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TIT FOR TAT: GRAY CARY PARTNER INKS A NEW KIND OF DEAL John “Howard” Clowes needed a gimmick. As the managing partner of Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich’s transactions department, Clowes wanted to inspire his team to give generously to charity at his department’s retreat in Austin, Texas, a couple of weekends ago. Clowes popped awake on Saturday morning with an idea: He would promise to get a tattoo that very night if the lawyers raised $2,500 by dinner. “I was looking for something extra to get people going and reinforce our retreat theme of giving and community involvement,” he recalled. Clowes, 50, had no tattoos and worried that his wife, Elise, an attorney at Carr, McClellan, Ingersoll, Thompson & Horn in Burlingame, would find it tacky. Hoping to assuage her, he decided he would inscribe her nickname, Fluff — short for Fluffy — on his arm if the team gathered the cash. Clowes, 50, made his offer to scores of lawyers as they lunched Saturday at their hotel in Austin. To his surprise, people immediately started taking out their wallets. He said one partner gave $1,000. By nightfall, the firm had raised $2,500 for 10 charities, including the Boys & Girls Clubs and Habitat for Humanity. As happens in a room full of lawyers, some argued that Clowes sold out for too little. Others proposed he ink sayings and designs on various body parts. “I said, �You guys ought to be satisfied that it says Fluff, OK? That’s pretty bad,’” he recalled with a laugh. True to his word, Clowes ambled down to Austin’s Red Devil Tattoo Parlor after dinner and pulled up his sleeve. “I started out thinking I wanted the dragon. Then I kinda scaled it down to a flower with her name on it. But that was going to take too long. It’s kinda painful,” he said. Clowes finally settled on a simple scroll. When the father of two returned to the retreat a few hours later, the gathering of 150 lawyers had raised another $6,800. The momentum didn’t cease when the weekend ended. The firm has raised more than $32,000 since March 27. At home, Clowes’ wife of 20 years reacted in typical lawyerly fashion. “She didn’t believe it was real. It took 10 minutes to convince her,” he said. Clowes explained that he thought it would be an everlasting bond between them. “She said, �No way, you can tattoo �stinks’ underneath Fluff,’” he said. But Clowes’ wife had a change of heart when she heard how much money it had inspired. And besides, said Clowes, “She loves a good story.” – Adrienne Sanders LAWSUITS ARE FROM MARS Irish blogger Gavin Sheridan got plenty of free legal advice after a San Francisco lawyer objected to one of his postings. Sheridan reprinted a friend’s blog mocking the educational background and many marriages of John Gray, author of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” The item got around the Internet and caught Gray’s eye, or at least his lawyer’s. Last month David Given, of San Francisco’s Phillips, Erlewine & Given, sent Sheridan a letter demanding that he retract libelous statements made about Gray in his Nov. 17 post on http://gavinsblog.com. “The relationship guru who constantly promotes himself as �Dr. John Gray’ and lists a �Ph.D.’ has only one accredited degree, a high school diploma,” the entry says. “Neither his BA nor his MA is from an accredited institution of higher education.” Not true, Given said. The author received a legally valid Ph.D. from Columbia Pacific University in 1982, when it was a state-approved university. Marin County Superior Court ordered the Novato school to cease operations four years ago. Given also pointed out that Gray obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Maharishi European Research University in Switzerland. Given did not return calls seeking comment. “Never having received such an e-mail before, I decided to ask the blogging community — �blogosphere’ — the totality of all people who self-publish their journals online, what I should do,” Sheridan said in an e-mail message. “They responded — in droves.” Sheridan said several U.S. lawyers e-mailed their advice, and a lawyer in San Francisco, whom Sheridan declined to identify, helped him draft a response at no charge. “I live in Ireland, and I publish a noncommercial, passive Web site that is hosted on servers located in the United Kingdom,” Sheridan wrote in a March 28 letter to Given. “A California state court would have no personal jurisdiction over me, under well-established law.” He cited the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ 1997 ruling in Cybersell v. Cybersell, 130 F.3d 414, 419. “As a public figure, Gray could not prevail in a suit unless he showed that I acted with �actual malice,’” Sheridan continued. “You complain of only five words of which I was the original author — �John Gray is a fraud’ — which are �classic rhetorical hyperbole which cannot reasonably be interpreted as stating actual facts.’” — Brenda Sandburg EMPLOYEE RIGHTS GROUP FOR TRANSGENDER WORKERS In January, a new state law took effect recognizing the rights of transgender individuals in the workplace. Now, the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center has launched a group to ensure hat those rights are not violated. The new group, dubbed the Transgender Worker’s Rights Project, is actually the second legal aid organization in San Francisco devoted exclusively to the transgender community. Last year, the Transgender Law Center opened its doors to much fanfare. Why the need for two? “We think there’s an absolutely huge need for as much legal assistance as possible in the community,” says Shelley Gregory, the new project’s director, noting that some estimates peg the transgender unemployment rate at 70 percent. “It’s very hard for them to maintain employment,” she said. While the Transgender Law Center handles a wide spectrum of legal issues, from health care to name changes, the Worker’s Rights Project focuses exclusively on the workplace, where discrimination can be a big problem. Among the key issues are whether employers and colleagues refer to transgender individuals by the correct pronoun and which restroom transgender workers are allowed to use. While the new law, AB 196, forbids gender identity discrimination, it does not explicitly address the restroom issue. That’s why the new project aims to take the lead, through an impact litigation strategy. “What we’re really hoping to do is help low-income transgender workers exercise their rights under the law,” says Gregory, “and really if necessary pursue litigation to ensure that we get proper interpretation of the law in the courts.” – Alexei Oreskovic

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