HIGH COURT CONTACT
After clerking at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Kevin Newsom joined Covington & Burling as an associate and applied to clerk on the U.S. Supreme Court. He interviewed with Justice David Souter in February 1999, but got a “thanks, but no thanks” note from the justice several months later. Newsom began working on appellate litigation at Covington, including Mobil Oil Exploration and Producing Southeast, Inc. v. United States, which was before the high court. In June 2000 he received a message from his secretary that a “Mr. Suter” from the Court had called. The opinion in Mobil Oil was due any day, and Newsom assumed that William Suter, the clerk of the court, had mistakenly called him instead of a Covington partner.
Newsom returned the call and chatted for at least a minute. Then the man on the other end of the line said, “So, if you still want the clerkship, it’s yours.” It was only then that Newsom realized there had been a mistake. He was speaking to Souter, not Suter. Newsom (who is now the Solicitor General of Alabama) learned a lesson that every appellate lawyer needs to know when a judge tosses a curveball: how to regain one’s bearings�quickly. He pulled himself together and said “Yes.”
A CHRISTMAS STORY
Greg Coleman now heads the appellate practice at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. But in late 2000, when he was solicitor general of Texas, he was dealing with some of the legal fallout from George W. Bush’s election to the presidency. After Bush finally won the White House with a little help from the U.S. Supreme Court, Rick Perry, the lieutenant governor of Texas, took Bush’s place as governor. That naturally left Perry’s post open. In Texas the lieutenant governor is, in many ways, more powerful than the governor, and the state legislators wanted to keep their deliberations and their vote on Perry’s replacement a secret. On Christmas Day several Texas newspapers informed the state that they intended to sue to force a public vote. So much for the Coleman family’s holiday.
Coleman left his family to begin researching the case for the legislature and spent the next few days in a legal whirlwind: On December 27 the newspapers filed suit at 9 A.M.; a trial was held at 2 P.M. that day; and the court ruled against the state by 4:30. Coleman and his team filed briefs with the state appeals court and the state supreme court at 5:30 and 6:30. The court of appeals ruled against the state that night, so Coleman filed a supplemental brief with the supreme court the next morning. By 12:30 P.M., the state had won.The punchline? Legislators voted to make the vote public. Merry Christmas, Mr. Coleman.
Faegre & Benson’s David Gross has carved out a second career of sorts as a public speaker. In the last five years, he has conducted more than 100 seminars on trial practice and patent litigation around the country (to patent examiners at the Patent and Trademark Office and various associations). He also teaches a course on patent litigation at the University of Minnesota Law School and wrote a 335-page book, The Power Trial Method, over four months in 2001 while he was in arbitration in Chicago. The speaking gigs have paid off, Gross says, by making him more comfortable in the courtroom speaking to judges and juries. Very comfortable it seems: At the end of a case involving Wyeth, Judge Joan Ericksen of the federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota, quoted Keats when addressing the attorneys involved in the case: “It has been a thing of beauty and a joy forever to have you here.”
KILLER CLIENT SKILLS
In 1996 Jan Dodd of Kaye Scholer cold-called an in-house lawyer at Shell Oil Co. She’d heard that Shell was looking for a lawyer to handle a civil case in which a young woman had been abducted from a Shell gas station, taken to a deserted area, raped, and shot in the head. A serial killer was responsible, but the victim sued Shell for negligence, asserting the security at the site was inadequate.
The company, Dodd had heard, wasn’t happy with its lawyer and was looking for a replacement. Dodd asked the in-house lawyer for a meeting and flew to Chicago that day. “Before I left, though, I called a friend to ask if he knew of someone who was an expert on appropriate security for a site like that,” Dodd says. “The friend contacted this former FBI agent who set up the original profiling databanks. His area was serial killers. I had the information faxed to me at the hotel, grabbed it and brought it to the dinner.” The first thing the general counsel asked was: “Have you thought about experts?” Dodd pulled the expert’s resume from her purse. The in-house lawyer’s response: “You’re hired.” The case took a week. “At the end, the plaintiffs begged for us to settle,” Dodd says.
Michael Kim of Kobre & Kim had the ultimate international upbringing. The son of an executive of Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd., Kim was born in Korea and lived in Dubai, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, and Germany before finally settling in the U.S. when he was 12 years old. Kim speaks three languages fluently: English, Korean, and Spanish. His Spanish fluency, in particular, has turned out to be a big asset in his practice, which involves arbitrations in Brazil; extradition battles in the U.S.; and internal investigations for multinational companies with operations in Latin America. “[Clients] think I’ve landed from Mars,” Kim laughs. “A Korean American guy from New York gets off the plane and starts doing an internal investigation in Spanish. They think I’m some kind of alien.”