Debra E. Pole

Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison

Specialty: Product liability

Law School: University of Florida, 1975

Debra E. Pole is right in the middle of the ongoing legal battle concerning silicone breast implants.

Although several other manufacturers of implants have been slapped with multimillion-dollar verdicts, Pole's client, Baxter Healthcare Corp., is emerging relatively unscathed. Out of 30 separate lawsuits against the company, Pole's team was responsible for 27 jury verdicts in favor of Baxter, with her only losses occurring on appeal. Several more cases are set for trial later this year.

Her next move is to guide a videotaped deposition by members of a panel of scientists that was appointed by the federal judge in Alabama who is coordinating the multi-district lawsuits against implant manufacturers. The panel recently issued a report finding no connection between implants and the causation or exacerbation of systemic disease in women. The tape will be used in future litigation, so panel members won't have to testify repeatedly.

A number of Pole's cases involve medical litigation. She is currently defending one of the alleged distributors of the weight-loss drug fen-phen, which is the subject of a class-action suit. The drug has been linked to heart problems.

What does Pole bring into the courtroom? Fear. "I'm always a little afraid, that seems to focus me and make me work harder," she said. "I'm always sure that the opposing counsel is going to be better or more informed than me."

Pole began her career after graduating from the University of Florida as an assistant state attorney at the West Palm Beach Florida State Attorney's Office. After four years, she came to Los Angeles and began with Haight, Dickson, Brown & Bonesteel. She was made a partner in 1985 and joined Brobeck in 1995.

Her philosophy is to set priorities and delegate. "I try and keep a sense of humor and be forgiving if people make mistakes. And you have to be sure to admit your own mistakes," she notes. "It keeps you human in the eyes of associates.

"Of course," she laughed, "I don't want to be too human I don't want to make that many mistakes."

Karen Teitelman

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