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GORILLAS, EMPLOYEES AND BREASTS, OH MY! Since going solo in August, Stephen Sommers has toiled in anonymity on a heavy load of employment, personal injury and bankruptcy work, hoping to get his new practice off the ground. “At this point, it’s just me and my laptop,” he said last week, shortly after bolting out of obscurity in a blaze of international publicity. Sommers’ big case is against a Woodside nonprofit, and would be a routine employment suit if not for its implication that we may not want to know what gorillas have to say. Specifically, the suit alleges that the director of the nonprofit Gorilla Foundation, Francine “Penny” Patterson — who rose to fame by teaching sign language to Koko the gorilla — told two female caretakers that the gorilla wanted them to show her their breasts. “If plaintiffs did not indulge Koko’s nipple fetish,” the suit continues, Patterson told them “their employment with [the] Gorilla Foundation would suffer.” According to the suit, in the spring and summer of 2004, Patterson repeatedly told the plaintiffs that Koko wanted a peep show. (Sommers said one of his clients, fluent in sign language, questions whether the gorilla has the ability to communicate such a request.) The complaint also says the women were fired in retaliation for reporting health and safety violations to Cal/OSHA, and were not paid full wages for overtime and rest breaks. Sommers is quick to say that his breakthrough case is not aimed at sullying the gorilla’s reputation. “This is not about Koko asking people to take their clothes off. This is about Penny Patterson asking people to take their clothes off,” he said. “If Koko does want it, Penny should discourage that behavior. There are better and more humane ways to bond with a 350-pound gorilla.” Of course, as one would expect in a suit over simian titillation, there are the requisite claims of infliction of emotional distress, both negligent and intentional. “My clients are very private people,” Sommers said. Bizarre or not, Sommers says the suit is similar to cases he handled as an associate at McCarthy Johnson & Miller and Beeson Tayer & Bodine — minus the ape. “I know there’s a lot of snickering in this case, but to me it’s a straightforward employment case,” he said. “We decided we wouldn’t back down just because Koko’s involved.” The involvement of high-powered defense firm Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley is apparently of more concern. “I think they play hardball,” said Sommers. But he’s not about to back down from them, either, and is planning to go to trial. Until that time, Sommers is basking in a media spotlight turned on when he alerted the San Francisco Chronicle to the suit. Over the past two weeks, Sommers says he’s turned down the TV shows “Celebrity Justice,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Inside Edition” and a lesser-known program that would have subjected his clients to a televised polygraph. “We’re trying to keep it as hard news as we can,” he said. “To us, it’s not a laughing matter.” Nor is it to the defense, which issued a statement asserting that Koko is not the only chest-pounder around. Sommers is engaging in “a transparent attempt to call attention to himself,” wrote defense counsel Todd Roberts, a partner at Ropers, Majeski. Roberts said Thursday that he had no further comment. Joining the sparse group of primates who don’t find the case humorous is Michael Blacksburg, another S.F. solo who will be working with Sommers. Bizarre or not, the plaintiff team says they are working hard to prepare Gorillagate for trial in San Mateo County Superior Court. In the meantime, there are some logistical issues to work out in Alperin and Keller v. The Gorilla Foundation. “The gorilla’s vocabulary is limited to 1,000 words,” said Blacksburg. “I’d say that deposing Koko is highly, highly, highly unlikely.” — Justin Scheck NUMBER PEOPLE Quick. In the history of sports, which team is the best? Have your answer? Richard Climan and Eric Reifschneider think they’ve worked it out mathematically. The New York Yankees is by far superior, they say, followed by the Boston Celtics and Montreal Canadiens. How are they so sure? The Cooley Godward partners teamed up with mathematician Patrick Worfolk, of TZero Technologies Inc., to develop an index ranking 34 sports dynasties — professional sports franchises that have dominated their rivals for an extended period of time — over the past century. Their so-called Dynasty Index is based on a complex mathematical equation that includes three factors: the length of time a team was dominant, the number of championships it won during that period, and the number of teams it competed against. “We’ve taken something of a tongue-in- cheek approach to this,” Climan, the head of Cooley’s M&A group, said. “We believe in our numbers,” Reifschneider added, “but we’re not pretending to be serious sports journalists.” They did catch the attention of a sports writer at The Wall Street Journal who wrote about the index a couple of weeks ago. Climan and Reifschneider had gotten a write-up in the paper seven years ago when they developed their first index, which rated teams based on the probability they wouldn’t win a championship over a period of years. The two told the Journal about their new index just before the Super Bowl. The New England Patriots were favored to win for the third time in four years, and the Cooley lawyers raised the question of whether this record would turn the Patriots into a true dynasty. “The Patriots’ success is nothing to write home about,” Reifschneider said. “It’s a blip on the screen.” The Cooley lawyers compare the Dynasty Index to the Richter Scale, which measures the severity of earthquakes using a similar logarithm. The New York Yankees Dynasty Index of 13.5 would be like an earthquake that causes “California [to fall] into the ocean,” Reifschneider said, while the Patriots’ 3.9 rating is comparable to earthquakes that go unnoticed. During their reign from 1923 to 1962 the New York Yankees won 20 World Series competing against at least 15 teams. The Cooley partners gave it a 13.5 index rating, which they say is 1,000 times more powerful than the Boston Celtics, which comes in at No. 2 with a 10.4 rating. Born and raised in New York City, Climan is an avid Yankees fan. His office is filled with memorabilia, including a baseball signed by the 1961 team and photos of the 1961 season lineup and Mickey Mantle sliding into home. He is delighted to have mathematical proof — at least by his equation — that the Yankees are the most powerful dynasty in the history of North American professional sports. “After what the Red Sox did to the Yankees in October, New York sports fans desperately need something to lift their sagging spirits,” Climan said. “The Dynasty Index gives these grieving fans a reason to celebrate.” — Brenda Sandburg GILDING GOOGLE Larry Sonsini’s Google-licious deal-making powers won him the No. 3 spot on Forbes’ Midas List this year. The magazine says the listing of 100 deal makers using VC wealth to build valuable long-lasting companies is derived from a survey of approximately 800 professionals — angels, bankers, lawyers, recruiters and venture capitalists. Four lawyers besides Sonsini made the list this year. They included Fenwick & West’s Gordon Davidson (No. 68) and Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian’s Robert Gunderson Jr. (No. 98). Both were in the rankings last year. Forbes reports that what sealed the deal for Sonsini was that he had the first signature on Google’s S-1 IPO filing, the registration statement submitted to the SEC by a private company intending to go public. The magazine also mentioned Sonsini’s handling of VMware’s $635 million sale to EMC Corp. and NetScreen’s $3.5 billion sale to Juniper Networks Inc., as well as his reputation and past achievements. Joshua Green of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe’s Venture Law Group made the list for the first time — coming in at No. 51. “I’m just doing what I always did,” Green said. “Maybe it’s longevity.” Green draws a salary at Heller but also runs his own firm, Legal Architects. As part of that venture, he serves as a board member and vice president of corporate development for startups, and then funnels legal work to Heller. The fifth attorney on the list is Philip Richard Nicholls (No. 87) of Platinum Creative Group Ltd. He is director of China’s SMIC in Hong Kong. In 2002, Sonsini was No. 7, Gunderson ranked No. 12 and Warren Lazarow, then at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison and now at O’Melveny & Myers, came in at No.72. — Marie-Anne Hogarth

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