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Advancing in Trial Law Through Precision and Adaptability With Ryan Higgins

Advancing in Trial Law Through Precision and Adaptability With Ryan Higgins

December 20, 2023   |   Written by Gladiator Law Marketing
Ryan Higgins Ryan HigginsRyan Higgins is a Partner at Gaudry, Ranson, Higgins & Gremillion, a full-service law firm known for its expertise in insurance, business, and individual client matters. Starting his career at the firm in 2010 as an associate attorney, Ryan eventually became a partner in 2018. With over a decade of experience in civil litigation, transactions, and estate planning, Ryan also brings substantial jury and bench trial experience, having represented clients in commercial arbitration across various jurisdictions. Admitted to practice in all Louisiana state and federal courts, including the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, his work spans a wide range of legal issues, from contract and business disputes to personal injury, construction, property damage, and more. Ryan’s practice not only involves litigation but also extends to business matters such as contract negotiation, business formation, and mergers and acquisitions.
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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • What Gaudry, Ranson, Higgins & Gremillion specializes in — and what sets them apart
  • Ryan Higgins talks about his legal career path
  • The importance of precise language in contract drafting
  • How Ryan‘s interest in film made him want to be an attorney
  • Ryan’s first trial experience and notable cases
  • Are there differences between trials before a judge as opposed to those before a jury?
  • The value of adaptability in legal practice

In this episode…

For aspiring attorneys, advancing in the complex field of trial law requires more than understanding legal codes and statutes. How exactly does one build a successful career in this demanding area of law? Ryan Higgins, a seasoned trial attorney, highlights the crucial role of precision and adaptability, which are essential for a prosperous career in trial law. Drawing from over a decade of experience, Ryan emphasizes that trial law success goes well beyond understanding laws and regulations. It’s about being meticulous in every detail and flexible enough to handle unexpected twists and turns in front of judges and juries. These skills are vital in navigating the challenges and nuances of courtroom battles, ultimately leading to growth and success in the legal profession. In this episode of 15 Minutes, Chad Franzen talks with Ryan Higgins, Partner at Gaudry, Ranson, Higgins & Gremillion, about his experiences and insights into trial law. They discuss the importance of being detailed and adaptable, how to handle the unpredictability of court cases, and the journey of professional development in the legal field. Ryan’s insights provide a unique perspective on navigating legal complexities and building a successful legal career.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, where we deliver tailor-made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential. To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. At Gladiator Law Marketing, we use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com or schedule a free marketing consultation. You can also send an email to adam@gladiatorlawmarketing.com.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01   You’re listening to 15 Minutes, where we feature community leaders sharing what the rest of us should know but likely don’t. Chad Franzen  0:13   Hi.  Chad Franzen here, one of the hosts of Share Your Voice where we talk with top notch law firms and lawyers about what it takes to grow a successful law practice. This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing , delivering tailor made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential. To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI your firm needs to have a better website and better content. Gladiator Law Marketing uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com, where you can schedule a free marketing consultation. Ryan Higgins began his career as an associate attorney at Gaudry Ranson more than 12 years ago, and became a partner at the firm in 2018. He has a broad practice with a focus on commercial litigation, Labor and Employment successions, estate planning and funeral and cemetery law. He also handles transactions and contract drafting. As you can tell, he’s a versatile attorney that brings value to his clients. Hey, Ryan, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you? Ryan Higgins  1:14   Hey. Very good, Chad. Good afternoon. Chad Franzen  1:18   Yeah. Thank you. Hey, great to have you. So tell me a little bit more about Gaudry Ranson and what that firm does? Ryan Higgins  1:24   Sure. First off, which is a common issue, it’s Gaudry Oh, it’s yeah, it’s a tough one to pronounce right off the bat. But um, the firm has been around, you know, Lawson, long before I started here. So it’s been around over 40 years now, I believe. And basically, we have offices in Gretna, Louisiana, right across the bridge from downtown New Orleans and a small office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. So basically, all of our work is focused in the Louisiana area. But we travel all over the state. The firm is primarily an insurance defense firm, representing national regional insurance carriers. And we have about three attorneys here, myself included that do different type of work as well. The practice areas essentially discussed that that I do in terms of business and commercial litigation and some transactions in the States, things like that. Chad Franzen  2:23   What do you think makes Gaudry Ranson kind of unique or favorable compared to other options out there? I know you guys have a good track record in the area of casualty and Personal Injury defense. Ryan Higgins  2:33   Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that here we have, even though we’re a relatively small firm, of about 10, attorneys, it’s maybe