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A who’s who of former Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison heavyweights are expected to add legal star power to phase two of the long-running and costly courtroom firefight over the firm’s hiring of partners from a small Santa Monica competitor. Though now defunct, Brobeck is battling another defunct firm, Dickson, Carlson & Campillo, over the hiring of partners Debra Pole and William Fitzgerald. In phase one, the court looked at the question of whether Dickson, Carlson had the right to unfinished business the two took with them to Brobeck. Phase two may be even juicier. Four former chairmen of Brobeck — Richard Odom, Tower Snow Jr., Stephen Snyder and John Larson — have been called to testify, and they could face questions on the tactics used to lure away two partners and to capture business from Dickson, Carlson’s top client, Baxter Healthcare Corp. Their testimony may also shed light on Brobeck’s internal finances and decision-making process, which are of particular interest in the wake of the firm’s dissolution two months ago. Lawyers are scheduled to deliver opening statements in Dickson, Carlson & Campillo v. Pole, SC039135 and SC39264, to a jury today. At stake is more than $30 million which Dickson, Carlson partners claim they lost as a result of Brobeck’s actions. That’s on top of the $32 million that they sought in the first phase of the litigation. Brobeck partners emphatically deny any wrongdoing, but Dickson, Carlson lawyers have painted the firm as a conniving and unfair competitor that broke ethical and legal constraints to steal away millions of dollars in Baxter Healthcare business. Pole brought “all sorts of information” to Brobeck when the firm sought to hire her in 1995, Dickson, Carlson attorney Brian Lysaght, of Santa Monica’s O’Neill, Lysaght & Sun said in an interview Friday. The data, he said, included accounting information on how Dickson, Carlson billed Baxter Healthcare. With this information, he said, Brobeck “figured out what to do to undercut Dickson, Carlson in billing. They decided to put less lawyers on at a higher rate.” Lysaght said he would present as evidence an e-mail Brobeck partner George Link sent to his superiors — then Brobeck chairman Larson and Snyder, who headed the litigation department at the time — describing the information he received at a dinner meeting with Pole. Brobeck’s counsel Elliot Jubelirer, of Morgenstein & Jubelirer, said the plaintiffs have misread Link’s e-mail. “Their interpretation of the events is wrong,” Jubelirer said. The evidence in the case “tells me that Brobeck did nothing wrong and Debra Pole did nothing wrong.” The suit claims Pole and Fitzgerald breached their fiduciary duties to and contracts with their partners and that Brobeck induced breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract and induced interference with business advantage. Getting the all-star lineup of witnesses has had its movie-like moments. Lysaght said he’s had difficulty serving a couple of former Brobeck partners with notices to appear before the court so he’s had someone stake out their houses overnight. “We’re still doing a stakeout” at Odom’s house, Lysaght said Friday. “This is unprecedented in my experience.” While the eight-year legal brawl could be nearing an end, it’s still uncertain whether the Dickson, Carlson partners will get paid even if the jury finds in their favor. Brobeck owes its banks $56 million and has a line of other creditors clamoring to be paid. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Cesar Sarmiento ruled in December that Dickson, Carlson was entitled to some revenue from the Baxter Healthcare work, but he did not specify how much that would be. He also found that Dickson, Carlson, which disbanded for good in 1997, had breached its fiduciary duty by refusing to complete some of its ongoing work for Baxter. Lysaght says that like his client, Brobeck has a right to the revenue from unfinished business its partners have taken with them to new firms. He filed a motion April 3 asking the court to hold that Jewel v. Boxer, 156 Cal. App. 3d 171, applies to Brobeck. The 1984 decision found that a firm’s unfinished business is an asset of the dissolved partnership. “Once it has been established that Jewel applies, then all of the arguments Brobeck, Pole and Fitzgerald make about their poverty will go out the window,” the brief states. “Brobeck will be looking at assets which could well exceed $100 million that it now claims it does not have.” The court document says Brobeck’s 1996 partnership agreement contained no provision invalidating Jewel but that plaintiffs have been advised that “in the final hours of Brobeck’s life, a new agreement of some sort was cobbled together which purported to invalidate Jewel.” If such a provision was included, Lysaght said, it would be a fraud on creditors under the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act. The current trial is the second match between Dickson, Carlson and Brobeck. A Los Angeles judge dismissed Dickson, Carlson’s suit against Brobeck in 1998 but an appeals court ruled two years later that the trial court erred in barring Dickson, Carlson from recovering any damages from the defection of the two partners. While Lysaght has represented Dickson, Carlson throughout the case, the defense attorneys are scrambling to get up to speed. Keker & Van Nest withdrew as counsel for Brobeck, Pole and Fitzgerald last month, citing a conflict that had arisen as a result of Brobeck’s dissolution. While Morgenstein & Jubelirer is now representing Brobeck, former Brobeck partner David Schrader is representing Pole, and Larry Feldman, of Santa Monica’s Fogel Feldman, Ostrov, Ringler & Klevens, is representing Fitzgerald. Jubelirer filed a motion requesting that defense counsel receive 48 hours notice that a specific witness would be testifying. Lysaght opposed the motion, and Sarmiento asked the two sides to work the issue out among themselves. “Typically, in a case like this when lawyers are coming in so late it would seem to be not only fair but appropriate professional courtesy” for opposing counsel to give some notice of who they will be calling to the stand, said Schrader, who is now a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

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