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MALPRACTICE SPECIALIST PUTS TEETH IN HIS CASES When San Francisco periodontist Edwin Zinman isn’t lecturing his fellow dentists on the profession’s latest developments, he’s suing them. Zinman is both a dentist and a lawyer, an unusual double vocation that’s allowed him to specialize in dental malpractice cases. Earlier this month, he netted a $1.05 million settlement against two dentists whose failure to diagnose an oral infection led to a patient having to undergo brain surgery. “A few lawsuits sometimes have a very salutary effect on the profession,” says Zinman, who adds that becoming a lawyer has allowed him to help more people. “Dentistry you only treat one person at a time, but my cases have had national implications.” Zinman had a periodontal practice in San Francisco for five years before he started attending law school at night. He graduated from Hastings College of the Law in 1972. While he no longer treats patients, he maintains his dental license and regularly lectures and publishes on various tooth-related issues. While Zinman’s dual degrees have served him well, he says there’s a reason few attorneys have a D.D.S. following their names. With most dental injury suits settling for between $50,000 and $200,000, there’s little incentive to invest several more years of schooling to earn a dental degree. – Alexei Oreskovic AND IF I’M ELECTED, I’LL RUN THIS STATE INTO THE GROUND Chicago-based Altheimer & Gray’s decision to shut down has become an issue in — of all places — the race for a Senate seat in Illinois. Gerry Chico, the now-defunct firm’s former chairman, is one of the Democrats vying for the Prairie State’s open seat in 2004. And given Altheimer’s demise, his fellow candidates are braying that he’s not much of a businessman. It’s a tough turn for a partner who has lived something of a charmed political life. Chico is a close ally of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and a former president of the city school board. He jumped to Altheimer in 1996 as chairman, and with his political connections, the firm built a lobbying practice that grew from 18 Chicago City Hall clients to 200, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune said Chico’s own billings topped $11 million in 2001, 10 percent of the firm’s revenue, and that despite his entry into the Senate race, he remained a top biller. Then, the economy fell apart, Altheimer’s collections began to slide, and the firm borrowed heavily to pay its bills. Despite the financial turmoil, the firm kept opening new offices (including one in San Francisco). A few weeks back, the battered firm announced it was closing down, and Chico’s political rivals began dining on Altheimer’s carcass. For his part, Chico said he feels his campaign and the firm’s crash have nothing to do with each other: “I don’t see the matters as linked,” Chico told the Tribune. “I think it would be wrong for anyone to make this a political issue.” No word yet if Chico’s fellow candidates feel the same. – David Brown GEPHARDT SLAMS BUSH, FLATTERS LAWYERS Democratic presidential candidate Richard Gephardt came to the Bar Association of San Francisco on Tuesday, told a quick lawyer joke and then launched into an hour-long thrashing of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. His appearance was part of BASF’s presidential candidates series. BASF Executive Director Martha Whetstone, former political director for the Democratic National Committee, organized the series, which has raised between $17,000 and $22,000 per event for the bar. No money is donated to the candidates for their appearances. Most of Gephardt’s speeches have addressed domestic issues. But at last week’s event, more than 300 people heard the Missouri congressman level one charge after another against Bush’s “chest-thumping unilateralism.” “I’m seeking the presidency because foreign policy isn’t a John Wayne movie, where we catch the bad guys, hoist a few cold ones and then everything fades to black,” Gephardt said. Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina have already appeared before BASF. The other Democratic candidates, as well as President Bush and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have also been invited, said BASF President Jeffrey Bleich, but have not yet responded. Gephardt’s biggest applause line was not about defense of the nation, but defense of lawyers. The University of Michigan Law School grad recalled a story told by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who was taking some guff from a doctor. “Don’t forget,” Gephardt recalled Harkin as saying, “that when your predecessors were bleeding George Washington with leeches, our predecessors were writing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.” A self-satisfied roar went up from the tables. Benjamin Temchine MORGAN LEWIS LAUNCHES EMPLOYMENT TRAINING PRACTICE Many already view the 170-attorney labor and employment practice at Morgan Lewis & Bockius as one of the top practices of its kind in the country. Now the firm hopes to leverage that profit center by offering its first-ever centrally organized employment training service with the addition of former Seyfarth Shaw partner Carol Merchasin. Merchasin, who relocated from Chicago to Philadelphia on July 14, served as national director of training for Seyfarth’s ancillary business, Seyfarth Shaw at Work. But Morgan Lewis partner Steve Wall, practice leader of the labor and employment group, said the firm has no plans to start a training ancillary business. Merchasin was in her early 40s when she decided to attend law school and embark on a second career. She started in the Boston office of Hartford, Conn.-based Day Berry & Howard, where she gradually phased out her employment litigation work in favor of the training due to an overwhelming number of client requests. In 1998, she moved to San Francisco to join labor and employment firm Littler Mendelson. But that stay proved to be brief as she was offered the opportunity to start an ancillary business for Seyfarth. Merchasin’s practice involves training and advising employers ranging from large corporations, such as the Ford Motor Co., to small businesses on harassment, discrimination, workplace investigations and disability accommodations. The billing structure is not based on hourly rates but rather the number of people participating in the program or how many days it lasts. Wall said Merchasin’s fee structure has been profitable for her previous firms and will continue to be for Morgan Lewis. “This will allow us to expand our existing relationships with our institutional clients by providing a new service at a different billing structure,” Wall said. – The Legal Intelligencer

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