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Whereas Cliff Palefsky has a difficult time completing a sentence without the words “truth” and “justice,” Mark Rudy is all business. “I’m not a table-pounder,” the 59-year-old Rudy says. “I’m more business-oriented.” But he’s no less effective an advocate, according to Bay Area employment experts. “He could be a professor except that he’s such a good lawyer. He’s Superman,” gushes one employment specialist — a defense lawyer who opposes Rudy in litigation. Lawyers interviewed for this story said Rudy’s even keel and detailed knowledge of the law make him proficient not only at advocacy but also at mediating employment cases. Rudy, of Rudy, Exelrod & Zieff, was one of the top 10 mediators in the Bay Area in a 2002 Recorder survey. He spends about 75 percent of his time as a neutral and 25 percent on his own caseload. Like Palefsky, Rudy says mediation is an ideal vehicle for resolving most employment cases. “I’ve been through trials. It’s exhilarating for the trial lawyer. But it’s hell for [clients on] both sides,” he says. Clients endure the same kinds of emotional and financial beatings that couples take in divorce trials, he says. “The most important thing for them is to get closure and move on with their lives,” he says. Rudy graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1969, then did government-sponsored volunteer work. “It was either Vietnam or VISTA,” he says. “I became a VISTA lawyer.” During that stint he helped obtain a consent decree against hospitals in the New Orleans area that were refusing to provide emergency medical treatment to uninsured patients. He also did housing work in Washington, D.C., before coming to San Francisco to work for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. By the late 1970s he had started his own practice. At about that time California appellate courts were breaking new ground on wrongful discharge law with cases like Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 27 Cal.3d 167 (1980), and Pugh v. See’s Candies, 116 Cal.App.3d 311 (1981). Rudy says he tried about 10 cases over the next decade involving breach of the implied covenant of good faith. He also helped win a $485,000 jury verdict in a drug-testing case — Luck v. Southern Pacific Transportation, 218 Cal.App.3d 1 (1990), and a $325,000 award in an age discrimination case, Stephens v. Coldwell-Banker, 199 Cal.App.3d 1394. On Dec. 29, 1988, a more conservative California Supreme Court, then under the leadership of Malcolm Lucas, revisited the doctrine of wrongful termination. Rudy remembers standing in line with other employment lawyers at the clerk’s office, waiting for the court to issue Foley v. Interactive Data, 47 Cal.3d 654. “There were about 15 to 20 of us waiting for the decision. We wanted to determine if we were still practicing employment law.” The court didn’t eliminate wrongful termination claims, but it did scale back the damages available in many such cases. For that reason and several others, Rudy began transitioning to mediation. But he has always carved out some time for advocacy. Rudy says he needs to be in the trenches to keep up with what’s happening on the bench and in the law. “It’s difficult juggling,” he says. “I work very hard. I have found it not essential, but certainly important, to offer that experience.”

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