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THE BILLS ARE IN, AND COOLEY’S NEAL IS THE CHAMP Lawyers are usually pretty mum about their billing rates. But those working on PG&E Corp.’s bankruptcy have had to lay their billing cards on the table. The bevy of firms involved in the utility’s bankruptcy proceeding must file periodic applications for compensation and reimbursement with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. And the records show the case has been a cash cow for local firms. Since PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2001, Cooley Godward has collected $11 million in fees and expenses, and Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe has pulled in $19.6 million. The most expensive individual lawyer appears to be Cooley Godward Chairman Stephen Neal, who is charging $700 per hour. Cooley’s latest application for April through July shows Neal billed for 123.8 hours for a total of $86,660. The eight other Cooley partners representing PG&E charge $410 to $550 per hour, while the billing rates for associates range from $175 to $395. PG&E’s chief bankruptcy counsel, Howard, Rice, Nemerovksi, Canady, Falk & Rabkin partner James Lopes, charges $572 per hour. Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe’s top biller on the case, partner M. Laurence Popofsky, charges $617. New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom also has a role in the case, with partner John Moot charging $480 per hour. — Brenda Sandburg FIRST MADONNA, NOW PAUL FRIEDMAN Ubiquitous hip hop diva Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott is all over the place these days, from Gap ads with Madonna to the top of the Billboard charts. She also shared an electronic billboard in Times Square with Paul Friedman. You say you’ve never heard of Paul Friedman? Perhaps it’s because he’s simply a partner at Morrison & Foerster, not a bling-bling obsessed rap superstar. Friedman shared marquee billing with Elliott for their efforts to stop domestic violence through Break the Cycle, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that tries to teach kids about healthy relationships and provides free legal services to youth. Friedman’s name appeared Friday on NASDAQ’s 8-story screen at Broadway and 43rd Street in New York, and on Hershey’s running ticker at 48th Street and Broadway, and Reuters’ 12-screen billboard. “I’ve gotten a big kick out of it,” Friedman said. “I have two teenage girls and they thought it was hilarious I was going to be on billboards at Times Square with Missy Elliott.” Each week Lifetime Television recognizes one man and one woman, as well as a nonprofit, for taking a stand to stop violence against women. Lifetime’s Times Square Project began in April and is to run for one year. Friedman got star billing as the chairman of The Morrison & Foerster Foundation, which is providing $150,000 in matching funds to support Break the Cycle’s expansion into San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C. Elliott, the national spokeswoman for Break the Cycle, has also launched a $5 million fund-raiser for the group. Break the Cycle opened its San Francisco office last week with staff attorney Jennifer Ornelas, a recent graduate of Stanford Law School, and director Thomas Sponsler, former dean of Albany Law School. As for Friedman, the honor probably won’t go to his head. He had to admit that before their joint Times Square appearance, he’d never heard of Elliott. — Brenda Sandburg TAMING THE TERMINATOR The plaintiffs bar is extending an olive branch to Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, hoping he’ll back off on campaign promises to “end the litigation lottery” in California. Last week, Consumer Attorneys of California President Bruce Brusavich and 2004 President-elect James Sturdevant penned a letter to Schwarzenegger congratulating his victory and requesting a meeting. Although it didn’t become a huge issue during the speedy recall campaign, tort reform was part of Schwarzenegger’s platform. Specifically, he joined the cry to modify the state’s unfair competition law, Business and Professions Code § 17200 — a statute particularly dear to trial lawyers. Because an attempt to modify 17200 failed in the last legislative session, tort reformers are poised to respond with a ballot initiative. If he got behind it, Schwarzenegger would be a huge boost to the cause. The CAOC letter says Schwarzenegger’s beliefs about problems with the tort system are “based upon misleading information” and offers to “better explain how the civil justice system works.” Although trial lawyers donated about $2 million to Gov. Gray Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante — close allies of theirs over the years — Brusavich said he now wants to have a good relationship with Schwarzenegger and his administration. Trial lawyers are overwhelmingly Democrats. Brusavich said he hoped to use the tiny contingent of Republican trial lawyers to help forge a connection with the governor-elect. — Jeff Chorney WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS What does it take to be a champion? By the American Tort Reform Association’s definition, it means crusading to end the personal injury bar’s pernicious grip on the country’s legal system. “While some defense firms have joined the battle for legal reform,” reads an ATRA statement, “too many have been content to sit on the sidelines and allow this threat to American business to go unchallenged.” Not so the lawyers exalted by ATRA in its new list of “legal reform champions.” Among the eight attorneys on the honor roll are Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Theodore Boutrous Jr. and O’Melveny & Myers partner John Beisner. Boutrous, who practices in Gibson’s Los Angeles office and co-chairs the firm’s appellate and constitutional law group, earned kudos for his successful record challenging “excessive” damage awards in high-profile cases. According to ATRA, Boutrous has also taken the fight for civil justice reform to Congress and state legislatures, and, through his frequent writing and speaking on the issues, is a constant advocate for change. Beisner is a partner in O’Melveny’s Washington, D.C., office who proposed some of the core concepts in the federal Class Action Fairness Act. According to ATRA, the point of the champions list is to recognize the attorneys for their hard work and dedication to the cause. David Casey, the president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, says the list is simply a who’s who of the tobacco, chemical and drug industry. “I think what they’re doing is just singling out firms that work for corporate interests,” says Casey. – Alexei Oreskovic

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