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Leaving Law, But Not Far Behind: Careers in Legal Support Services

After years of practicing personal injury law, Morgan C. Smith decided it was time to leave law. As a trial lawyer, he knew the importance of making good presentations – and he excelled at making trial graphics, an important and helpful tool for simplifying complex ideas and holding a jury’s attention.

Knowing the need for this expertise in the legal marketplace, Morgan launched Cogent Legal, a trial graphics service provider. Working in legal support services has been a great way for Morgan to continue using his legal skills while leaving the law.

In this interview, he talks about careers in trial graphics, and he also shares helpful advice on other alternative careers for lawyers in legal support services, such as eDiscovery careers. If you’re interested in becoming an entrepreneur, Morgan has advice for you too.

Join JD Careers Out There for access to this video plus more day-in-the-life career path interview videos & transcripts.

Today’s Guest

Trial Graphics Entrepreneur Morgan C. SmithTrial Graphics Entrepreneur Morgan C. Smith
Title: President and Partner, Cogent Legal
City: Oakland, CA
Law School: University of the Pacific – McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, CA
College: University of California, Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, CA
Previous Careers: Morgan was a litigator doing personal injury and class action cases for 17 years before starting Cogent Legal.
Videos: Legal Support Services & Morgan’s Career Advice


This is a transcript of the preview video on Careers in Legal Support Services.

Join JD Careers Out There for access to more career help – including full transcripts and career path interviews, plus professional development videos.

Luber: Hey everyone – Are you interested in leveraging your law degree to work in the legal field without actually having to practice law? We’re looking at some creative and entrepreneurial ways to do that today on JD Careers Out There – so stick around! [theme song]

Alright, as may already know, at JDCOT, we explore career paths you could do with a law degree both in law practice and alternative careers for lawyers – and we do that to help you find a career that fits you so you can love what you do.

I’m Marc Luber, the founder of JDCOT. I’ve always used my law degree to work in alternative careers for lawyers – first in the music industry and then as a legal recruiter. I’ve been helping lawyers with their careers since 2003 and I’m excited for the opportunity to help you.

Today, we’re looking at the growing world of outsourced legal support services and we’re exploring a niche known as litigation graphics and court room presentation. Our guest is Morgan Smith, and he’s the President and Founder of Cogent Legal, which is a San Francisco-based litigation graphics company.

Morgan’s got over 17 years of litigation experience in class actions and personal injury, and he left his law firm partnership in 2011 to form Cogent Legal. And this is pretty cool – the Recorder’s annual poll of law firms and legal services named Cogent the Best Courtroom Presentation Provider in Northern California for 2013. Good stuff! Let’s meet Morgan. Morgan, welcome to the show.

Morgan: Thank you very much for having me here today.

Luber: Thank you for being here. I’m really appreciating that. Morgan, I’m going to ask you to tell us all about different roles in the outsourced litigation support services world, but first give us your elevator pitch on what you do as a trial graphics specialist.

Morgan: Sure. I’d be happy to talk about that. The way I describe it is in today’s world, the jury really understands things in a visual manner. It’s very important to be able to get visuals in front of them. Attorneys are really not set up often to be able to make these kind of visuals themselves.

So, where we fill a role is…I’m an attorney. I’ve been an attorney for many years. When I was practicing, I liked to make my own graphics. I was very involved in that process and figuring out ways to visualize a case and make it so that a jury can understand it.

So now on an outsourced way of doing it, I am hired by other attorneys. All my clients are attorneys, and I do all of the visuals that go into a courtroom or a mediation.

It can be animations, it can be diagrams, charts, time lines, interactive things, it can be PowerPoints, or almost endless possibilities of different ways that you can do visuals in a court in order to explain complex concepts in ways that a jury can understand it better than if you’re just talking about it.

So, that is my current business and I’ve been doing it about three years.

Luber: That’s great. It’s exciting. It’s interesting because when we watch trials on television, we see those graphics, we don’t ever really stop to think, “Oh, someone had to make those!” It’s kind of, as a viewer, as someone who’s not a litigator and not in the courtroom, you kind of take it for granted.

So I’m interested to hear more. Now, for years you were a successful litigator. So what led to you leaving law, choosing to become an entrepreneur and starting this specific path?

Morgan: Well, it wasn’t, by any means, an easy choice. In some ways, it was the hardest choice I ever had to make because, as you say, which is true, I had a very successful practice with a number of partners that were great attorneys and are still great attorneys and doing well, but I really came to make a decision that I did not want to spend the rest of my life litigating cases.

Once I made that decision, then it goes to the next question, which is, “Okay, if I’m not being a litigator, what am I going to do with my life, and what am I going to do with work in a fulfilling way?” And I had to think really hard about what that next step was going to be.

But it really started with a decision that litigating was not something that I wanted to do the rest of my life. I did it for 17 years and I decided that was really about enough.

Luber: What makes this new path in trial graphics rewarding for you?

Morgan: Well, one of the things that I enjoy the most, and it is when I’m meeting with attorneys and really talking to them in a creative way about how they can think about presenting their case – often in ways that they’ve never thought of.

And it is just so rewarding to be able to help people and feel that I’m getting them to try new things. Some of them, they’ll end up liking; others, they may not like – but then they really realize how to negotiate that path to making their trials and mediations much more visual.

Luber: I love it. So let’s dig in a little bit deeper to these alternative careers for lawyers in the Full Interview. You’ll hear lots more from Morgan on what it’s really like to work in these legal support services fields and how you can break in, how you can translate your skills to break in and then succeed.

You’ll want to join the JDCOT membership to get your career on track – you’ll get access to the full, in-depth video interviews & transcripts plus more. Check out what people are saying about JDCOT by clicking here.

Thanks again for watching everybody. I’m Marc Luber and I’ll see you soon.

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©2015 Careers Out There

Are you interested in legal support service careers? How about becoming an entrepreneur? Let us know what you think in the Comments section below.

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Thinking of leaving the law? The best first step you can take is a good look in the mirror. START HERE:

it's free!
You’ll also get periodic updates, reminders & access to career guidance programs sent to your inbox. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe via a click at any time.