Sunday, November 04, 2012

Report From Staten Island

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, I live on Staten Island, which was particularly hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. Yesterday, we delivered a van load of clothing, shoes, toiletries and tools (rakes, shovels and brooms) to Midland Beach, not far from where I grew up. I want to quickly report what I saw:

Simply put, it is hard to overstate the enormity of the devastation. Along Hylan Boulevard, a main commercial thoroughfare, mud cakes  storefronts, homes and sidewalks
more than a mile from the beach. On Bedford Avenue, debris from waterlogged homes is piled in front of each dwelling, some of it more than ten feet high. Refrigerators, washing machines, couches and beds, shards of sheetrock ripped from walls and ceilings. Home after home, block after block, down to Raritan Bay.  Residents stand on street corners, some with their children, others with signs asking for food, water and generators for power. Lost dogs and cats roam some streets.  At I.S. 2, the local Middle School where relief supplies were being collected (across from the McDonalds where I worked as a teenager), several feet of seawater still floods the basement. Again, all of this a mile or more inland from the beach.

And that's the point. In places like Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Rockaways and the Jersey Shore, there are thousands of homes that have been rendered uninhabitable, their occupants homeless.
These are not beachside vacation homes, but primary residences for working class families -- many of whom have no place to go and few resources at their disposal. They are cold, they are hungry and they are wet. For many, times were tough before the hurricane hit; things must seem impossible now.

So I urge you all to do what you can to help. One charity I'm fond of is the
Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, named after the firefighter from my neighborhood who made an heroic run through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel on 9/11, only to die when the World Trade Center collapsed. The Siller Foundation has set up a special Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund to benefit families throughout the metropolitan area. The foundation's website is:

I realize this is an unusual post from me, but I thought it might be helpful to hear from someone who lives in one of the areas most affected by the storm and its aftermath. I appreciate your consideration, and ask you to help in any way you can.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Article in Corporate Counsel magazine

Here's my latest article for American Lawyer's Corporate Counsel magazine, where I write a periodic "In The Court Of Public Opinion" column.

Today's topic: the legal and reputational battle between outdoor apparel giant The North Face and a brand called... believe it or not... "The Butt Face." I've tried to keep the puns and double-meanings to a minimum, but couldn't resist the following in my final paragraph:
I often say that most battles in the court of public opinion come down to a case of reasonable vs. unreasonable—if it appears I am being reasonable and my adversary unreasonable, I win. And vice versa. In this instance, even the most humorously inclined among us would excuse a company for taking action in the face of so derogatory an infringement. In other words, The North Face had the ability to protect itself without, in the end, looking like an ass.
Not a bad play on words, if I do say so myself, but there's a serious issue here. We live in an era where intellectual property battles tend to be big news: look no further than Apple's recent patent battle with Samsung for proof. Yet decisions to aggressively protect your IP, including patents, copyrights and trademarks, can be fraught with reputational consequences. In the end (no pun intended), it is a delicate balancing act.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Media Savvy and Litigation Department of the Year

So what does it take to be named the law firm "Litigation Department of the Year?" Well, according to American Lawyer in its profile of this year's winner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, media savvy is a key ingredient. AmLaw puts it this way:
The most important battles can't be won solely with legal filings or courtroom arguments. Gibson, Dunn partners strongly believe that public perception can shape the outcome of a case. So its litigators aren't shy when it comes to engaging the media. Take the firm's successful challenge to Proposition 8, the California statute outlawing gay marriage. In the days leading up to the trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger , partner Theodore Olson penned a 3,000-word cover story for Newsweek , entitled "The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage." And Olson estimates that he, along with his cocounsel David Boies, has participated in scores of interviews to explain the team's advocacy for marriage equality.
The profile of Gibson Dunn goes on to describe the firm's public perception savvy in other cases as well:
Gibson lawyers are just as adept at shaping the public dialogue in cases that are more technical and abstract. Case in point: the firm's representation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable in their challenge to the SEC's "proxy access" rule, which would have made it easier for shareholders to nominate directors. Partners Eugene Scalia and Amy Goodman participated in the press conference announcing the lawsuit in September 2010. They also compiled critical comments about the rule from current and former SEC commissioners that were posted on the groups' Web sites. And Scalia says he fielded dozens of phone calls and e-mails with reporters.
In July the D.C. Circuit invalidated the proxy access rule, delivering Scalia his fourth victory in six years challenging SEC rules. It's impossible, of course, to gauge the impact of the media campaign. But to Gibson, Dunn clients, the firm's media savvy is just one more way these litigators distinguish themselves. "It's a very special skill set [that Gibson, Dunn has]," says Robin Conrad, executive vice president at the litigation center of the Chamber of Commerce.
The other finalists in the annual competition included Boies, Schiller & Flexner, Mayer Brown, O'Melveny & Myers, Sidley Austin and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Honorable mention went to a slew of litigation departments at top-line law firms, including Baker & McKenzie, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Davis Polk & Wardwell, Hughes Hubbard & Reed, Jenner & Block, Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis, Munger, Tolles & Olson, Orrick, Herrington, Paul, Weiss, Quinn Emanuel, Sullivan & Cromwell, Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Wilmer. A full list of the winners in all categories can be found here (subscription, I believe, is required).