been up to about 16. At most, since I’ve been here. We have the partners here, and you know, that a lot of the associates have experienced in a variety of different areas, and a lot of experience handling catastrophic claims very large commercial claims. And that’s something you really need to know how to do, because the exposure to the clients can be quite large, and they really look to attorneys, they can trust and that can actually try cases in court, if the case makes it to trial. And that’s something that we offer our clients and we’re able to do it, I think in a cost efficient manner. And that’s, that’s what of course, a lot of clients, especially insurance companies are looking for. Chad Franzen  3:25   How and when did you know you wanted to become an attorney? Ryan Higgins  3:31   Yeah. I had a cousin growing up, that was considerably older than me just from this, because my father was the youngest. And, you know, his, his father, his mother, I should say, you know, was the oldest of the family. And so he was an attorney. And, you know, he was somebody I always looked up to, and, you know, he kind of got me to participate in some things that he was doing and attend court, even when I was in law school. So that got me interested in something that I just felt I was always interested in doing. Even when I started college, I was basically, in my mind, it’s the where I was going to end up after I graduated. Chad Franzen  4:11   How did you get started in the legal industry? Ryan Higgins  4:14   Well, I got started, right here at Gaudry Ranson over 12 years ago. So it’s probably somewhat rare to have attorneys who started their career and are still at the same firm right now, after maybe over 10 years. But, you know, I started as a law clerk, really at the District Attorney’s Office in Orleans Parish, and I think I was waiting for my bar results to come in. And so I was, I was very close to taking a job there. But I was offered the job here. This was in 2010. The job market was very difficult at the time so when I got the offer here, I felt like there was a they had some really good attorneys I could learn from and I accepted it and that ended up being the case. Um, the attorneys here do a good job, the partners of mentoring the young associates and bringing them along. Chad Franzen  5:06   What were the early days there for you like and what? Maybe what was the first thing you learned? Like maybe like, Oh, yeah. You know, maybe from another attorney like a more senior attorney or just through experience that you kind of take with you to this day? Ryan Higgins  5:21   Well, so yeah, I think I quickly learned that law school had not prepared me to handle a lot of the different areas of law and assignments that I was going to receive. I think I remember doing a lot of corporate law early on when I started. And the that was the partner I was primarily working for. And he’s, he’s a business attorney. He’d been doing it for over 30 years. And the thing I’ve learned from him the most is, how much the attention to detail and the precision and you’re writing is, uh, you know, it’s very important in what you’re doing in corporate law, especially, you do have to kind of learn to write a certain way, I would say, but I wouldn’t, I would turn in an assignment. And I would get comments back, I would see that, you know, what I thought was precise, was not as precise or specific or accurate as it really could be. So you kind of just learned to really write and look at things on a whole nother level. It just beyond what you thought was, you know, good enough before. And that’s one thing I still try to do this day and to even teach younger associates have started here. Chad Franzen  6:33   What do you mean by precise? Like, how can you if you describe something, maybe in the way that you used to use to describe it? How do you do it now compared to the way you did it, then? Ryan Higgins  6:42   I guess it’s a little hard to explain, but I guess it you know, you could you could be trying to describe I was doing it today, you know, for our client, trying to describe a project that someone’s working on, you know, in a contract and just simple example, somebody might just say, you know, ABC refinery, located in this New Orleans, Louisiana, but you know, that when you’re talking about contracts, where hundreds of 1000s or millions of dollars is that issue? You know, you’d want to go beyond that and make sure that your reference, what’s the specific project number? Where’s more? What’s the specific location of the refinery, there might be a specific number assigned to a tank that you’re actually working on at the refinery. So there’s just a level that in contract drafting, especially, that I picked up on that, yeah, it matters, how you’re saying things. And it’s the best to do as much as you possibly can to avoid any vagueness when you’re dealing with contracts. So we try to avoid that. Chad Franzen  7:56   So you had been there more than five years before he came, partner. What led you to becoming partner? Ryan Higgins  8:03   Um, in all honesty, I had another job opportunity that I was interested in. And, you know, I’ve been associated for five years, and I went to the firm here, because I’ve been here for a long time, and they were always very good and fair to me. So I let them know about the offer. And, you know, they they agreed, essentially to match it and, and told me, I would make partner the next year, I was here, and, you know, felt like I wanted to stay here. So that kind of just, maybe they accelerated the process, but a couple of partners are retiring. And so yeah, I was here at a good time. Yeah, essentially, do that. Chad Franzen  8:45   What do you enjoy about working Gaudry Ransone to the point where, you know, even if you have another offer, you’re gonna make every effort to, to not leave, and then and then stay there. Ryan Higgins  8:57   Yeah, um, I mean, it is, it’s the attorneys I’m working with and their, again, their knowledge and experience, I enjoy the fact that I can go to another Attorney’s Office, and they’re pretty much always gonna take the time to help