Litigators

Morgan Chu

Legendary litigator Morgan Chu, former managing partner and current litigation chair at Irell & Manella, is one of the nation’s top intellectual-property attorneys and trial lawyers. He has tried multiple IP cases to nine-figure jury verdicts, and he has earned every professional accolade under the sun (see his Irell website bio). He is arguably the nation’s #1 IP litigator. (If you disagree, make your case for someone else in the comments.)

And now Morgan Chu is the subject of sexual-harassment allegations. In a lawsuit filed in California Superior Court on Friday, former Irell partner Juliette Youngblood alleges that Chu sexually harassed her, then retaliated against her after she rejected his advances.

Morgan Chu is widely admired — at Irell, where his rainmaking monsoon-making helps generate robust partner profits (over $2.9 million in PPP in 2010), as well as above-market associate bonuses; in IP litigation circles, where he is a fearsome adversary; and among Asian-American lawyers, where he stands as proof that we can excel at litigation as well as transactional work.

It’s hard to believe that such a beloved figure has been hit with such salacious allegations (which we must emphasize are mere allegations at this point, nothing more). But let’s forge ahead and check them out — along with the pertly pretty plaintiff who is making them….

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Former partner alleges sexual harassment by Morgan Chu.

A few months ago, I attended a hearing on a motion for a temporary restraining order.

The judge came out on the bench and berated one side’s lawyers: “You filed these papers at midnight last night. Your brief is more than 70 pages long and has a foot of exhibits attached to it. I arrived at court at 9 this morning, and you’re now arguing this at 9:30. Do you really think I had a chance to read this stuff?”

How does this happen? How can lawyers be so silly?

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Got this email in the ol’ inbox this morning — a missive from Jose Baez, the successful defense lawyer of Casey Anthony, who was just acquitted of charges that she killed her daughter (murder and manslaughter).

Thought I’d forward it on to you good folks. Read it if you want. Don’t cost nothing.

From: JoseBaez@——.com
To: [email protected]
Subject: Hey A-hole!
Date: Wed, 06 Jul 2011 05:29:00 -0600

Dear Juggs,

I’m sorry that it’s taken me this long to respond to the thoughtful criticisms levied against me in your post written almost a month ago, when you named me Above the Law’s Lawyer of the Day and suggested I was in over my head on the Casey Anthony case.

In the whirlwind that is my life, I occasionally misplace things, and your post was just one of those things. It’s probably better this way, as I’ve had the opportunity to collect my thoughts and give you the reasoned response your thoughtfulness begs for. Almost a month on, I think it’s fair to say….

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I came of age in the law in the late 1980s. At the time, arbitration was viewed as a big deal and a possible threat to the judicial system. Many corporations were adding arbitration clauses to their contracts; companies were agreeing to arbitrate, rather than litigate, disputes; and pundits feared that the judicial system would suffer.

What were the perceived benefits of arbitration?

It’s private. Companies wouldn’t have to share their dirty corporate laundry with the world.

You get to pick your own decision-maker. If you fear generalist judges, you can select an industry specialist as your arbitrator.

Arbitration is cheaper. Limited (or no) document production; no depositions; no silly, time-consuming motion practice. No serious appellate review, and thus relatively few time-consuming appeals.

This was perceived as being not just good, but great! Parties could design their own processes to have private judges resolve disputes quickly and efficiently, and corporations would spare themselves the expense and indignity of appearing in court.

Indeed, a couple of decades ago pundits feared that arbitration would soon threaten the judicial system. Parties with means would plainly prefer arbitration to litigation, so there would be ample demand for arbitrators’ services. Arbitrators are often paid at the rate of private practice lawyers, rather than public servants, so good judges would leave the bench in droves to accept more lucrative jobs as private arbitrators. The quality of judges would decline, and America would be left with a two-tiered system of justice: High-quality, private arbitration for the rich, and low-quality, public courts for the poor.

Or that was what the pundits said….

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For the most part, I’ve just been happy that the lawsuit against Thomas Jefferson School of Law, over the school’s allegedly misleading employment statistics, exists. It’s not about winning or losing; it’s about raising awareness of the disingenuous way law schools go about filling up their classes.

Of course, anytime somebody says “it’s not about winning or losing,” you can best believe that person expects to lose. I’ve been operating under the assumption that Anna Alaburda, the woman suing TJSL, would get her butt kicked all over the courthouse.

But maybe I am wrong to give up hope for a victory so quickly. Karen Sloan of the National Law Journal has managed to find a couple of lawyers who believe law schools could be in big trouble…

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Casey Anthony

I knew the moment would come when I’d have to watch a full hour of Nancy Grace and I was not looking forward to it. The daytime anchors and hosts had been mere fluffers for Nancy Grace’s performance at night and there were multiple teases to her show throughout the day. For Nancy Grace is the shrieking televangelist of something called victims’ rights. In her worldview, there are saintly victims and black-hatted criminals who roam the earth, preying on the canonized. Previously, I knew she had been criticized for picking the wrong saints. While the Duke Lacrosse case had made fools of many, very few had been as brazen and unapologetic as Ms. Grace.

