In the latest issue of Northern California Super Lawyers & Rising Stars (available online, digitally, via app, and of course in magazine form), Terry McMahon with McDermott Will & Emery tells us how his blue-collar roots propelled him to success as an intellectual property attorney.
“He does not come from a privileged background,” notes Vera Elson, a colleague at McDermott who has tried numerous cases with him. “He worked his way up, hauling meat off a truck. That gives him an edge because he doesn’t forget how the common person thinks.”
McMahon says, “I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but I’ll outwork anyone.” But those who work with him say he’s hard to beat in intellect or hard work.
“Other lawyers, even first chairs at major law firms, are relatively wooden in comparison,” says Elson. “Terry improvises, and he’s very fluid in his presentation. He knows the facts of the case inside and out, so he’s not tied to a script.”
We also check in with Eric Havian, who spends his days blowing the whistle on companies accused of cheating the federal government. His firm, Phillips & Cohen, has returned close to $7 billion to the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Says Wayne T. Lamprey, who has worked with Havian a number of times, “Eric is the complete package, more than a triple threat. He has a superb analytical mind, his writing is both fluent and moving, he’s a terrific oral advocate; plus he’s tenacious, hardworking and has the highest level of integrity.”
Haitham Ballout tells us the amazing story of his boyhood as a child soldier in Lebanon who escaped the danger, with the help of his brother, and built a life in the United States. When he arrived, he couldn’t read or speak English. “I remember day after day, spending hours after school in the library looking at the dictionary,” Ballout says. “I had to look up almost every other word because I knew nothing.” Just a few years later, he went to law school and ended up founding his own law firm, Law Offices of H. Edward Ballout. Now, he helps others fulfill their dreams of immigrating to the U.S.
To Susan Popik, deciphering the fine print in insurance policies is the equivalent of light summer reading to most folks: She devours it. “I’m convinced,” she quips, “that those of us who do coverage work have a little quirk in our brain that makes it fun to wrestle endlessly with arcane policy language.” A founding partner at Chapman Popik and White, Popik co-authored the “bible” of California insurance litigation, The Rutter Group’s California Practice Guide: Insurance Litigation.
Appellate attorney Kevin M. Fong is widely respected for his work ethic and the simple elegance of his carefully crafted arguments. So carefully that his first draft is usually his last-and that’s in longhand, on a pad of legal paper. Fong is chair of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw‘s San Francisco litigation group. Fong says a good day in court reminds him of the movie The Natural. “There’s this scene where the pitcher is pitching the ball to Robert Redford and he can see the seams of the ball as it’s coming to him,” Fong says. “You can just almost suspend in time as the question is coming toward you, and know what the question is and you know what the answer is, and you know what the next question is going to be, and it’s all appearing in slow motion.”
Jeremy Goldman, a business litigator with Boies, Schiller & Flexner‘s Oakland office, played a key rold in the firm’s handling of the civil rights lawsuit against anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8. A U.S. district court overturned Prop 8, but the ruling was stayed pending an appeal to the state Supreme Court, likely this fall.
Two Northern California lawyers tells us about their mentors: Therese Lawless says her sister, Barbara Lawless, taught her nearly everything she knows about trial lawy. The pair practice employment law at Lawless & Lawless. And Heidi Timken, a real estate attorney who founded Timken Johnson Hwang in 2006, tells about the highly esteemed Marvin Starr, a transactional attorney who took her under his wing during her 16 years at Miller Starr Regalia.
We also hear from four attorneys about the best piece of advice they’ve ever received. Sharing their stories are Carol Elias Zolla, an estate planning & probate attorney at Zolla Law Firm in Los Gatos; Katherine Stoner, a family lawyer at Stoner Welsh & Schmidt in Pacific Grove; Ann Taylor Schwing, of counsel business litigator at Best Best & Krieger in Sacramento; and Donald Falk, appellate attorney at Mayer Brown in Palo Alto.