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Twenty-five years to partner? That may be unimaginable to young associates bemoaning the seven-year trek up the partnership ladder. But for Melinda Riechert, it’s no big deal. After more than two decades in the trenches, the Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison litigator will join the San Francisco, Calif.-based firm’s partnership ranks in January. Riechert joined Brobeck in 1975 as the firm’s first female litigator. But she took a detour off the partnership track when her first daughter was born in 1982. She returned to the firm for another year until the birth of her second daughter. Five years later, Brobeck asked her to come back. Eager to spend time with her daughters, she worked out a part-time arrangement, first as a contract attorney and then as of counsel. “I had the world’s greatest job,” Riechert says. Working 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. five days a week, she says she was able to pick her daughters up from school every day and participate in their lives. “There is no better experience than being there for your kids,” Riechert says. “At the same time I could keep my brain challenged.” As a part-time attorney, Riechert maintained a rigorous workload. She has tried nine cases in the last four years, winning all of them. Last year was the first year she worked full-time since she had her first daughter. She says her longer hours evolved as she prepared for two trials and no longer needed to chauffeur her children. “I love work,” Riechert says, so the shift to full-time was not at all difficult. William Anderson, head of the Palo Alto, Calif., office’s labor and employment group, says Riechert’s contribution to the firm has been incredible. “The term that describes her is courageous,” Anderson said. “As a litigator there are dozens of reasons to recommend to a client that they settle. She is completely prepared to litigate cases.” Noting how stressful trials are, Sullivan says Riechert typically loses five to 10 pounds when she tries a case. A labor and employment litigator, Riechert has handled sexual harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination cases for such clients as Cisco Systems Inc., Exodus Communications Inc. and United Air Lines. A native of London, Riechert moved to California in 1973 to attend Stanford Law School. “I was told a lawyer could make $1,000 a month in America and I thought ‘what would anyone do with $1,000 a month,’ ” Riechert says. Riechert, whose maiden name is Collins, is related to Collins Publishing. The family business became Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. after being acquired by Rupert Murdoch. Of her early years at the firm, Riechert says she didn’t feel like she was the only woman there. But she did try to fit in with the boys by cultivating an appreciation for sports. “I’m not a big American sports person, but I began following the Giants and 49ers because that’s what male attorneys talked about,” she says. Riechert acknowledges that her career track is unique. “I’m a loyal type of person,” Riechert says. “I believe that if you have a good job and like it you should stay there.”

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