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MEDIATOR HAS NOTABLY METICULOUS TECHNIQUE AFFILIATION: Gregorio, Haldeman, Piazza, Rotman, Frank & Feder DATE OF BIRTH: May 26, 1945 LAW SCHOOL: University of Chicago Law School, 1970 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None David Rotman used to defend class actions, as a longtime partner at the firm once known as Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro. “I still have the scars to show it,” he joked, in a rare moment of levity during a recent interview. About 16 years ago, he left the life of an advocate to join a small mediation shop in San Francisco, now called Gregorio, Haldeman, Piazza, Rotman, Frank & Feder. Among his five partners, Antonio Piazza � who drew Rotman into this field � is known by Bay Area lawyers for his effectiveness but also for his distinctive persona, and for offering lower rates for mediations conducted in Hawaii. While the soft-spoken Rotman may seem less colorful, that hasn’t prevented him from attracting a loyal following of defense and plaintiff lawyers � particularly, though not exclusively, in the area of employment law. He’s straightforward; astute; serious; dogged. His office, small and modestly decorated, is part of a suite perched high in a downtown building just south of Market Street. From there, he commands fees of $8,500 to $12,000 a day. Where Piazza is almost larger than life, outgoing and charismatic, Rotman has “a very quiet, but industrious, demeanor,” said Donna Rutter, a partner at management-side employment firm Curiale Dellaverson Hirschfeld & Kraemer. “It’s very hard to put your finger on what makes him so good,” said Jamie Broder, a litigation partner at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker who has brought Rotman a variety of business litigation. But she and David Borgen, a name partner at plaintiff class action firm Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian, have both noticed a technique that underscores how well Rotman listens. During the joint session that typically kicks off a mediation, when each side offers an initial presentation, Rotman takes copious notes, Borgen said. “Then he will repeat it all back to you. � It’s not the fastest way of getting things done. But you are assured that he has heard and understands what you have to say.” Borgen remembers Bullock v. Automobile Club of Southern California, where he represented insurance sales agents. The litigation had taken up years of time and gone through two other mediations by the time it reached Rotman. Only then did it settle, for tens of millions of dollars, Borgen said. “He got the job done where the other folks didn’t.” After graduating from law school in 1970, Rotman joined Pillsbury, where his work centered on employment litigation. Then, in 1989, he took a brief leave of absence to teach law at Cornell, where he’d gone to college. When he returned to the Bay Area, Piazza, a good friend, steered him toward mediation. “In those days, there weren’t a lot of people doing mediation, and I was not very impressed with what I’d seen,” Rotman said. But watching Piazza at work changed his outlook. “When I saw what a good mediator could do, in a very difficult dispute, I just said to myself, this is something I’d like to do.” He resigned from Pillsbury in 1990 to join Piazza’s practice as its fourth partner. And though Rotman estimates he’s mediated cases in 35 states over the years (he and his partners “used to cross paths on airplanes more than in the office”) he made a lifestyle decision not to travel for work anymore. Likewise, he has cut down the number of mediation days he will schedule each month, scaling back from about 150 cases a year to just under half that. Now, roughly 80 percent of Rotman’s cases are employment-focused, and most are class actions. The rest of his caseload consists of commercial litigation, dealing with things like trade-secret theft, or contract or real estate disputes. And some attorneys from both sides of the employment bar refer to him as one of only a couple of go-to mediators for wage-and-hour class actions in the Bay Area. Jeffrey Bleich, a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson, has taken one of those class actions to Rotman, one in which his out-of-state client “just could not believe the law was what it was in California.” Rotman spoke with a lot of authority on the facts as well as the law, Bleich said, noting how that can help in more ways than one. “He can reinforce the judgment of counsel, and get employers and plaintiffs alike to pay attention,” Bleich said. “He’s understanding and professional, but he’s very good at focusing on the core issues, and not getting distracted by sort of tangential issues,” said Malcolm Heinicke, another Munger, Tolles partner. “I think that makes him particularly well-suited to class actions.” James Finberg, head of the employment law group at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein in San Francisco, has already used Rotman on at least half a dozen cases. Rotman’s work on a $24 million settlement with Computer Sciences Corp. last year is one reason the plaintiffs lawyer says he’s headed back this fall with a pre-class certification mediation against IBM. “He will push on people by bringing the weak points of their cases to their attention, and yet he’s not abrasive or obnoxious,” Finberg said. “So he’s as effective as some of the most famous mediators, but without the schtick.”

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