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One of the best-known employment litigators in the District, Barbara Berish Brown, managing partner of the D.C. office of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, handles the gamut of employment cases from class actions to severance disputes to sexual harassment suits. “It’s such a great combination of facts and law,” she says. “At the same time, you have all the human drama. It’s always appealed to me much more than other areas of litigation.” Brown, 57, prides herself on helping clients prevent litigation, but when it’s inevitable, Brown says she savors the “fun of trial.” After graduating from Yale Law School in 1971, Brown clerked in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit and worked in the Philadelphia public defender’s office before returning to Washington, her hometown, in 1980. She joined Pepper Hamilton as an employment associate, and made partner a year later. In 1984, Paul, Hastings snagged her to help start an employment practice in the firm’s D.C. office. Within a few years, Brown was handling big employment class actions. In the mid-1980s, she handled Huguley v. General Motors Corp., a race discrimination class action that settled in 1989 for about $3 million. Also in the late 1980s, she represented chemical company FMC Corp. in a sex discrimination class action, which settled in the early 1990s. “I was fortunate enough to have a number of class actions before class actions went into decline,” says Brown, whose clients include the Ford Motor Co., the Boeing Co., and the American Red Cross. In addition to the class actions, Brown raised her profile representing law firms when they were sued by employees or in partnership disputes. For example, she successfully defended partner Robert Bennett and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in a $1.5 million suit when legal secretary Marian Galeano said she had been demoted after complaining of harassment from a female co-worker. In 1998, Brown won again for Skadden, this time when an associate sued the firm for defamation and wrongful discharge. Brown has defeated class certification in suits against the Microsoft Corp. and Boeing, and is now fighting a discrimination class action for Boeing, Beck, et al. v. The Boeing Co., brought by 25,000 female employees. The case is scheduled for trial in May. Douglas Kight, vice president and associate general counsel of Boeing, says Brown has a good courtroom presence: “She’s very polished.” But Brown is known for her no-holds-barred approach. In the 1996 Skadden case, Galeano v. Bennett, Brown asked a D.C. Superior Court judge to order Galeano to produce psychiatric and gynecological records because she was seeking $1.5 million in damages for stress, depression, and menstrual abnormalities. The judge granted Brown’s request. In spite of her tough tactics, clients and lawyers who have opposed Brown in litigation describe her as a good, ethical attorney. “Too many lawyers forget that having basic human qualities is something that appeals to clients,” says Oliver Mitchell Jr., chairman of the Ford dealer policy board and the auto maker’s former associate general counsel. But don’t try to fool her, he warns. “She’s seen most of the tricks played by members of the plaintiffs bar,” says Mitchell.

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