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STATE BAR SCRAMBLES AS THE SPAM HITS THE FAN When San Jose lawyer C. Susie Berlin got what she thought was advertising spam through a State Bar e-mail last week, she furiously hit the reply button and demanded to be taken off the mailing list. The next thing the McCarthy & Berlin partner knew, her message — meant only as a reply to [email protected] — sprayed out to thousands of attorneys throughout California and beyond. And several of them immediately joined Berlin in sending in their own demands to be cut from the Bar’s e-mail list. “Somehow there was a glitch,” State Bar President James Herman said last week, “and for a fairly short period of time, people were able to reply [to] all. And it snowballed.” In all, about 15 lawyers e-mailed the State Bar with complaints. “I was very sorry,” Berlin said later in the week, “that I opened that can of worms on everybody else.” Unbeknownst to Berlin at the time, a publishing company’s e-mail ad touting a book by four Pillsbury Winthrop lawyers had arrived Tuesday at the State Bar while the organization’s Web site was undergoing routine maintenance. Somehow the message was automatically rerouted to a listserve that provides e-briefs to thousands of members and the media. State Bar officials weren’t sure what had happened at first, and even investigated whether the publishing company had hacked into their system. An e-mail message quickly went out, advising lawyers that a temporary maintenance procedure had allowed an advertiser access to the system. “It is illegal to send out unsolicited e-mail advertisements, and I don’t know whether that applies to this case or not,” Herman said. “I’m assuming this was inadvertent on the advertiser’s part.” That was exactly the case, said Brian Rohd, director of marketing for Baltimore-based Data Trace Publishing Co. “It wasn’t intended as any sales or marketing effort on our part,” he said. “We were sending it to the California State Bar, and instead the address we sent it to was an auto forward to about 2,000 individuals.” — Mike McKee FIGHTING GOLIATH A six-attorney firm might seem an unlikely contender to take on the oil industry. But San Francisco’s Hosie Frost Large & McArthur has proven a formidable foe, representing the states of Louisiana, Hawaii and Alaska in litigation against giants like ChevronTexaco Corp. Earlier this month, Texaco agreed to pay the state of Louisiana $32 million to settle litigation alleging the oil company manipulated its oil prices to pay lower state taxes. Specifically, Louisiana claimed Texaco sold its oil at below-market prices to other oil companies, bought it back at below- market rates and then sold it to the public at a higher price. Hosie Frost acknowledges that being a small firm can be difficult when battling corporate giants. “It is a scramble,” name partner Spencer Hosie said. “We’re always outstaffed on the defense side. But having done a number of cases we have an advantage in terms of the knowledge curve.” Hosie Frost handles complex commercial litigation, almost exclusively on a contingency fee basis. Half of the firm’s 35 to 40 cases are energy and antitrust matters and the other half involve high-tech antitrust disputes. Among the latter cases, the firm represents Burst.com Inc. in a patent battle with Microsoft Corp. The software giant claims Burst.com patents related to streaming video over the Internet are invalid. When the firm needs additional resources, it teams up with a bigger outfit. The firm is currently working with Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison attorneys on a class action brought by freelance authors against database compilers. The authors are seeking royalty rights for work that has been posted on the Internet. Hosie founded his firm in 1984 after leaving Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe as a fourth-year associate. The firm — Hosie, Wes, Sacks & Brelsford — grew to 20 attorneys before merging with Seattle-based Perkins Coie in 1999. Immediately after joining Perkins Coie, Hosie discovered that a defendant in one of his cases was a Perkins client, so he resigned and opened his own shop with Perkins associates William Large and George Frost. Large is now resident partner in the firm’s sole outpost in Anchorage, Alaska. The firm’s fees range from 10 percent to 25 percent for public cases. For private cases, the firm gets a contingency fee of one-third to 40 percent of an award. “If you get the right complex commercial case, the right antitrust case, the right fee agreement,” Hosie said, “the economics are very compelling.” — Brenda Sandburg VOLUNTEER TRAINING On Saturday morning, Bingham McCutchen’s San Francisco office was scheduled to host a gathering of more than 70 volunteers as attorneys from various firms, law students and paralegals gathered to learn how to file a new and little-known writ of habeas corpus on behalf of battered women in prison. The event was organized by the Habeas Project, a joint effort by three nonprofit groups to help battered women in California state prisons seek retrials or reduced sentences under a recently passed law. Penal Code § 1473.5 gives battered women convicted of killing their abusers before 1992 a chance to reopen their cases. Prior to that time, expert testimony regarding “battered women’s syndrome” was not admissible in criminal cases. The law is the only one of its kind in the nation, and in the year since it was passed, two women have already been freed by filing a habeas petition, says Olivia Wang, coordinator of the California Coalition for Battered Women in Prison, one of the groups involved in the Habeas Project. Since June, the Habeas Project has initiated 20 cases in Los Angeles. Now the organization is trying to find volunteer attorneys to take on the 15 cases that it has identified so far in Northern California. Attendees at Saturday’s half-day session were to receive training on how evidence of battering is used in court, how to investigate cases that are more than 10 years old, and the procedural aspects of putting the actual habeas petition together. The next step, says Wang, is assigning teams of three or four people to each case. And time is of the essence. Petitions must be filed by Jan. 1, 2005, or the law ceases to exist as a remedy. “We’re on a very tight schedule,” says Wang. — Alexei Oreskovic

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