pasted a post-it note on an associate’s computer screen with one word – “Think.” He said he considers this one of the most important values of lawyering because “before you do anything in our world, you have to stop and think about it. Don’t only think about what you want to say, think about the reply you can expect and then, how you want to respond to it.” This applies not only to oral arguments before the New Jersey Supreme Court but also to phone calls with adversaries or emails to clients. For him, this is one of the best parts of being a lawyer. “How cool is it that we always have to think.”
Mr. Lustberg says that he has very high standards for those who work for him. When asked how students would know when a brief is ready to submit he answered, “You should be proud to stand behind it. Your work product is an extension of you.”
Students were amazed to hear that Mr. Lustberg is currently handling 185 active cases. He also confessed that he receives 100 emails every hour.
Mr. Lustberg also shared with students some of the highest and lowest points of his career, and connected both to the impact that lawyers have on human lives. He reminded students that “what we do is not just abstract but affects real people. At the end of the day lawyers are about helping people.”