James Miller has taken more than 100 cases to verdict, judgment or award before juries, judges and arbitrators, delivering exceptional results for sophisticated clients. He represents companies and individuals across an assortment of industries including banking and financial institutions, technology, manufacturing and product distribution, and telecommunications. Mr Miller received his BA, magna cum laude, from the University of Miami in 1972; and his JD from the University of Chicago Law School in 1975.
What inspired you to pursue a legal career?
I participated in a moot court competition in high school, and I found that I loved the challenges and the drama of advocacy. As part of that project, I interviewed a number of prominent Chicago lawyers, and the common thread I found is the satisfaction of helping people solve problems using the law. The practice of law is a very people-oriented profession. I wanted to help people navigate the law to find solutions to their problems.
What is it about your practice that you enjoy most?
I most enjoy the variety. Every case is different – different facts, different people, different legal arguments. It never gets old.
How does Akerman distinguish itself from the competition?
Akerman is a client-driven enterprise, recognised by the Financial Times as among the most forward-thinking law firms in the industry. Recently, the US News – Best Lawyers rankings for 2020 were released and we were particularly heartened by a quote provided to the publication by one of our clients, who said, “They build relationships with clients through transparency and candour.” This is a core differentiator that Akerman nurtures and values every day.
How have the recent California and New York privacy and data protection laws impacted your practice?
Having created GDPR compliance programmes, clients with a global footprint are asking if that is sufficient. It is not if they have customers or employees in California or New York. Although there is substantial overlap, these state laws have some distinct requirements. Clients are seeking help to tailor their privacy and data protection policies to their specific needs. The potential penalties are too great.
In your opinion, what impact will President Trump’s appointment of federal judges have on litigation?
After three years in office, President Trump has remade the federal judiciary, appointing nearly 200 judges to the federal bench. Two of his picks sit on the Supreme Court. Trump nominees make up one in four circuit court judges. While the impact of these many appointments remains to be seen, it seems certain that this will be his most enduring legacy for decades to come.
What are the greatest challenges facing litigators over the next five years?
The greatest challenges are economic. The National Center for State Courts reports that civil case filings have declined by 21 per cent since their peak in 2009, following the “Great Recession”, and commentators generally point to the high cost of litigation as the cause. Litigators need to do a better job of managing their cases in order to deliver excellent results at a cost that is proportionate to the risk.
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
I am very fond of the favourable jury verdicts, but I am most proud of those cases in which I was able to provide a win outside of court. I consider my greatest achievement to be a case in which I represented the entire board of a failed financial institution in an investigation by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and, after many meetings and document exchanges, I was able to convince my opponent that the government should abandon its draft complaint. The facts and legal arguments were important, but most important was the human factor – showing these board members as people with families who had made significant contributions to their community and who deserved better from their government. Again, the practice of law is about people.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
As a second-year associate preparing for a jury trial against a seasoned opponent, my mentor told me I could win only through superior preparation. It worked. The mistake that veteran lawyers sometimes make is relying on their trial skills and experience in lieu of preparation. Preparation is paramount.