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AFFILIATION: JAMS BORN: Sept. 13, 1949 LAW SCHOOL: Hastings College of the Law, 1979 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: San Francisco Superior Court judge, 1991-2000 The lawyers who bring their clients before William Cahill at JAMS can’t predict if they’ll lay eyes on their opponents. The retired San Francisco Superior Court judge dispenses with the initial joint session practiced by many mediators. “Sometimes it takes two hours to undo the bad feelings that that creates,” he said. Instead, he meets separately with each party at the beginning of the day to assess whether to bring the attorneys, their clients or both into the same room. On rare occasion, opponents don’t see much more of each other than the signatures that dress a settlement at the end of the day, Cahill said. Litigator Michael Early first picked up on that technique in a case before Cahill, though he says he’s since noticed more mediators doing away with those initial group presentations. “Except on exceptional [cases], it tends to get more sides entrenched in their positions, and starts the mediation off with the confrontation that mediation is supposed to avoid,” said Early, a partner at Steefel, Levitt & Weiss. Six years into his mediation and arbitration practice, Cahill is one of the priciest neutrals at JAMS in San Francisco, thanks in no small part to the reputation he built as a settlement judge. Many attorneys who have signed up for his services in the private sphere, where he charges $9,000 a day, can recall the cases Cahill helped them settle when he was on the local bench. He left the court after less than 10 years, a decision prompted by what he describes as “internal politics” at the court. But his years there, particularly those he spent in civil trials and law and motion, seem to have bolstered his credibility as a particularly competent generalist. “He’s a very quick study,” said Michael Murphy, head of the insurance practice group at Severson & Werson in San Francisco. Sometimes when attorneys are making their presentations in mediation, Murphy added, “mediators will say things like, ‘I got it, I got it, I got it.’ � I’ve come to learn over the years that, when Cahill says he’s got it, he really does.” Before he took the bench in 1991, following his appointment by then-Gov. George Deukmejian, Cahill had invested about a dozen years in civil litigation, working at a total of four firms including his own now-defunct partnership, Cahill & Wood. His last stop was as a partner at Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon, where construction litigation made up about 75 percent of his practice and commercial litigation filled the rest. He doesn’t have a niche now. Rather, Cahill’s caseload runs the gamut, from class actions and securities or antitrust cases to real estate and intellectual property litigation. The only cases he rules out, he said, are construction defect cases. While lawyers seem to highly regard Cahill’s legal acumen, they direct their most effusive compliments at his people skills. Lawyers say Cahill’s name is often at the top of their list of choices, and rises particularly high when it comes to multiparty cases with complex facts, or to cases where emotions are running high. “I would think of him in a case where there were difficult personalities” or lots of acrimony, said Peter Hecker, a senior litigation partner at Heller Ehrman. “He has an incredibly quick learning curve, not only to the merits of the dispute, which is important, but also to the motivations of the parties,” said Andrew August, a principal at the Pinnacle Law Group. “The more complex, the more parties, the better.” August, who estimated he’s taken close to a dozen cases to Cahill, piles on the accolades even though he openly talks about one time he was not pleased with the service. “In this one case in particular, neither side was happy with his attention or focus,” August said, and it seemed Cahill just wasn’t “on” that day. But, when they broached their dissatisfaction, Cahill had them back for a second day without charge and settled the case, he added. “He just handled it with great aplomb,” said August, who came away from the case impressed, rather than turned off. “Everybody’s entitled to make a mistake. The question is, how do they rectify the mistake?” Jonathan Hayden, a partner at Heller Ehrman, says Cahill’s mediations focus more on interpersonal dynamics than evaluation. “That’s not to say Bill doesn’t get into the merits, because he does,” Hayden added. “But I think where he really shines is his ability to figure out a situation, figure out people, work with their motivations, and that sort of thing.” Sidley Austin partner Timothy Scott found Cahill extremely patient, he said, explaining that the retired judge once spent what Scott described as an inordinate amount of time on the phone listening to another party “rant and rave.” But, Scott added, “in seeming contradiction to that, he’s also very blunt.” John Ralls, a partner in the construction and government contracts group at Thelen Reid & Priest, thinks the best neutrals have to adopt a style consistent with their personalities. Cahill, he says, comes across as nice, charming and often jovial. “He uses those great people skills that he has, to develop credibility with everybody and to lower the volume level when necessary.” You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges here or by calling 415-749-5523.

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