One of my favorite things in my job is getting to know the client and their business, and then figuring out how we can use the court system to both protect their rights and to tell their story. It is particularly fun to tell the stories of my video game clients because we get to do it with graphics, images and gameplay videos, which helps us teach the court about the product. And I get to play the games as part of my research – an added bonus!
One of my most meaningful cases in this area was representing Vostu, the largest social gaming company in South America at the time. I visited their headquarters in Buenos Aires, met the employees, and saw what a great company they had built. They were sued by Zynga for copyright infringement in California and Brazil. The Brazilian court issued an injunction that would have essentially shut down the company.
We fought that, asking a federal judge to stop the Brazilian court from shutting the company down. On the eve of the injunction going into effect in Brazil, the judge granted our temporary restraining order, sparing the company and the jobs of all those people. I can still vividly picture the great relief I felt that the justice system was able to deliver a solution for my client in a time of real crisis.
I took great satisfaction from representing a company at their hardest time, facing one of the most difficult problems a company could face, and providing them relief through the court system.
I joined the Wells Fargo trial team at the end of 2012. I’d been at the firm a little over two years—I was in my third year out of law school when the lead trial lawyer asked me if I would jump on the case.
The leaders of the trial team were very generous with opportunities. It was motivating to rise to the occasion and to fulfill those expectations. I worked closely on witness preparation, writing examination outlines, and constructing the closing. I sat at counsel table every day in court, took part in sidebars with the judge, argued motions. I went toe-to-toe with the lead trial lawyer on the other side, who’d been practicing law for 40 years. Our argument took the entire morning; I probably argued for about an hour and a half. That was my first oral argument.
After a seven-week jury trial, we won a unanimous defense verdict.
From very early on, I’ve been given the opportunity to be a thought partner on everything and have been involved in strategic decision-making. People use shorthand like “early responsibility,” but I think it’s more than that. I think that it’s an ethos, a culture of giving people as much responsibility as they’re capable of handling, and not having different echelons that limit the type of opportunities you’ll be offered just because you haven’t done something before. That leads to new challenges all the time, which is both rewarding and, I think, necessary for an associate to not just develop skills, but thrive.
One thing that is particularly important to understand about the government’s processes for making decisions is that the government involves literally dozens of offices with disparate − and sometimes conflicting − interests on a given matter. The value of having worked for the government is in understanding how it makes decisions, how it thinks about problems and where its interests lie.
Just a few weeks after I started at Munger Tolles, I represented a client in a case involving a citizen suit brought by an environmental organization for alleged contamination. The U.S. government expressed interest in weighing in on the case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That is exactly the sort of process that I would have managed in my previous role as an Assistant to the Solicitor General in the U.S. Department of Justice. My understanding of the government’s decision-making process allowed me to identify the interested agencies, predict their perspectives on the issues, and advise our client on the most effective way to approach the key players.
Munger Tolles appreciates the value of the firsthand experience that its lawyers get in other pursuits. The firm was a natural fit for me because the government also tends to operate in very lean teams where attorneys have a lot of responsibility from the start. At the DOJ, I was privileged to work with some of the sharpest, most capable lawyers that the profession has to offer. I came to Munger Tolles because I wanted to go to a place like that − one where, without question, anyone that you work with is at the top of their game. I haven’t once been disappointed.
My very first day at Munger Tolles, I was asked to work on a major class action arbitration with Malcolm Heinicke and Martin Bern. For two years, I ran the day-to-day operations on the case – I did everything from digging through the documents to traveling around the world to take depositions. When it was time to go to trial, I knew the client and the facts very well, so I had the opportunity to cross-examine more than a dozen witnesses, put on key direct examination witnesses and deliver part of the closing argument. After a three-month trial, we won the case.
This initial trial experience paved the way for me to serve as first chair, or lead counsel, defending the University of California in a highly publicized privacy lawsuit. With the full support of Brad Phillips, I worked on every stage of the case, from the motion to dismiss and summary judgment argument through mediation and depositions – ultimately representing the University at trial. During the process I also got to work with the press that covered every day of the trial.
I enjoyed having the opportunity to pull the case together and present it in a way that was digestible and persuasive to a jury. It was a great feeling to sit at counsel table during the plaintiff’s closing argument knowing I could respond to every point because I was so immersed in the case – and setting it all out for the jury during closing argument was so much fun! After less than an hour of deliberation, the jury ruled in our favor.
I feel very lucky to have had these opportunities as an associate. In law school, I was really involved in mock trial and knew trial work was something I wanted to do. In these cases, and many others, I’ve had the opportunity to shape and execute case strategy from day one – which is exactly why I came to Munger Tolles.
I joined Munger Tolles & Olson on account of the testimony of co-clerks and Munger alums in the judiciary whom I met during my time as a judicial clerk. The values and commitments upon which Munger Tolles was built have attracted the most brilliant minds in our profession. That brilliance is matched at Munger by generosity and humility, a unique combination in our industry. On my very first day, Ron Olson, a name partner, sat down with me and a colleague for nearly an hour after a firm-wide lunch, just to chat. Ron took an interest in us simply because we had joined the firm that day and wanted to get to know his new colleagues. In spending that time with us, he helped usher us into the culture of community and collegiality that pervades this place.
A week after I started with Munger Tolles, I was asked to work on a large case that offered me a great deal of opportunity. This case is one that I recall fondly because of the scope, magnitude and respect it afforded me from my colleagues. This case was brought to Munger Tolles by a high-profile financial services client, and immediately after we resolved it five other similar cases followed on its heels. I spent more than eight years successfully litigating those cases. In one of them, in which our client faced the greatest potential exposure, I took the lead in crafting our defense. With the support of a senior colleague, we developed a defense that was innovative, novel and, most importantly successful. On that theory, the case was dismissed on the pleadings, then knocked out entirely when we had their motion to amend denied.
Each partner devoted time to nurturing my development as I grew as an attorney here. While they gave me the reins, they also sat beside me, giving pointers as we went and specific feedback at each turn to help make me a better attorney all around. Likewise, standard fare is the day-to-day mentorship provided by our firm’s attorneys while handling such matters.
As I have experienced them, Munger Tolles & Olson’s foundational principles are service, commitment to both clients and community; generous collegiality, general inclusivity and the intentional pursuit of excellence. We strive to uphold these and look to them in times of struggle and difficulty. Munger Tolles & Olson has a foundation, mission and culture that I value greatly and intend to carry forward.