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Lin Wood Jr. is Powell Goldstein’s latest high-profile addition in a year-long hiring spree.The firm already had scored several big hires, including former Greenberg Traurig partner David N. Minkin to its banking and finance group and former Morris, Manning & Martin partner Julian D. Nealy to its real estate group. They were among 19 new partners and counsel added to Powell Goldstein last year.But Wood is the firm’s first celebrity plaintiffs lawyer. His roster of famous clients has included John and Patsy Ramsey, Gary Condit, the woman who sued Kobe Bryant for sexual assault and Richard Jewell.And he’s made headlines a few times himself for his scrappy behavior on behalf of clients. In the Jewell case, opposing counsel asked the judge to train a camera on Wood during depositions in order to capture his purported badgering of witnesses. In a 1997 Daily Report story, Wood responded, “My style is to aggressively examine the witness within the bounds of a professional cross-examination. They don’t like that.”Wood said he and the firm’s leaders had a frank discussion about whether he would be a good fit in a big firm. He said he asked them, “Can Lin Wood be Lin Wood? And the answer was yes. That’s what they want me to do. I will continue to practice law as I have in the past.”Powell Goldstein’s managing partner, James J. McAlpin Jr., said that Wood’s feistiness and trial experience were exactly what the firm wanted, adding that Wood will work both sides in litigation.”Lin will be using his skills as a plaintiffs lawyer to defend corporations that are the targets of aggressive plaintiffs,” McAlpin said.”Corporations are constantly under attack. They can be victims themselves. To have someone to work with them who has been and is a very successful plaintiffs lawyer brings a very unique insight to the corporation’s defense,” he said, adding that big companies are seeking out experienced plaintiffs lawyers for their defense.McAlpin said that Wood’s addition to the firm also is part of its push to develop its plaintiffs practice, especially in the emerging area of corporate plaintiffs work on a contingency-fee basis.Wood, 53, said he’s not worried that giving up his solo practice will cramp his style. Although Wood has spent most of his career as a plaintiffs lawyer, he said he’s devoted about half of his time to defense work in the past five years — including complex business litigation.”I had to decide if I’d reached the top of the ladder after the last 28 years or if there were other rungs that I wanted to climb,” Wood said.”I felt like I was not able to do all that I should be doing. From the platform of my small firm practice, I was not able to take advantage of a number of opportunities to engage in significant litigation for a number of defendants. I did not have the support staff and could not figure out a way to invent more than 24 hours in a day.”He said that building his own firm would have required time and energy that he would rather spend litigating cases.Wood started work at Powell Goldstein on Jan. 1 and already has been named lead counsel in defense of one of the firm’s significant clients, SunTrust Banks Inc. The bank is being sued by two trust clients who claim it breached its fiduciary duty by failing to diversify their funds out of Coca-Cola stocks.Wood said he’s on the case because the client wanted an aggressive plaintiffs lawyer with a lot of trial experience. “It is my plan to move [the case] to resolution by jury verdict,” he said. “SunTrust made a commitment to exonerating itself through trial in that case.”Wood already has worked with Powell Goldstein lawyers on two complex business litigation matters.His relationship with the firm started about five years ago when he asked Powell Goldstein media defense lawyer James C. Rawls to help him defend John and Patsy Ramsey from libel and defamation allegations after the publication of their book, “The Death of Innocence.”The Ramseys, whose young daughter JonBenet was murdered in their home, said in their book that the investigators on the case did not pursue all available leads. Two of the investigators subsequently sued them, and Wood brought on Rawls to help with the Ramseys’ defense. One case was dismissed, and the Ramseys were granted summary judgment on a second case.Rawls said that he and Wood hit it off immediately. “Of course I knew him by reputation beforehand. I knew he was a strong, tough advocate and that he was highly aggressive,” he said.Rawls said he learned from that case that Wood was also an excellent tactician. “His mind is able to grasp and retain immense numbers of details and call them up, whether in a deposition, in court or writing a brief.”After the Ramsey matter, Wood asked Powell Goldstein lawyers to help him defend MedQuest Associates and J.P. Morgan Partners and then Griffin Industries in two class actions that were too large for him to handle alone. The MedQuest case settled, and the Griffin Industries case is ongoing.So when Wood decided late last summer to expand his practice, he called Rawls for advice, which led to discussions with the firm.The new Powell Goldstein partner expects to divide his time equally between defense and plaintiffs work and estimated that about half of the plaintiffs work will be on a contingency basis.Wood also said he will have discretion over what clients he takes on. “This firm knows that my practice of law has always been based on the fundamental premise that I have to believe in my clients. I am confident that they will not ask me to change my practice of law,” he said.When asked who his boss at Powell Goldstein would be, Wood sounded surprised. “I’m my boss,” he replied. “Powell Goldstein really gives its partners the ability to engage in their own practice of law,” he added.Wood added that McAlpin is his ultimate boss at the firm. “He’s the first boss I’ve had, other than at home, since 1983,” he said.Wood’s associate of three years, Katherine V. Hernacki, and his paralegal, Leisa D. Horness, will join him at Powell Goldstein.”I hope and fully expect to end my law career as a partner at Powell Goldstein,” Wood said.

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