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MALIBU — A star litigator whose defection a decade ago to Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison may have spelled doom for a Santa Monica firm faced tough questions about money — and her desire for more — in a Los Angeles County courtroom Wednesday. Debra Pole was grilled about her income while a partner at Dickson, Carlson & Campillo and after she jumped to Brobeck. The attorney for Dickson — which is suing Pole and Brobeck over her exit — tried to paint Pole as a greedy lawyer who left her colleagues in the lurch when they failed to pay her what she wanted. Brian Lysaght, Dickson’s attorney, referred to Pole’s deposition, saying that even in her first two years at Brobeck, she wasn’t entirely satisfied with her compensation. “I said, ‘You are never entirely satisfied with your compensation, but I thought I was treated fairly at Brobeck,’” Pole replied. “The year you made $2 million at Brobeck, were you unhappy with that?” asked Lysaght, a partner at Santa Monica’s O’Neill, Lysaght & Sun. Pole, along with Dickson, Carlson partner William Fitzgerald, defected to Brobeck in 1995, taking with them Dickson, Carlson’s most profitable client, Baxter Healthcare Corp. Pole was the national coordinating and trial counsel for Baxter’s silicone breast implant litigation. The Baxter work represented 60 percent of Dickson, Carlson’s revenues, and the partners have said the loss of the work led the firm to collapse. Dickson, Carlson sued the two partners for breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract and also named Brobeck as a defendant. Fitzgerald settled out of the case last week. Speaking before a jury of five women and seven men in L.A. County Superior Court’s Malibu courthouse, Pole said Dickson, Carlson didn’t pay her what she thought she deserved. “One of the reasons I left was because I was told my points were not going to go up,” Pole said. Partner Robert Dickson “told me he wasn’t going to give up his points so I could have more.” Lysaght asked, “You deserved more points in your opinion?” “Yes, and in a lot of other people’s opinions too,” Pole said. In the courtroom, Lysaght displayed a December 1993 document from Dickson, Carlson’s compensation committee laying out a new two-year compensation plan for the partnership. The committee trimmed two points from name partner Robert Dickson’s compensation and increased Pole’s compensation by 1.3 points. Lysaght asked Pole if she felt this increase was sufficient, and she replied no. Lysaght subsequently referred to Pole’s deposition and her compensation at Brobeck — a move that brought sharp objections from Pole’s counsel. They argued that Lysaght was violating a motion in limine not to mention that kind of financial information. They countered that they should now be able to tell the jury that Brobeck is now defunct — something they have been prohibited from doing. “What are we supposed to do with the implication that Brobeck is so wealthy it paid Debra Pole $2 million?” said Brobeck counsel Eliot Jubelirer, of San Francisco’s Morgenstein & Jubelirer. “Nothing can unring the bell without being able to tell the jury about the status of Brobeck.” Judge Cesar Sarmiento, however, disagreed. Pole’s testimony is expected to continue today. Earlier Wednesday, David Fleming, a former partner who worked with Pole and Fitzgerald on the Baxter litigation, testified that their departure was a major blow to Dickson, Carlson. The firm had built its attorney ranks to handle Baxter work. But attorneys for Pole and Brobeck presented correspondence between Dickson, Carlson partners and Baxter in-house lawyers to support their claims that Baxter had wanted to keep Dickson, Carlson busy even after the company transferred the bulk of its business to Brobeck. Fleming was also asked about the stress Pole was under as the partner handling such a major client. Pole’s lawyer, David Schrader, a Los Angeles solo and former Brobeck partner, asked if Fleming had observed a physical manifestation of the stress. Fleming replied, “I seem to remember she was losing hair on her head.” Schrader asked if this was discussed at the office, and Fleming said he did not recall. When another attorney for Brobeck also raised this point, Pole, who was sitting in the audience, patted the top of her head.

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