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CREATIVE MINDS COME TOGETHER FOR TSUNAMI RELIEF When Hitesh Barot suggested throwing a fund-raiser for tsunami relief he was astounded at the response. Everyone he spoke to eagerly offered their time, money and services. The Bar Association of San Francisco and the Minority Bar Coalition agreed to host the event. Barot’s firm, Bingham McCutchen, coordinated it, pulling the fund-raiser together in just two weeks. More than two dozen law firms and vendors gave their support, and 95 law students volunteered, serving food, selling tickets and registering people at the door. The event, held Jan. 28 at the Old Federal Reserve Building in San Francisco, drew more than 600 people and brought in more than $100,000 from a raffle, silent auction and individual donations. The most expensive prize was four tickets to next year’s Rose Bowl, which went for $2,900. The money raised went to a variety of relief organizations, eight of which were present that night. Barot, a Bingham associate and member of the South Asian Bar Association, had been working on a mixer the association was planning for local law students. After the tsunami tragedy he thought of morphing it into a fund-raiser. Others readily agreed to the idea. The goal was “to honor what people have already done, to raise awareness and to have students get involved,” Barot said. “It was fantastic.” Gaylord’s Indian Cuisine restaurant donated food and offered to ask its landlord, Boston Properties, to donate space at the Old Federal Reserve Building. But Bingham had its own in with Boston Properties, having just signed a 10-year lease with the company. It donated the Federal Reserve hall, which usually rents out for $10,000. The program included a list of tsunami relief donations that have been made by local law firms to date, totaling $4.5 million. Other law firms have come up with their own creative fund-raisers. Kimon Manolius and James Napoli, two partners at Hanson, Bridgett, Marcus, Vlahos & Rudy — who happen to have their own rock ‘n’ roll band, Blind Justice — put together a benefit concert. One of the owners of Bottom of the Hill, a local nightclub, donated space. And a bunch of other bands came on board, including Morrison & Foerster’s MoFonics, O’Melveny & Myers’ OM&M, the Dave Miller Trio, which is led by Hanson, Bridgett partner David Miller, and Diminished Capacity Revue, featuring a group of Boalt Hall School of Law graduates. Napoli said the six-hour event on Jan. 30, which drew hundreds of people, raised more than $23,000, including $5,000 each from MoFo, O’Melveny and Hanson, Bridgett. “It was to create an opportunity for people to do something and to motivate people” to find a way to contribute, Napoli said. A coalition of attorneys from several Bay Area law firms led by Pillsbury Winthrop have also formed the Legal Community for Tsunami Relief, which is looking into ways to assist victims of the South Asian tsunami over the long term, such as providing pro bono legal help. — Brenda Sandburg ATLA HAS A MYSTERY Angst pervaded Palm Springs’ balmy air last week as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America kicked off its winter convention Jan. 30. Attendees enjoyed the requisite golfing, sunning, CLE training and occasional afternoon tequila shot, but the No. 1 preoccupation (just slightly more popular than wondering why the keynote speaker, Sen. Barack Obama, canceled) was with a set of contradictions inexplicable to most of the plaintiff bar. Why, attendees asked, can’t I find a jury pool that doesn’t hate me for my job? Why does everyone think corporate defense counsel is righteous? Why would individuals vote to restrict their own rights in court? Why is 20 percent to 30 percent of our membership Republican? At least when a reporter was present, theme No. 1 around the manicured gardens of the La Quinta Resort was befuddlement with these apparent logical incongruities. So with the senator from Illinois canceling on relatively short notice (Was he sick? Was he too busy? Was he avoiding the lawyers?), it was fitting that his replacement was Thomas Frank, the author of “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Frank’s speech closely followed his bestseller, which spends most of its time deconstructing — and excoriating — a political climate that, he argues, has most Americans voting Republican to the detriment of their own economic interests, giving legislative gifts to corporations that outsource jobs and drive down wages. The speech was well received, but Frank, like the lawyers themselves, had few suggestions for what organized labor, plaintiff lawyers and SpongeBob Squarepants could do to escape the right-wing wrath. Yet there were positive words from unlikely places, even beyond the physician in the crowd who decried malpractice award caps as a disservice to patients. “I think plaintiff lawyers are wonderful. I truly do think our system depends on good lawyers on both sides,” said Marilyn Forbes, who browsed her way through an art gallery during Frank’s speech, disappointed that it wasn’t Obama at the lectern. The address was one of the few events open to Forbes, whose primary occupation for the past 20 years — defending R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. from smoking plaintiffs as a partner with the North Carolina firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice — disqualified her from just about everything else. But she was glad to accompany her husband, an asbestos and personal injury plaintiff lawyer (and head of the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers) to the dinners and opening reception. — Justin Scheck BAKE SALE FOR DEMOCRACY Students at the University of San Francisco sold $200 worth of brownies and cookies to help send some Iraqi law students to an international moot court competition. Kelly Fair and Lauren Monson organized the sale in their capacity as president and vice president of USF’s International Law Society. USF School of Law alumnus Lawrence Jacobson, of Cohen & Jacobson in Redwood City, is matching the amount — and other law students around the nation have launched similar efforts. The final round of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Competition will be held in the United States this year. Funds raised will cover registration fees and travel expenses for four Iraqi students. Sponsors said they saw the opportunity to help Iraqi students develop a stronger foundation in international law. Fair, a second-year student, is also a member of USF’s Jessup team headed for the western regional competition on Feb. 25 in Seattle. The team’s other members are second-year students Tamalca Harris and Marco Balducci and third-year student Valerio Romano. This year’s topics include nuclear dumping, marine pollution and the obligation to protect other states from harm. — Marie-Anne Hogarth

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