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Mullins v. Rockwell. Lane v. Hughes Aircraft. Guz v. Bechtel. Richards v. CH2M Hill. If you’re talking about a high-profile employment case in California, chances are the name Paul Cane Jr. will show up on the defense briefs. Cane, a partner with Los Angeles’ Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, has taken four major employment law cases to the California Supreme Court in the last five years. He’s won three reversals; a fourth case is pending. And he’s filed amicus briefs in just about every major case, from Foley v. Interactive Data to Armendariz v. Foundation Health Psychcare. Earlier this year, the makers of Wonder Bread turned to Cane when slapped by a San Francisco jury with a $131 million verdict. Cane already helped knock it down to $26 million in post-trial motions; last month, he filed the opening brief in Carroll v. Interstate Brands Corp., A093281, in California’s First District Court of Appeal. The case was brought by 17 African-American employees at a San Francisco bakery who say they were passed over for promotions and subjected to derogatory racial remarks. “The client contacted a number of different attorneys. Paul got such glowing recommendations from other companies who used him before,” says Patrick Mullin, lead defense counsel in the case and a partner with Jackson Lewis Schnitzler & Krupman. Attorneys outside the firm say Cane’s rescue work has helped give Paul Hastings’ employment group a national reputation. “Most of us would like to be where they are — able to attract big cases with a big impact,” says Michael Loeb, a partner with McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen who practices employment defense. “They’ve gotten to a point where if there’s a big adverse decision, employers will go to Paul Hastings to handle the appeal.” Cane is credited with knowing the intricacies of employment law, having good instincts about where the law is going, and cutting through dense legal jargon and communicating complex legal arguments in a breezy writing style. One attorney described it as “Hemingwayesque.” Paul Grossman, a nationally recognized expert on employment law and a Paul Hastings partner, has worked closely with Cane since hiring him in 1981. Cane had just finished clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell and early on proved himself a great writer. “Normally, when you’re working with junior lawyers you let them do the drafting and the senior attorney does the editing. It was never like that. No one writes like Paul Cane,” says Grossman, who co-authored the American Bar Association’s two-volume guide to discrimination law. The latest edition was edited by Cane, who Grossman says “rewrote it to be substantially better.” Mullin says he was so pleased with Cane’s brief in the Wonder Bread case, he took it home for his wife — who’s not a lawyer — to read because he thought she’d enjoy it. “This guy can really write. I think that is his greatest strength. He makes it easy to read things that are otherwise extremely dry,” he said, adding that his wife read the 108-page brief in a single sitting. In it, Cane argues that the jury was allowed to hear about alleged incidents far outside the statute of limitations. He writes, “the trial became a kind of historical inquest; the resulting record is a museum of evidentiary artifacts culled from years (in some cases decades) past.” He also said the trial was tainted by a juror’s alcohol consumption during jury deliberations. “Alcohol and inflammatory, irrelevant evidence surely don’t mix,” he writes. Cane’s skills have impressed his opponents. San Francisco plaintiffs’ lawyer Stephen Murphy remembers reading Cane’s reply brief in Guz v. Bechtel, an important age discrimination suit decided last year by the California Supreme Court. “It was one of the best briefs I’ve ever read,” Murphy says. Cane’s firm was brought in by Bechtel midbriefing after another firm submitted the opening brief. Murphy said the experience was unnerving, as Cane ended up getting the court to grant a lengthy extension for the reply brief, which came in at close to 50 pages. “He went into the record in much more detail than the opening brief,” says Murphy. “Really, he got away with filing an opening brief as a reply brief.” Cane says writing is his first love. His father was a journalist and he worked as a reporter until he enrolled in law school. He was drawn to appellate law because it entails more writing. “Some people are sort of born to be on stage — and I was not,” he said. Cane stays busy handling appeals stemming from work performed by the firm’s 155 employment lawyers. But he’s often brought in at the post-trial stage by clients after other firms have taken a beating at trial. “The thinking is that, win or lose in the trial court, there’s a huge benefit to having a fresh eye re-examine the case for the post-trial motions or for the appeal,” he said in an e-mail. “You know the old saying about ‘missing the forest for the trees’? Sometimes a fresh eye like mine helps get the focus back on the forest.” Name recognition also comes from his work with the California Employment Law Council — a group of about 50 of the state’s largest employers for which Grossman acts as general counsel. That’s how Michelle Leetham, manager of litigation and employment with Bechtel Group and a board member of the Council, knew of him. “We’re very familiar with Paul Cane’s work because he writes a number of amicus briefs for the council,” Leetham said. Then, of course, there’s damage control and word of mouth. When an Arkansas jury hit paper producer Georgia Pacific Corp. with a $1.6 million verdict for disciplining a midmanager who’d apparently breached safety regulations, the company turned to Paul Hastings. “It was because of Paul [Cane]. Rarely do you hire a firm. You hire the talent — at least I do,” says Gloria Cheatham, principal counsel for Atlanta-based Georgia Pacific. Cane took the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Arkansas. Cheatham said, “He turned the case around.” Not only did Cane win a reversal, she said, but he didn’t step on trial counsel’s toes. “Some appellate lawyers come in thinking, ‘I’m going to white knight this.’ But everyone on our team commented on him. He saw himself as an adjunct.” Michael Sullivan, a partner with San Diego’s Paul Plevin & Sullivan, was hired to handle an appeal for a Fortune 500 company hit with a $3 million verdict. But hoping to get early feedback on the briefing and strategy, the company also brought Cane in to work with Sullivan. “It was kind of a big deal,” he said. “The client cared a lot.”

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