me. You’re always learning in this job if you’ve done it for 12 or 40 years. And we have attorneys here that practice in a variety of different areas. Now, we even though it’s essentially insurance, defense, we’ve got attorneys that do a lot of workers compensation, or a lot of insurance coverage work a lot of real estate. So it helps me and my clients that I have access to these attorneys, and again, when I bring something up to them, more often than not, they have some type of information that I didn’t think about or it’s really helpful. So I feel more comfortable that I’m doing my job. I have access to those attorneys to help advise me as well. Chad Franzen  9:49   So I asked you how and when you knew you wanted to become an attorney? What was it that drew you to wanting to be a lawyer or an attorney? And is that what you and is that still what you enjoy most about it? And if not, what is that? Ryan Higgins  10:02   Yeah, um, I think I liked you know, just growing up, I mean, I’m a big fan of film. And of course, you know, the movies with with attorneys. Everyone’s favorite my cousin Vinnie, and but other movies out there, we see attorneys practice and I was drawn to the idea of, of trying cases and being a trial lawyer, which I have gotten to do. To some extent, it’s a little difficult sometimes to try cases, because usually clients want to settle. But that is something I was interested in. And then when I went into law school, I got involved in trial advocacy program, you know, people might know it as mock trial. And so I did that and competed nationally, and did well put a lot of time and effort into it. And I think it served me really well, kind of gave me a jumpstart on that going into practicing as an attorney, because you don’t get a lot of experience trying cases, either until you’ve been doing for a while. And the the partners here put a lot of faith in me. And let me assist in trying cases and try cases on my own pretty early on. So that’s something that really drew me to doing it. And I’ve been able to do that here. I’ve got a couple set next year for jury trial that I probably wind up trying. So that’s, that’s been big for me. Chad Franzen  11:16   Are you like the attorneys you see in the movies, like really demonstrative and dramatic? Ryan Higgins  11:22   Yes, I believe that, you know, it is important to have a have a theme for your trial, and definitely have the jury understand what’s at stake and make a good connection with them. Yeah, that’s something I learned in trial advocacy. And it might seem a little trite, but I think it works in practice, in jury trials, especially. Chad Franzen  11:45   When you were part of your first trial as an attorney, what were your kind of emotions going into it? Ryan Higgins  11:53   Well, let’s see, I think, probably one of the first times I was I was a little apprehensive, I think, partly because I was asked to do a cross examination of a witness and we had not deposed that witness. So that means I really didn’t know what the witness would say. So no, no attorney likes to be in the position where you haven’t deposed the witness. But sometimes that’s just the case, again, I mean, it could really end up being cost prohibitive to depose every single possible witness in a case sometimes, but I had, again, the experience that I took from law school, doing it in law school, and I felt that I was strong with cross examinations. So it ended up going pretty well. But you know, I had the partner there and the client there. I think after the trial was over the client, I came to our office, and he thought I was a law clerk still because I was probably about 2627 years old at the time. And I was like, Well, no, I don’t think they would have let me cross examine a witness at the trial. If I didn’t have my law license, then so that was a good experience. And, you know, I think it turned out about as well as it could. Chad Franzen  13:01   So you have been with Gaudry Ranson your entire legal career during that time, what are some big moments that you’re proud of either personally or, or, you know, as a firm? What are you most proud of there? I know Gaudry Ranson represented the parish of Jefferson and other municipal municipalities in connection with their claims in the BP Deepwater Horizon litigation. Ryan Higgins  13:23   Yes. And that was definitely something that, you know, we took a lot of pride and responsibility in, you know, that oil spill affected everybody, really in South Louisiana. And I came not that long after everybody just got back from recovering for Katrina. So had a big impact on businesses here. And we put a lot of time and effort into that. And that was, that’s definitely something I would, I would I would mention, also, probably about four or five years ago, now, I got to try my first jury trial, and it was in New Orleans in Orleans Parish, and I was a construction gays representative subcontract er, and, you know, was able to get a successful jury verdict in his favor on that case, doing basically solo. And that was a big, big moment for me kind of what you got into it for and put a lot of time and effort into it. And so it was definitely rewarding to have it come out in our favor. Chad Franzen  14:20   Is there a difference between as a non attorney I guess, I’m just curious, is there a difference between how you approach a jury trial and just a trial in front of a judge? Ryan Higgins  14:30   There is just because of the just the knowledge that the judge has about the law. And, you know, they, you’re probably going to, it’s just going to take a lot more preparation, usually to prepare for, for a jury. And certainly the jury selection process is key. I certainly believe that that’s that’s a big issue. If you could some attorneys think you can win or lose a case just by the jurors that you select. So that’s a whole another part of the trial that gets prepared for. Chad Franzen  15:01   Do you have to? You know, I’m watching that show The Lincoln Lawyer right now, have you heard of that? on Netflix? Do you? Is there is there an importance in making a connection with the jury that they kind of talked about that