While it may be tempting to date — and even marry — a law firm colleague, it can create some awkward situations. Like having someone walk into your office when you’re busy billing coital time. Or like going through a horrific break-up while working together on a huge matter.
O’Melveny & Myers LLP partners Linda Smith and Chuck Diamond were in the unusual position of being married while representing Advanced Micro Devices Inc. against Intel Corp. in one of the largest antitrust cases ever.
What’s even more unusual, during much of that four-year legal battle, the co-lead lawyers on the case were going through their own private battle at home: a long and bitter divorce that’s still ongoing.
Journalist Alexa Hyland notes that “some law firms don’t even allow married couples to work at the same firm.” We haven’t heard of this being official policy anywhere — if it is at your firm, let us know — but we do know it’s often the informal policy. As in, “Congrats on your union… soooo which one of you is planning to stick with us?”
It’s not such a bad informal policy. Two lawyers going through a divorce can be War of the Roses-style ugly. But Diamond and Smith managed to stay civil while litigating the billion-dollar tech antitrust suit…
Smith joined the firm in 1977; she and Diamond became romantically involved while working together at OMM. It was a steamy associate-partner pairing. When some firms learn of intra-office romances, they make both parties sign waivers basically acknowledging the relationship and saying it’s consensual and waiving claims against the firm. It’s unclear whether that was the case here.
But things worked out between these two (initially):
They were married in 1983 by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. Smith said the couple’s friends were upset about the courthouse nuptials, and so they then hosted a lavish wedding that included a 150-person sit-down dinner aboard a yacht at Marina del Rey.
Guests included senior O’Melveny partner and former Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
“Christopher came, so it was like having the papal blessing,” Smith said.
The next year, Smith became a partner at the firm. The two didn’t tend to work on cases together, though they made an exception for black gold:
However, the couple did work together on a big case in the early 1990s, defending what was then the Exxon Corp. in a matter related to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Smith and Diamond moved their family to Alaska for more than a year while they tried the state court case, in which native Alaskans claimed that the spill destroyed their way of life.
Smith, Diamond and fellow O’Melveny partner Randall Oppenheimer successfully defended Exxon in the case. A jury found that the oil giant didn’t have to pay damages as a result of the spill.
Smith said that Exxon won the case partly because the jury knew she and Diamond were married.
“I’m convinced that, in addition to our skillful legal representations, one of the reasons the jury was able to be sympathetic to us was because Chuck and I were married,” Smith said. “And it made it very human.”
Advanced Micro Devices hired the dynamic duo to wage its antitrust battle against Intel in 2004. By 2007, their marriage was on the rocks:
The couple did not want to discuss the details of why their marriage fell apart, but Smith did say this much: “It was two powerful alpha dogs fighting for control and thinking they could change the other – which is always a mistake, especially after a long relationship.”
Though they didn’t manage to resolve their marital problems, they did persevere for AMD, with Intel agreeing to pay the company $1.25 billion.
An O’Melveny spokeswoman told the Business Journal that the firm doesn’t have a policy barring married lawyers. We wonder what their policy is for divorced lawyers?
Split Decision [Los Angeles Business Journal]