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IS THIS TRUNK BUNK? BINGHAM ELEPHANT AD IS EYE-CATCHING An elephant hang gliding over the ocean is bound to turn heads. That’s what Bingham McCutchen intended when it began running an advertisement featuring a flying elephant. But at least one in-house counsel thinks the ad is “nutty.” At a recent meeting of law firm marketers, Robert Bordon, deputy general counsel at Pacific Gas & Electric Co., poked fun at the ad and the notion that such eye-catching images can help firms attract clients. “A group of lawyers was sitting around talking about who to hire,” Bordon quipped at a recent meeting. “They said, �The firm with the flying elephant — we need to hire them.’” Bordon was part of a June 24 panel discussion on the state of law firm marketing hosted by the Legal Marketing Association’s Bay Area chapter. Bordon added a bit of levity to the event, scoffing at some marketing efforts. Bordon said he tosses brochures in the trash and deletes e-mails that firms send out. But he believes firms make an impression when they pitch their skills in person. The problem, he said, is that firms put so much emphasis on getting new business and less on keeping a client happy. “My biggest pet peeve is how poorly firms do in keeping business,” Bordon said. “I’ve had firms refuse to give me a budget, not return calls, not provide information I’ve asked for.” He said he’s sat in meetings where lawyers played with PDAs or answered their cell phones. “I don’t have a Blackberry,” Bordon said. Victoria Spang, chief marketing officer at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, asked Bordon about the effort of firms to sell themselves as multidisciplinary teams. “They would be your go-to people,” Spang said, “so you’d be disinclined to seek [other] outside counsel.” “It feels icky,” Bordon said. “We have certain work that is very complex and few can do it, and we’ll pay a lot. But I won’t pay that firm to do other work” that another shop will do for less money. Bordon said the billing rates of PG&E’s outside counsel range from $80-$750 per hour. Bordon said PG&E’s 80-attorney law department also saves money by hiring companies in San Francisco and elsewhere that provide legal support work. “They negotiate prices” that are better than what law firms charge for their legal assistance, Bordon said. “It’s a rip-off what firms pay their legal assistants compared with what they charge.” Of a series of whimsical ads Bingham has run, spokesman Hank Shafran said the elephant ad, “has been the most positively received.” — Brenda Sandburg SO LONG, SAN FRANCISCO When he left the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office after nearly 13 years in late 2001, Steven Levine embarked on a journey into the unknown by becoming a staff attorney for newly minted California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno. Going on three years later, he said he’s had a great run but is ready for a new adventure. On Friday, Levine, 45, left the court and a job that’s had him running between lives in San Francisco and Los Angeles. “It’s hard to live in two cities at the same time, and my girlfriend is down there,” Levine said last week. “And it’s time to go out on my own.” What that means is that Levine is going to try private practice, as a criminal defense attorney focusing on appellate work. And it’s admittedly a bit daunting. “The business side of law is nothing I’ve ever dealt with,” he says. “You just never know what life holds.” Born in the New York borough of Queens, Levine had no early contacts with the legal world. His relatives mostly came from the acting realm, with a cousin, Randy Graff, now appearing as Tevye’s wife opposite Alfred Molina in Broadway’s current production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Levine — an avid collector of comic books, cartoon watches and other items — eventually earned a degree in political science and speech from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., followed by a J.D. in 1985 from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at New York’s Yeshiva University. Following a short stint as a litigation associate at New York’s Rosenman & Colin, Levin went west to L.A. It was while working as a deputy DA that Levine says he first met Moreno, who was then a judge on the Compton Municipal Court. “So we sort of became friends,” Levine says, and Moreno brought him to San Francisco when he got appointed to the state’s highest court. Levine won’t say much about his time on the court — a tradition with most departing staff attorneys — except that he’s enjoyed himself and got to see a part of the legal world he might never have seen otherwise. “This is the best legal experience of my life,” he says. “I came here as a deputy DA, which is essentially a non-writing position. It was quite an adjustment at first.” Michael Nava, a Stanford Law School graduate who currently works for the high court’s Central Criminal Staff, will replace Levine, starting today. — Mike McKee BLINKY, PINKY, INKY & CLYDE Pac-Man is back. The dot-eating yellow circle that gained fame in the 1980s has returned to the video game stage. But this time around the Pac-Man icon is fending off imitators. Pac-Man inventor Namco America Inc. filed a copyright and trademark infringement and unfair competition suit against PC Amusements for selling counterfeit versions of its video games “Ms. Pac-Man” and “Galaga.” Last month, a federal judge in Orlando, Fla., granted Namco’s request for summary judgment, finding that PC Amusements was infringing Namco’s intellectual property. Namco attorney Neil Smith, a partner at Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin, said the case involved some fieldwork. Accompanied by a private investigator and federal marshals, Smith seized video games, graphics and other equipment from PC Amusement’s manufacturing headquarters in Orlando. Other attorneys on the case also have gotten a break from more mundane assignments. “Associates and summer clerks have been fighting over playing the game,” Smith joked. PC Amusements attorney Howard Marks, a partner at Graham, Builder, Jones, Pratt & Marks in Winter Park, Fla., could not be reached for comment. In his order, U.S. District Judge John Antoon II rejected PC Amusements’ claim that Namco had abandoned its trademarks and delayed enforcement of its trademarks and copyrights. Smith said Namco stopped selling Pac-Man for several years and then launched a reunion model in celebration of the game’s 20th anniversary about five years ago. Namco is giving Howard, Rice a memento for its work on the case. The Pac-Man arcade game that’s been on exhibit in the courtroom is to take up residence in Howard, Rice’s lunchroom. “It’s always fun to work on cases that your kids and future grandchildren can identify with,” Smith said. — Brenda Sandburg

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