This, of course, made something like Caylee Anthony’s tragic death a sort of no-lose proposition for Nancy Grace. Caylee is dead and she’ll always be dead and all the wild conjecture in the world won’t change that heartbreaking fact. I planned to watch three solid hours of Headline News last night, starting with the full-frontal assault of Nancy Grace and giving myself two solid hours of cool down with Dr. Drew and Joy Behar.

So I sat up straight on my couch, turned the channel back to Headline News, and steadied myself for the onslaught….

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On Sunday night, I was sitting on my couch eating Chicken McNuggets®, when Lat Skyped™ me. The following is a faithful transcript of our conversation.

Lat: Hey Juggs, I’ve got an assignment for you. Wait, why aren’t you wearing a shirt?
Me: Why are you wearing a top hat?
L: Touché. Listen, I have an idea for a pretty delicious story. Did you read that article in the Times about Headline News’s coverage of the Casey Anthony trial?
M: I only read Mad Magazine.
L: Okay, well, listen. Is there any way you can put on a shirt?
M: *mumbles angrily and stomps off camera to find a respectable shirt*
L: Okay, cool. Listen, that post you did about Jose Baez got some deliciously high page views. This trial is apparently through-the-roof popular and I think I know what you can do to cover it.
M: Go on.
L: I want you to… wait for it… spend a day watching Headline News. You watch the coverage, scribble down some thoughts and… presto! We’ve got ourselves a delicious post.
M: Do I have to wear a shirt?
L: Jesus, what the f**k is it with you and shirts? No. God, I don’t care. Wear whatever you want. Just watch TV and write down your thoughts. You think you can do that?
M: Sure. I’ll be like Marlow, exploring the Heart of Darkness.
L: That’s another thing. Your random literary references. They barely make sense and I’m pretty sure you haven’t read any books.
M: Your top hat’s stupid.
L: Okay, just do this. Ciao.
M: Seacrest out.

And so it begins….

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Anyone who is a lawyer knows that sinking feeling. The feeling that comes when someone else finds out you’re a lawyer and starts telling you about whatever garden-variety awfulness has visited their lives. They prattle on about who knows what, because you’ve tuned out. But they keep going and the inevitable finally arrives at the end of their embarrassing story. “So you’re a lawyer. What should I do?”

If you’re quick-witted enough to come up with a response and slow-footed enough not to run away, you tell them that there are lawyers with really big advertisements in the yellow pages who could probably help them out. You grab your pizza rolls, Funyuns, and Olde English, and you slowly back out of the store.

This is what you do when you’re wise enough to know that being a lawyer doesn’t mean you can tackle any legal quandary or situation. When you know that there are situations better served by better lawyers. This is what you do when you are not named Jose Baez.

Baez has made quite the name for himself as the attorney for Casey Anthony. She’s the chick accused of killing her daughter, and Baez is the freshly minted lawyer who thinks he has the right stuff to keep her from being executed by the state of Florida.

Spoiler alert: Jose Baez does not appear to have the right stuff, at least in my opinion. After the jump, learn a bit about Señor Baez, his kooky past, and his unwavering commitment to himself…

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I recently heard a panel of judges speak about e-discovery issues. Their opinions on several subjects varied, but on one subject they agreed unanimously: Clawback provisions under Federal Rule of Evidence 502 are valuable tools in most significant litigation, but they remain rarely used.

This piqued my interest, so I asked several in-house litigators (not necessarily at the place where I work) whether they routinely seek FRE 502 clawback provisions in their cases. The in-house lawyers do not. And I asked whether outside counsel routinely recommend seeking those provisions. Not surprisingly (because the in-house folks aren’t using them), outside counsel do not.

The judges think clawback provisions are a good idea; in most situations, it strikes me that the judges are right. So what are FRE 502 clawback provisions, and why are inside and outside counsel routinely missing this trick?

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I’m going to tell you the tale of two law firms.

Firm A: You win a major, high-profile case. The victory is covered by the legal press and mainstream media. The award to your client is huge, and the victory comes at the expense of a rival firm. Your only problem? Your client won’t pay you your millions in legal fees.

Firm B: You lose a major, high-profile case. Your well-known client gets rocked with a huge verdict, a rival firm is taking a victory lap all around town, and all you can do is tweet about the appeals process. But you are getting paid, and you expect to earn even more in fees as you plan your next move.

All else being equal, which firm would you rather work for?

If you chose Firm A, welcome to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. And good luck to you…

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