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IN A LAWYER’S LIFE, IT DOESN’T GET MUCH BETTER Talk about a banner day. San Francisco attorney William Veen won a $4 million jury verdict at 5 p.m. on April 9. Still dazed by the victory, Veen high-tailed it to the Mark Hopkins Hotel to attend the fifth annual Lawyer of the Year event for the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association. As he enjoyed a salmon dinner along with hundreds of other guests, Veen learned that he and partner Cynthia Bernet-McGuinn had won this year’s award. “I would have to say on a scale of one to 10, it was an 11,” said Veen. The two took top honors for their work representing a child who became a quadriplegic after a pediatrician failed to diagnose jaundice. The suit resulted in an $85 million verdict, the brunt of which will go towards the child’s future medical expenses, said Veen. While there are statewide and nationwide awards for trial lawyers, SFTLA Executive Director Juliette Bleecker said, “We felt that there should be a more local event which highlighted the efforts being made by trial lawyers in this area.” Other winners included Robert Barbagelata, who garnered the lifetime achievement award, and David Lynch, who won the Defense Attorney of the Year award. The SFTLA also bestowed its Mediator of the Year award to JAMS neutral Rebecca Westerfield — the third time the distinction has gone to a JAMS neutral in the award’s five-year history. Of course, the SFTLA recently initiated a boycott of the other big mediator provider, the American Arbitration Association, because of its perceived anti-plaintiff bias. But Bleecker said that’s not necessarily what knocked the AAA out of the running for the award. “It wasn’t that there couldn’t be a AAA mediator, but frankly most of the good ones have already left them,” Bleecker said. – Alexei Oreskovic EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER When some state legislators and lobbyists want advice on combating identity theft, they call Jerry Coleman, a managing attorney in the San Francisco DA’s office. Coleman recently testified as an expert witness on identity theft before the state Assembly’s Committee on Banking and Finance. A prosecutor for 20 years, he has direct experience with the crime � he’s been a victim three times. Coleman said he’s lectured police, prosecutors and victim groups on identity theft and other topics since the late 1980s. “I kept getting victimized myself and learning how scams got done, by virtue of following up on my own cases, and I just threw them into my lectures,” said Coleman. He said state legislators have called upon him to help draft laws targeting identity theft since roughly the mid-1990s, when he was appointed to the California District Attorneys Association’s legislation committee. Two of the people that swiped Coleman’s identifying information were never caught, but police did nab one person racking up charges on his credit card, he said. But quite often the impersonator isn’t caught, Coleman said, adding that pursuing lower-level violators “takes a huge dedication of resources.” In San Francisco, prosecutors are trying to make the most of their resources by focusing on the people at the top, the information “traffickers,” said Coleman. The district attorney’s office is also forcing traffickers to forfeit the equipment they use to forge IDs, he said. Although the prevalence of identity theft is difficult to quantify — because some people don’t know they’ve been victimized for months, or don’t report the crime a number of sources indicate it’s growing, according to 2002 congressional testimony from a U.S. General Accounting Office official. “In the 10 minutes we’ve been talking, probably a few dozen people around the country have been victimized,” Coleman said. – Pam Smith NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT When Skip Horne, Santa Clara University School of Law assistant dean for law career services, heard Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison was folding, he braced for an onslaught of alumni needing career advice. It never materialized. Instead, he was asked for job advice from quite a different group –first-year law students. “We don’t target a lot of our resources to first-year students, but we’ve had a steady stream,” said Horne. Since November, about 75 percent of the school’s 306 first-year students have come to Horne’s office seeking job advice — even though they don’t graduate for more than two years. In prior years, the center got visits from only about 25 percent of the first-year class, he said. “My theory is that second- and third-years are in denial and that first-years know they’re going to have to work harder,” Horne said. The students explore options for summer, including internships, volunteer work or a few jobs that are available to first-years. However, their choices are few because they’re so new to their training, Horne said. The center staff also encourages students to prepare for the fall on-campus interviews, when law firms come to recruit associate candidates for the following summer. “I say, ‘Come September, we’ll have all these firms wanting to talk to you,’” Horne said. “It’s only five months away.” – Renee Deger LOG ON Anyone who’s had occasion to use the State Bar’s on-line attorney search site in the past 10 days has noticed quite a few changes. The site has been completely revamped to be more user-friendly, and it provides substantially more information. “We basically made it easier for the public, attorneys and the courts to locate information about attorneys in California,” State Bar Web Editor Kathleen Beitiks said last week. She credits the changes to State Bar Web developers Johnvey Hwang and Matthew Hart. Launched on the evening of April 3, the sleek site is still being fine-tuned, but new functions include the ability to find a lawyer’s name without knowing exactly how it’s spelled. Through a new “advanced search” function, people can type a phonetic spelling and the site calls up all names that “sound like” the one being sought. It’s also possible to find a lawyer even if only the surname is known, because the site will call up all lawyers with that last name. “They might know that the person’s last name is McGillicuddy,” Beitiks said, “so if they see a list of McGillicuddys, they might say, ‘Oh, it’s Joseph McGillicuddy.’” Even better, the enhanced Web site now provides a “thumbnail sketch” of any discipline charges that the Bar has filed against any of the state’s lawyers. “If there has been, in fact, a discipline order and the California Bar Journal [the Bar's in-house publication] has summarized it, that discipline summary is also there,” Beitiks said. “It’s one thing to see that somebody was disbarred, but if you don’t have a reason, people are always curious and would like to get the reason for it.” Along that line, Beitiks said that about three-fourths of the Top 20 phrases searched by users in the new site’s first week were the names of the attorneys at Beverly Hills’ Trevor Law Group. The State Bar is seeking to disbar the three — Allan Hendrickson, Shane Han and Damian Trevor — for alleged misuse of the state’s unfair competition law to file thousands of suits against small businesses. “Right away,” Beitiks said, “we can see that people are out there checking the background on these attorneys who have made the news.” Those searchers might be disappointed for the time being, though. Since the three are only under investigation, there are no juicy discipline facts to see, only their telephone numbers, work addresses and educational backgrounds. — Mike McKee

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