About Justin Burtnett
Why I Chose Litigation
I’ll be honest. I didn’t go to law school to become a litigator. I was never someone who craved those courtroom moments you see on TV. In fact, going to law school, I never expected to practice law. However, everything changed my second year when I started clerking part-time at a small general practice firm. While the firm had practice areas in many different kinds of law, I found myself time and again drawn to depositions and the courtroom. Come to find out, litigation is often just one big puzzle, where creativity and outside of the box thinking can lead to great outcomes – and that’s the part of it that I truly enjoy.
Later, I started my own practice and had a chance to work with startups to mid-size businesses. I was helping them not only deal with litigation but with their transactional and employment needs as well. I found this was something I loved to do, as I was making a real difference in guiding and helping people with something that was so personal and important to them, their business.
What Makes Me Different?
Little did I know that taking some time off between undergrad and law school as a sports reporter for a mid-size newspaper in Indiana would help me with my legal career, but it did. Far too often attorneys get caught up in sounding like the smartest person in the room using “wherefores” and “herebys” when they aren’t necessary. My time writing for a wide audience at a newspaper gave me an ability to communicate in a way that is far too uncommon in our field. This experience taught me to effectively deliver my message to my audience, be it in the courtroom or just an email.
When it comes to the practice of law, I really enjoy building a personal relationship with my clients to figure out their goals. I’ve found over the years that knowing what a client wants as an end result is the only way to give good advice. Sometimes cases need to be settled for business or personal reasons. Sometimes not giving an employee an employment contract is a good idea. Knowing what a person is looking to do is really the best way to help guide their decision making process and truly be their “counsel.”
That clerkship I talked about above? Well, that firm eventually hired me as an attorney straight out of law school. I had the opportunity to do almost every type of litigation out there, from multi-district aviation litigation to trying truck overweight violations in traffic court. I was able to practice on both the plaintiff and defense side, which I continued to do throughout my career and gives me a unique perspective many attorneys lack.
Later, I had the opportunity to start my own firm and branch into the area of employment litigation. Over the years I tried cases on my own in state and federal court, made a winning argument in front of the Seventh Circuit, and handled cases successfully against some of the largest firms in the city. On my own, I had the chance to continue litigating while widening my scope to all legal services small businesses need. In fact, I continue to act in a general counsel type role for several long time corporate clients.
Who Am I?
A born and raised Hoosier, I grew up just outside of Indianapolis and, after a short foray to Clemson, South Carolina, I got my undergraduate degree from Indiana University. After taking a year off, I went to law school at Loyola University in downtown Chicago, where I not only got my law degree, but more importantly, met my wife. Yes, we’re both lawyers, and yes, I’ve heard all the jokes. We have two little ones, who aren’t completely little anymore. There isn’t much I love more than coaching their soccer teams. We all still live in the city, which, unlike Mark and Adam, means I sadly don’t own a snow blower.