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AT LEAST ONE LAWYER LIKES EDWARDS’ CALL FOR ACCOUNTABILITY When former vice presidential candidate John Edwards spoke at a Bar Association of San Francisco luncheon last week, the renowned trial lawyer heaped praise on his own profession. “Lawyers seek the truth, they demand fairness,” he told a ballroom full of lawyers Thursday. Still, he remarked upon the inevitable bad apples and suggested that “lawyers should be held responsible for what they do” just like doctors and accountants. That won him some applause — from one lonely soul up front. “I got one clap,” Edwards said to raucous laughter. “I know you’re really for that.” The claps in the room echoed much louder in support of a higher minimum wage, affirmative action and help for the working poor. The former senator spent the lion’s share of his speech extolling what he called the “beliefs” of the Democratic Party. One question from the audience seemed almost rhetorical and got some laughs: How does he feel about a proposed ballot measure in California that would cap contingency fees at 20 percent? “I’m against it,” Edwards said. “The contingency [fee] system is the key to the courthouse.” But he acknowledged that doctors’ medical malpractice costs are going through the roof, and suggested attorneys could ward off unwanted reforms if they were held financially responsible for screening their cases with experts for legitimacy early on. That suggestion fetched some moderate applause. Four months after the presidential election, Edwards has begun leading the recently created Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He appeared to be recruiting Thursday, telling his audience, “If you have some interest in helping us in this cause, I would love to have you involved.” Asked after his speech if he planned to run for office again in 2008, he neatly sidestepped the question. “I am running the most powerful campaign I know how, to stop poverty,” he said. “That’s the cause I’m focused on.” — Pam Smith THERE’S TREASURE IN THEM BOXES One person’s albatross can be another’s treasure. So it is with the remnants of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison: 200,000 boxes of files gathering dust in a warehouse. Ronald Greenspan, the trustee of Brobeck’s estate, wants to get rid of the documents since they’ve become an expensive burden. Two storage companies are claiming hundreds of thousands of dollars in storage fees. Greenspan has filed a motion with the San Francisco bankruptcy court asking for permission to abandon any records that aren’t claimed by Brobeck’s former clients. But David Kirsch, a historian at the University of Maryland, is pleading to keep a chunk of them out of the dust bin. “When I heard the firm had failed, I saw there was this enormous piece of California history at risk of destruction,” Kirsch said. “Brobeck was party to many important decisions about the growth of the Bay Area into the global center of technology innovation it is today.” McNutt & Litteneker, a San Francisco bankruptcy boutique, is representing Kirsch pro bono in his efforts to get some of the documents. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali will address the fate of the files at a hearing today when he takes up several Brobeck matters. “We think it’s a fascinating issue,” said Sarah Borrey, an associate at McNutt & Litteneker. “Firms go down all the time, and we never think of the repercussions.” An assistant professor at the university’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, Kirsch has been archiving the digital business records of failed dot-com companies with funding from the Library of Congress. He would like to retrieve Brobeck’s digital records and archive them with the library. He also wants to preserve the paper records of the Brobeck partnership dating back to the firm’s founding in 1926. Stanford University has agreed to house those records in its library. Most of the 200,000 boxes include non-digital, client records that Kirsch said would be too costly to keep since the storage fees are $30,000 per month. Before Kirsch delved into the dot-com era, he wrote a book, “The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History,” about the automobile industry, which in the early 1900s consisted of more than 300 auto manufacturers. Kirsch said historians in 2100 examining the dot-com era will need digital files to answer the same kinds of questions he did in his research of the auto industry: why one company succeeded and another failed, why certain business strategies and regions dominated. If the Brobeck files are destroyed, Kirsch said, a “piece of culture will be lost for nothing.” — Brenda Sandburg LATHAM INVADES SAN FRANCISCO Latham & Watkins is doing its part to help San Francisco’s tourism industry. Some 1,200 of the Los Angeles-based firm’s lawyers descended upon the Hilton Hotel on O’Farrell Street earlier this month for four days of bonding, schmoozing and networking. The firm even hosted a client reception at City Hall for 250 of its closest friends. Firm leaders deem the biennial meeting a necessity. “Young lawyers used to meet people on deals,” said David Rogers, of the firm’s executive committee. “People would hang out for a week or two. � Nowadays so much business is done by e-mail.” Fifth-year associate Danyan Rosen, found hard at work at one of the firm’s computer terminals in a Hilton reception room, said he attended a session on what it takes to make partner at Latham. But he also partook in the fun on tap — dinners at local restaurants, tours of the wine country, golf outings and biking over the Golden Gate Bridge. “I went to a Moroccan restaurant and was taught how to belly dance,” Rosen said. “[That] is always fun when you do it in front of people you don’t know and are trying to impress.” — Marie-Anne Hogarth

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