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NOVEL POKES AT LAW AND POLITICS IN S. F. William Miller may inspire any lawyer who has dreamed of embarking on a new career — and poking fun at the current one. The S.F. litigator’s first novel, a work of “comic fiction,” takes good-natured swipes at law and politics in San Francisco. “When I got older and cut back on my caseload,” said Miller, who’s now working on a second book, “I was able to devote more time and imagination to the creation of this fantasy world.” The book, published last year, recently won the Bay Area Independent Book Publishers Association award for best humorous fiction. In “Long Pig: A Fantasy Concerning Cannibals, Courts and Other Consumers,” a mayoral race becomes intertwined with the trial of a Pacific Heights socialite accused of murdering a homeless man. The socialite claims her gun went off accidentally when the man tried to snatch her purse, while the mayor capitalizes on the prosecution to boost his image as protector of the downtrodden. As one Amazon review observes, “Political correctness has met its match in Mr. Miller.” The mayor’s political consultant advises him to pulls some strings to get Judge Potter B. Flex assigned to the trial. Though Flex has never presided over a criminal case before, the mayor is told, he “always commits error and gets reversed, which is good in case she’s innocent.” Miller paints the judge as a vanity case who has a makeup man accompany him to chambers for touch-ups during trial. Flex told the television crew to get plenty of close-ups, Miller writes, “and to be careful they didn’t get any shots of the court, say, scratching itself or picking its nose.” Miller insists that his characters, save one, aren’t based on anyone in particular. “The template for Flex is based on a number of different people,” he said. But he does acknowledge basing one lawyer’s physical description on that of a local attorney, now deceased, though he won’t give up the lawyer’s identity. Readers have to squint at the characters to find that “affectionate portrait” themselves. But here’s a hint: Miller says none of the lawyers in his novel are based on anyone in the large downtown firm where he’s a partner. He declined to name his workplace, saying, “I don’t want to blame my firm for anything in this book.” But a little research reveals that it’s Pillsbury Winthrop. — Pam Smith A WALK IN THE PARK For years Tracy Thompson has been teaching kids how to be trial lawyers. Now she’s helping low-income students learn about the environment. As general outside counsel for Yosemite National Institutes, Thompson helped put together a $1.2 million endowment to enable students in underserved communities to participate in programs at YNI’s three national parks. YNI raised half the sum, and the National Geographic Education Foundation made a matching contribution. The programs focus “on taking kids to the environment to let them see, hear, smell and touch, and not sit in the classroom and learn of concepts in the abstract,” said Thompson, senior counsel at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius’ San Francisco office. Thompson knows the importance of giving students real-life experience. Every year, she coaches kids at San Francisco’s Mission High School in mock trial competitions. “Children and education have always been a focus of my pro bono and community activities,” Thompson said. “What has been particularly rewarding about working with both YNI and the Mission High School Mock Trial Program is the opportunity to see kids actively engaged in hands-on learning outside the classroom.” A labor lawyer, Thompson took on an initial pro bono case for Yosemite National Institutes in 1992 when she was at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. YNI teaches science and environmental education at three outdoor campuses, Yosemite Institute in Yosemite National Park, Headlands Institute in the Marin Headlands and Olympic Park Institute in Olympic National Park in Washington, D.C. Last spring the National Geographic Education Foundation said it would match funds YNI raised by the end of the calendar year. “What became the challenge and what made Tracy’s involvement absolutely critical was establishing an agreement between YNI and the foundation as to how the money would be managed and allocated,” said Maureen Keefe, YNI’s vice president of marketing and development. – Brenda Sandburg MAKING AN IMPACT Morrison & Foerster is marking the holidays by donating $1 million to a handful of nonprofit organizations. The money will go to five groups that focus on disadvantaged children, with each organization receiving between $100,000 and $300,000. The grant is the result of a four-year effort in which MoFo set aside cash into a special “high impact” fund, and is in addition to the approximately $1.3 million that the firm distributes to dozens of charities and legal aid groups every year. When it became clear that the special fund would hit the million-dollar mark this year, the Morrison & Foerster Foundation began the hunt for suitable recipients. Partners, associates and staff turned in some 90 nominations, and the foundation spent six months evaluating the various organizations, sometimes visiting in person, to determine which projects best met the foundation’s goals. “We weren’t necessarily interested in giving money to a well-funded and well-established group,” says foundation Chair Paul Friedman. The foundation wanted to help start something that would have a significant impact on communities. In the end, the foundation settled on Alameda County’s First Place Fund for Youth; the Pacific Autism Center for Education in the San Francisco Bay Area; My Friend’s Place in the greater Los Angeles area; the Citizens Advice Bureau in the South Bronx, N.Y., and New York City’s Advocates for Children of New York Inc. “Each one is something that I think is going to help get something started,” says Friedman. “Give it momentum.” — Alexei Oreskovic

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