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Don’t mess with Lynne Hermle. A whirlwind of brains, energy and charm, Hermle is a litigation Tasmanian devil, ever ready to roll into a courthouse and mow down opponents at trial. “I do think I’m aggressive on trial stuff,” says Hermle, the kind of lawyer who remarks offhandedly about “slapping around” plaintiffs in depositions. “I don’t get hired to be [soft]. Typically I get hired because the client thinks the case will go.” The plaintiffs lawyers interviewed for this survey don’t hold her tough tactics against her, though. “She’s a lot of fun,” says one. “A lot of [employment litigation] is bullshit. It’s how you carry yourself. I think Lynne is generally pretty first-rate.” “The reason we like her is, I’ve never had any problem with discovery issues,” says another plaintiffs lawyer. “Plus, she knows how to value a case.” Hermle’s ability to strike a balance between toughness and fair play isn’t lost on her clients. “Her aggressiveness is tempered in a way that it doesn’t alienate opposing counsel,” says a Silicon Valley client. “She will take on the role that’s necessary.” Whatever role Hermle takes on, her results have been impeccable. The Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner has multiple defense verdicts to her credit, including last year’s Maghribi v. Advanced Micro Devices. In that case a vice president of computer-chip giant AMD claimed he was forced out of his job a few weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks when his bosses learned he was a Muslim Arab. The case made national headlines, and Hermle was in the delicate position of taking trial testimony from AMD’s chairman, Walter “Jerry” Sanders III. But it took the jury less than two hours of deliberations to find for AMD. In 2001 Hermle tried another case that gained national notoriety, Varian Medical Systems v. Delfino, 03 C.D.O.S. 9833. She obtained a controversial $775,000 defamation judgment against two research scientists who used Internet message boards to attack their former employer, Varian. That case is under review by the California Supreme Court. It was the second case Hermle had tried for Varian. In the previous trial, Hermle turned back a wrongful termination claim — and obtained a $3.5 million judgment for Varian on a counter-claim for trade secret theft. She says she has never lost a trial. “It’s out there for me some day,” she says. “I’ve been lucky to have an unbroken string.” Hermle, 47, has come a long way from her days as a Denny’s waitress in the 1970s. She graduated from Hastings College of the Law in 1981 and worked at the now-defunct Corbett & Kane before going in house at AT&T and then joining Orrick in 1987. She is a member of the firm’s executive committee — its second woman ever and first Silicon Valley partner. Hermle launched Orrick’s Silicon Valley employment practice in 1995 with one half-time associate. Today, the firm numbers 10 full-time attorneys and represents a broad range of clients, many of whom arrive from other firms when their cases get sticky. “Every Silicon Valley firm has come in with Lynne Hermle,” says a veteran mediator. Says another valley client: “For high-profile cases [against company executives], she’s on the short list of players.”

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