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Through clenched teeth, a couple of defense lawyers grudgingly acknowledged that Angela Alioto has become a serious presence in the Bay Area’s plaintiff employment bar. “Say what you will about what sort of type she is — over the top — you cannot underestimate how appealing she is to the right kind of jury,” says one defense lawyer. A judge said he was impressed too. “Juries love her, and she actually has gotten some good results.” Most notably, Alioto obtained a $121 million discrimination verdict in 2000 on behalf of about 17 employees of the company that makes Wonder Bread. The verdict was later slashed on appeal, but Alioto ultimately settled the case for a figure believed to be about $20 million. Stephen Murphy is relatively new to employment law, but he received several votes. “He has come on the employment scene really in the last six or seven years,” says one mediator, who compares Murphy’s communication skills to Sen. John Edwards’. “He’s a very talented trial lawyer — intelligent, articulate.” Murphy has a reputation for integrity. Two management side lawyers interviewed for this story remarked on Murphy’s willingness to let go of a case if a client hasn’t been telling him the whole truth. Barry Goldstein, described as the dean of the Bay Area’s employment class action bar, got a couple of mentions and probably would have received more but for the perception that his practice is not as active as in the past. The partners at his firm, Teresa Demchak, Morris Baller, David Borgen and Linda Dardarian, are respected too. “Anyone at the Goldstein firm,” one defense lawyer said. Goldstein’s former partner Brad Seligman also received a couple of mentions. Seligman retired from active practice about 10 years ago but has recently returned and is litigating a class action against Wal-Mart. Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein’s James Finberg and Kelly Dermody have earned respect for their class action successes. Finberg also was identified by The Recorder in November as one of the Bay Area’s top securities litigators. “He’s just an all-around good lawyer — committed to his clients, committed to the courts, committed to the system,” says an employment defense attorney. Laura Stevens, a Berkeley attorney who represents the student who says she was sexually assaulted by former Boalt Hall Dean John Dwyer, impressed one judge who has seen her in action. “If I was on the other side I’d be scared to death to litigate against her,” he said. “She’s tough.” Steven Zieff, a partner of Mark Rudy and Alan Exelrod, received a couple of mentions, giving Rudy, Exelrod & Zieff a trifecta. Zieff won a $90 million verdict in Bell v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, a trail-blazing wage-and-hour class action. Two Oakland duos received mentions: Siegel & LeWitter’s Jonathan Siegel and Jody LeWitter, and Dickson-Ross’ Jeffrey Ross and Kathryn Dickson. San Jose’s J. Michael Bewley also received two mentions. “He’s definitely very aggressive, but a gentleman,” said one defense lawyer. Another one agreed, except for the part about his being a gentleman.

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