in that show? Ryan Higgins  15:12   I think there absolutely is. I mean, I, I find that jurors, you know, and they’re all different education levels of backgrounds. And New Orleans is a very diverse community to if you’re in this area, and usually your jury is going to reflect that. And we’ve had people especially recently coming from all over the country to moving here, it’s a big area for that, too. So, yeah, I think that it’s, it’s something where you do have to make a connection, if the jury doesn’t like the attorney, it’s probably not going to go very well, you know, your clients gonna testify, that might be the only time they’re gonna hear from your client. You certainly want the jury to like your client. But you’re the one that’s going to be talking the whole time. And I believe, really, no matter how good your case is, if the jury doesn’t think you’re telling them the truth doesn’t trust you thinks you’re not being credible, that it’s, it’s not going to go well, at the end of the day, even if you have the law on your side. Chad Franzen  16:15   Is that something they teach you or help you work on in law school? Or is that something you have to just figure out once you start doing it? Ryan Higgins  16:21   Yeah, I think that’s something you just have to figure out. Yeah, that’s, that’s why, I guess some of the best trial attorneys are sought after and it’s just one of those kinds of skills, like you see, some times people in any business that are very successful, maybe have great people skills. I mean, my my dad worked for an oil company one time and you know, they had a big lawsuit going on, and he was talking to the attorney representing the company. And your experience explained to him like, Oh, Mr. Higgins, we, you know, we do a good job, because jurors like me. And I think he was right. And you know, that’s something that, I definitely think it is important. And the way I try to do it is really just to be to be as credible and honest as I can about my case. You don’t want to oversell it to women, you don’t want to tell them anything that you’re not going to deliver on at the end of the day. Chad Franzen  17:13   As a partner now, what are some daily rituals you find most important, what does a typical day look like? Ryan Higgins  17:20   Ah, coffee, the moment I come in through the door, you know, I have three young children. So I don’t always get here as early as I used to, or I would like what I’ve been doing the last few days, because got a lot of work to catch up on. So I always start the day with a cup of coffee. And, you know, kind of have it planned what I’m going to work on when I get here, so I can get right. Right to that. It’s nice to get started early before the phone calls and emails come in. And, you know, typically I’ve been eating lunch, just at the office recently. Because again, I’ll try to leave a little earlier than normal to get home and you know, help with dinner be with the kids. And the nice thing is these days, it’s kind of easy to to work remotely from home. So, you know, I kind of try to avoid the traffic and the commute issue because I feel like I’m losing time there. So I’d rather get myself home without having to worry about the traffic and not be able to get work done. And I’ll just kind of work from home or, you know, finish up on the on the weekend and get the work done that way. Chad Franzen  18:28   I have one more question for you. But how first, how can people find out more about Gaudry Ranson? Ryan Higgins  18:33   Sure, yeah, we do have a website, you know, at grhg.net. And we have a LinkedIn page as well with for our firm. On the website, we do we do try to post pretty regular blog posts, about different emerging legal issues and things of that nature. I’ve had a lot of people call our office because we’ve posted or I personally posted about wage claims and Louisiana and you know, we do some funeral and cemetery law. And I you know, I myself do that. And I think there’s not a lot of attorneys out there I guess that, that have that list as a practice area. So we get a lot of calls about that as well. Chad Franzen  19:13   Final question for you. If you can think of something I guess off the top of your head, what is either the best or the worst piece of advice you have ever received as an attorney, or in general. Ryan Higgins  19:30   Wow, that’s a tough one. You know, I think if you’re if you’re someone who’s from the New Orleans area probably applies to some other places too. And this is just a little tongue in cheek but I think my dad once told me when I was learning how to drive that. You know, you always want to assume the person next to you might just do something totally unexpected. But I think It carries over to a lot of other things, as well, it’s something I’ve learned and, you know, in the legal practice is that a lot of times, people, when people are coming to you for a case, it’s because, you know, they have, they have an issue that’s, it’s definitely unique and something’s happened. That’s probably way out of the ordinary. So you really need to be prepared for anything and be able to adapt. Chad Franzen  20:23   Do you have a lot of scenarios where you’re like, I thought I’d seen everything? Ryan Higgins  20:28   Yes, pretty much. That happens a lot. That’s one of the things that does keep it does keep it interesting. For sure. And, you know, that that happens more I think, when you when you represent individuals and as well as businesses, but a lot of times individuals are issues with families and successions. And, and Cemetery and Funeral while to you know, can can carry that forward and then the in terms of terms of bad advice, I’m not so sure I probably would have put it out in my mind. By now. Chad Franzen  21:01   No worries. Hey, Ryan has been great to talk to you. Thank you so much for your time and all of your insights. Really appreciate it. Ryan Higgins  21:07   No, thank you. Appreciate you having me. Chad Franzen  21:09   So long, everybody. Outro  21:13   Thanks for listening to 15 Minutes. Be sure to subscribe and we’ll see you next time.

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