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O’Melveny & Myers’ pro bono effort on behalf of Los Alamos nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee has paid off in more ways than getting 58 of 59 felony charges against him dismissed. In a move sure to gladden the hearts of consultants who preach the virtues of cross-selling, Mark Holscher, a white collar defense lawyer in O’Melveny’s Los Angeles home office, passed Lee on to David Weil, a veteran entertainment and intellectual property lawyer in O’Melveny’s Century City, Calif. office. At first, the 60-year-old, Taiwan-born scientist and his family were “not interested in Hollywood,” according to Alys Shanti, one of those who helped change their minds. Shanti, a vice president at Robert Greenwald Productions, says her film company was only one of several that was “aggressively pursuing” the rights to Lee’s story while he was still in court. The deal that Weil cut with Culver City, Calif.’s Greenwald Productions will produce a two-night, four-hour TV miniseries set to air early next year and tell all — at least, all that can be told within the limits of Lee’s security clearance. What O’Melveny’s cut is, or even how the fee arrangement is structured, is not something Weil will discuss publicly. However, he does say that unlike the miniseries deal, his client took the initiative on a book deal and asked him to shop the idea around. O’Melveny’s Brett Williamson estimates the firm devotes some 30,000 attorney hours a year — “conservatively estimating our time at $325 an hour” — to pro bono projects. It is not unusual, Williamson continued, for there to be a direct linkage to the entertainment practice of the firm. “For example, there was a great deal of bidding for the story of Benny Lee Powell,” said Williamson, referring to another criminal defendant exonerated by the firm after a lengthy incarceration. New York-based Hyperion Books, a branch of Disney-owned ABC Inc., was the final choice to publish the Lee memoirs, with Oakland journalist Helen Zia as the professional writer in residence. Zia specializes in Asian themes, and her most recent book traces Asian Americans from World War II relocation camps to the Lee incident. Negotiating the book deal, however, was not the end of O’Melveny’s doing well as a consequence of its doing good. “We are hopeful there may be a theatrical feature,” says Weil, who has been with the firm since 1980. Weil hasn’t been working that closely with the scientist himself — “He’s been preoccupied with completing his government interviews,” he says — but rather with the family, which includes a son and a daughter. A series of debriefings to be concluded this month, with less formal follow-up interviews, was part of the deal that Holscher negotiated with the government when he won Lee’s release in September after nine months in jail. Initially, it was Lee’s daughter who contacted Holscher, with Holscher assuming he would be working briefly for a paying client. But ultimately the lawyer went to O’Melveny’s executive committee for permission to stay with it for the duration, at the firm’s expense. The government backed away from its accusations that Lee stole nuclear secrets for a foreign government after an FBI agent who testified at a December 1999 pretrial hearing admitted he had testified incorrectly when he said Lee lied to a colleague to gain access to a computer. In the end, Lee pleaded guilty to mishandling classified materials and was sentenced to time served. It does look, however, as if one scrap of business from the whole episode may have escaped O’Melveny’s grasp. Brian Sun, of Santa Monica, Calif.’s O’Neill, Lysaght & Sun, is handling Lee’s possible damage suit against the Justice and Energy Departments over press leaks.

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