At the Legal Technology Leadership Summit opening reception on Tuesday, I struck up a conversation with a friendly young lawyer. He won immediate social coolness points for several reasons: He has a beard. He’s from the East Bay, like me. He runs a solo practice, and he had some good stories about lawyers following unique, non-lawyerly paths (which we might mention in future posts).
Needless to say, I was surprised to walk into Thursday’s keynote discussion, “Qualcomm Revisited: When Lawyers Face Discovery Sanctions,” and discover that this attorney was actually the youngest member of the Qualcomm Six.
Adam Bier was still a self-described “baby lawyer” when he was wrongfully sanctioned in the landmark 2008 Qualcomme-discovery case. Kashmir Hill interviewed him early last year, when the appealed sanctions were finally vacated, more than two years after they were first imposed. Bier shared his story with conference attendees, joined onstage by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Waxse and Frank Cialone of Shartsis Friese, who defended several of the outside counsel in Qualcomm.
After the jump, learn the details of Bier’s nightmare experience. Can you imagine yourself in his shoes?
In 2008, we made the “Qualcomm Six” our lawyers of the day. The six were outside counsel for the technology company in a patent dispute with Broadcom and got caught up in an electronic discovery scandal – tens of thousands of documents were not turned over in the case. The six attorneys were sanctioned by Magistrate Judge Barbara Major for “intentionally hiding or recklessly ignoring relevant documents, ignoring or rejecting numerous warning signs that Qualcomm’s document search was inadequate, and blindly accepting Qualcomm’s unsupported assurances that its document search was adequate.”
But upon further scrutiny, the sanctions against the five lawyers from Day Casebeer and one from Heller Ehrman were lifted. When attorney-client privilege was waived so that they could speak in their own defense, it became clear that Qualcomm employees had stonewalled the lawyers. From the ABA Journal:
In her ruling lifting sanctions, Major noted an “incredible lack of candor” by Qualcomm employees and said there was no bad faith by the lawyers.
So yay! No sanctions! But what of the over two years that these lawyers have had this hanging over their heads? As I’m sure many of you recall, the beginning of 2008 was when the legal industry began to self-implode. Day Casebeer merged with Howrey. Heller Ehrman really self-imploded.
All the while, these six lawyers have been in sanction limbo. The four partners involved had more to fall back on. Day Casebeer partner James Batchelder jumped on the Howrey bandwagon. Heller Ehrman’s Stanley Young wound up at Covington. Casebeer’s Christian Mammen and Lee Patch went off on their own.
But what if you’re a junior associate caught up in this mess? In early 2008, no less. Adam Bier (NYU Law ’04) had joined Casebeer in 2005 after clerking. He was part of a large team of junior associates staffed on the Qualcomm case. Though he wasn’t involved in the initial discovery, he did help stumble upon the mass o’ undisclosed documents while preparing witnesses for trial, and thus had the distinction of being involved in the sanctions.
If you were job searching in 2008, you know it was tough. Imagine if you had the added disadvantage of a hugely publicized discovery scandal and sanctions on your resumé. We caught up with him yesterday about how he made it through the wilderness, and eventually started his own firm…
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