Isabella Demougeot, a senior litigation associate with JDKatz Attorneys at Law, represents clients in business disputes, partnership dissolutions, and high-profile litigation. She has counseled clients, argued motions and trials, managed document discovery, participated in deposition, prepared and attended motions hearings, and participated in trial preparations for multi-million-dollar litigation cases.
Lawyer Minds: How flexible do you find you need to be to meet the demands of your schedule?
Isabella Demougeot: In order to properly manage multiple cases and deadlines at a time, I have to make a lot of to-do lists and calendars to keep myself on track. It is also important to be able to pivot when emergencies and unexpected changes occur. Thus, flexibility is definitely important for successfully completing my tasks in the most beneficial way for my clients.
Lawyer Minds: Did the pandemic temporarily or permanently alter how you interact with clients? If so, how?
Isabella Demougeot: The pandemic forced me to be more creative in my interactions with clients. I think the advent and increase in popularity of Zoom have been very beneficial, although Zoom fatigue is a real thing. It is definitely more cost-effective for clients that are not local to be able to see me on a Zoom call rather than just hear me on a standard phone call. The face-to-face interaction humanizes the process and helps foster trust and comfort for my clients. It also has forced me to slow down the pace at which I speak, which is probably a good thing.
Lawyer Minds: What do you see as a major issue in how some lawyers practice law?
Isabella Demougeot: I think the pandemic has allowed some attorneys to push the envelope and skirt the rules in questionable manners because they felt that they had greater freedom to act in such a manner given the inability to run to the Court on an emergency basis. I think some attorneys abused the restrictions that existed during the pandemic. However, I think it is always important to remember you only have one reputation, and it only takes one mistake to destroy it.
Lawyer Minds: As a Senior Litigation Associate, do you make any conscious efforts to lead aspiring female attorneys or current female attorneys looking to grow in their careers?
Isabella Demougeot: The litigation team at JDKatz, P.C. meets once a week to discuss our respective matters. During those meetings, I make a point of always sharing a practice pointer or tip to avoid pitfalls or to give an example of some new innovation I learned about that I think would benefit everyone. I also invite law clerks and other attorneys to attend client meetings or hearings with me to learn from watching firsthand. I also try to explain how one assignment is a piece of a larger puzzle that will ultimately be the case in chief at trial. I also share invitations to programming that I think would be of interest or beneficial for the other female attorneys to attend, and will put female attorneys in touch with other attorneys that I think they can learn from. And I gladly take calls from alumni from my respective alma maters.
Lawyer Minds: How do you approach giving a client bad news?
Isabella Demougeot: I really try to put myself in the client’s shoes and figure out what I would like and need to hear from my lawyer to make bad news more palatable. When I first meet with a prospective client and throughout the time that I represent them, I always remind them that I will tell the truth even if it is not what they want to hear. I try to reassure the client and comfort them. However, I also remind them that I am telling them this bad news as their advisor, as I promised them when we first started to work together. Then, I tell them the news and try to suggest any alternatives that may be available. Most importantly, I listen to what the client tells me in response so as to give them the best possible advice.
Lawyer Minds: Do you have a legal role model? If so, who?
Isabella Demougeot: I have a lot of legal role models. I really look up to Elizabeth McInturff, a partner at JDKatz, P.C. I admire the calmness with which she approaches clients and complex issues. She also is so happy to bounce ideas around, and she really wants everyone around her to thrive. I was also fortunate enough to learn from and work with Alan Rifkin, Arnold Weiner, and Celeste Bruce when I first started practicing. I learned a tremendous amount from each of them, and I often find myself asking what one of them would do in certain situations. Additionally, I have learned a lot from the bench and the members of the William B. Bryant Inn of Court.
Lawyer Minds: What types of unique struggles do female attorneys face when entering the legal profession?
Isabella Demougeot: I think female attorneys waiver between coming off as tough and hard or too apologetic and afraid. We all make mistakes, and we are constantly learning about ourselves. However, I think it takes true courage to own your mistake and work on fixing it rather than hiding from it. I think female attorneys are also afraid to voice their opinions when they first enter the profession. If you have an idea, you should express it to the partner or other attorneys during the appropriate forum and time.
Lawyer Minds: What would you say to someone who decides to represent themselves for a complex legal matter because they’re skeptical about lawyers?
Isabella Demougeot: I can understand that a person thinks that he or she knows the facts of his or her case better than any other person could ever be able to do. However, there is a reason lawyers go to law school, study and take the Bar Exam, do judicial clerkships, internships and the like. The reason being to acquire a set of skills that allow them to advise clients and handle complex legal matters. It is very easy for a non-lawyer to make a mistake that will be far more costly than had he or she consulted with an attorney. For example, a startup business that fails to consult an employment law attorney about their handbook or employee policies could end up being sued by an employee. It may be more expensive to hire an attorney on the front end, but it will pay off in dividends down the road. Also, if cost is really the prohibitive issue there are so many pro-bono and lo-bono resources out there that people can and should take advantage of.
Lawyer Minds: What’s one thing you want the readers to know about you that we didn’t ask?
Isabella Demougeot: I have always wanted to be a lawyer from a very young age and held this profession in the highest regard. I do not think that there is another profession where you can have such a significant and material impact on another person’s life with the stroke of a pen or the uttering of a phrase. I remember handling a pro-bono divorce early on in my career and the tears of joy streaming down my client’s face when the divorce was granted and the sense of release that she had. I will carry that image with me the rest of my life. While I definitely struggled with finding my legal identity like any young lawyer, I think I have finally figured out what works for me and what my strengths and weaknesses are.
Lawyer Minds would like to thank Isabella for sharing her insights with our readers.