As the storm created by the indictment of investigator-to-the-stars Anthony Pellicano continues to swirl around Hollywood, one of its most high-profile law firms has delivered its own lightning bolt.
Patricia Glaser, one of the most visible female attorneys in L.A.'s legal community, has jumped to No. 2 on the shingle at the rechristened Christensen Glaser Fink Jacobs Weil & Shapiro LLP. For years, she and her colleague, Terry Christensen, have represented Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and Tracinda Corp. and its billionaire chief, Kirk Kerkorian, in a number of high-profile cases. Recently, she's been the firm's most public defender in the wake of the February indictment of Christensen.
The U.S. Attorney's Office accuses him of paying Pellicano at least $100,000 to illegally eavesdrop on Kerkorian's ex-wife, and says it has tapes. The wiretaps allegedly listened in on conversations that Lisa Bonder Kerkorian had with her attorney, a court mediator and others so that the firm could gain a tactical advantage in a legal dispute over support for a child that Kerkorian is accused of fathering.
Rivals of the Century City-based law firm won't comment for the record, but several industry insiders pointed to the indictment and the recent exit of its former No. 2 partner, Louis "Skip" Miller, as signs of a practice in turmoil.
Glaser takes strenuous exception to that characterization.
"There has been no negative impact on the firm," she said, "and we're not only moving forward, we're doing better. I think that's a function of the partners walking arm-in-arm."
Glaser has been out front for the firm since February 15, the day Christensen was indicted. She issued a statement saying, "Mr. Christensen has never hired anyone to conduct wiretapping or any other illegal activity." She stands by those statements and said last week that she wouldn't have done or said anything differently, except that "I always wish I could be more articulate."
Glaser admitted that the recent few weeks have been unpleasant for her or for her boss.
"Do I like reading these stories in the newspaper? Does our firm? Does Terry? Absolutely not," she said. "But one of my very dear friends is going through a hard time. The firm will get through it and he will get through it. I feel for him tremendously."
She said that she has never met Pellicano, but spoke with him once on the phone. The firm, she said, has used him twice.
Glaser began practicing law in the early '70s, when women in high-powered positions were still an anomaly. She achieved her status at Christensen Miller while raising two stepchildren.
While the kids were growing up, Glaser said there was a rule of being home for dinner regardless of whether there was work to do afterwards.
Christensen, who is handling his own defense along with Terree Bowers and Dan Webb, maintains the firm is as strong as ever. New clients continue to come in, he said, and existing clients have been sending more business as a sign of support.
"We have continued to increase the work we have asked Terry and the firm to undertake, including matters relating to Tracinda's investment in General Motors [Corp.]," Kerkorian said in a statement for this story.
"Our firm will be around for decades," Christensen said. "We are not threatened by this. The firm and its partners have taken this as a challenge and an opportunity to further our organization and be even more successful and we are fortunate that so many of our friends and clients feel the same way."
Christensen acknowledges the firm's image may have suffered in the short term, attributing most of the damage to the rumor mill.
"Things tend to take on a life of their own," he said. "There are anonymous quotes where people can say what they want when their name isn't attached."
Christensen said that Glaser was a natural choice for her new position.
"Because there's a number of names in the firm, the name [of the firm] becomes the first two names by signage and answering the phone," he said. "When we were looking at renaming the firm, it seemed so clear for Patty to be the second name if the partners were comfortable and if Barry Fink was comfortable."
And, he said, "I don't have to tell you that there's a cachet in having a woman's name second on the door."
Exits and empathy
The exit earlier this month of Miller, a founding partner, drew speculation that the firm's involvement with the Pellicano case had driven him out. "Hogwash" was Glaser's reaction to that suggestion.
"It's a situation that's a culmination of events involving Skip over a number of years," he said of the day Miller left, declining to be more specific.
Miller, who was on the team representing the city of Los Angeles in the Rodney King case and also defended former City Councilman Nate Holden against two sexual harassment suits, ringing up a controversial $1.5 million tab for the firm.
Last fall, he was sanctioned, along with the firm, for ethics violations for his handling of a matter for singer Rod Stewart in Las Vegas. Glaser and Christensen, who are currently in arbitration with Miller, declined to comment specifically for this story.
"We never asked Skip Miller to leave the firm," Christensen said. "We did ask him to step down as co-head of litigation [last fall after the Stewart matter] and Skip was unhappy about that. And that unhappiness never went away and led to his withdrawal."
Miller could not be located for comment. He is thought to be in line to join Goodwin Procter LLP's new L.A. office. Goodwin declined to comment.
Glaser said that she doubted any other of her firm's attorneys would follow Miller out the door.
"I have no reason to believe that any partner at any level is leaving with Skip or otherwise," Glaser said. "We like each other."
Christensen Glaser isn't the only prominent L.A. firm dealing with Pellicano fallout.
More than 10 attorneys have left the staff of Greenberg Glusker LLP since prominent partner Bert Fields was implicated but at this point not indicted in the Pellicano probe.
Glaser sympathized with her rivals.
"I don't have a negative thing to say about any other law firm," she said. "What other firms are going through, we have no good feelings from that. They're friends of ours and they're going through a painful time."
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