Litigation Strategies Part IV: Getting Homered

Here’s a concern clients often face when deciding to hire me for matters outside the counties in which we have offices: Will it hurt their case that I am not a local attorney?

In the legal world we have a term for those situations where we travel to a distant court and are treated shabbily while our opposition, local counsel, seems to get all the breaks. We call it “being homered.”

I have been homered – but the truth is that rarely happens for several reasons:

Been There.  I have now appeared in most of the counties in Michigan (43 and counting).  My practice is statewide.  I have appeared in all of the big counties in the state, and am a “regular” in most of them.  I have appeared in probate courts from Houghton to Monroe, Grand Rapids to Port Huron.

Probate is specialized.  Because the work in probate court is limited in scope, as compared for instance to circuit courts; probate judges understand that they are likely to interact with specialized attorneys in the more complex matters that come before them.

Reputation.  Typically when I, or someone from our firm, appears in a distant Court the Judge is welcoming.  Not to be arrogant, but we are a high-profile probate firm.  Probate judges throughout the state would likely recognize the firm name and would be at least somewhat familiar with the names of at least 4-5 of our most prominent lawyers.  Many would look forward to interacting with attorneys they recognize are leaders in probate law.

Small County Judges like action.  Michigan has a probate judge in nearly every county.  The amount and type of cases that come through the smaller counties can seem routine and at times, I suspect, boring.  When our firm appears in a matter it would suggest something interesting and complex is going on, and accordingly, that there will be interesting new issues to decide.  Most judges would welcome that.

When being homered appears to be a risk in a case, one easy answer is to retain local co-counsel.  This can be a good strategy in cases even where there is no concern about being homered, just so there is someone close by to handle filings and more routine hearings.

The decision the client has to make is whether a concern about being homered is offset by the benefit of having en expert. For complex matters and matters involving significant assets, my experience would suggest that is almost always best to go with the expert.