Irell & Manella LLP
Law School: Harvard Law School
Clients: TiVo Inc., City of Hope andColumbia University
Morgan Chu was a first year associate at Irell & Manella in 1977. Five years later he was a partner at the firm. And in 1985, just eight years after his arrival, he was on the firm's executive committee.
While this sort of career advancement might be common in some industries, in the legal profession, which places a high priority on experience and maturity gained from decades of practice, it can only be described as meteoric.
Not surprisingly, Chu's rise at Irell & Manella during those early days and his ever expanding stature in the broader legal community has been fueled by a string of impressive, and in some cases precedent setting, courtroom victories.
Chu's proverbial highlight reel includes a $120 million jury verdict against Microsoft Corp., a $500 million jury verdict on behalf of his client City of Hope and a $90 million final judgment against Sony Computer Entertainment.
While today, his prowess when it comes to intellectual property matters is near legendary, it was quite a humble start.
"My first trial was about a year after I started practicing law. I was lead counsel for the defendant in a patent case and I did not know what I was doing," Chu said. "Everything I did was the first time for me, and I had never seen anyone else doing it. I was terrified, and had a lot of fun."
That first trial was just the beginning for the graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, who actually dropped out of high school when he was 15 years old.
Chu said a key part of his career success could be attributed to the challenging and exciting nature of the intellectual property matters that define his practice.
"Intellectual property gives me the opportunity to learn something new every day from the smartest people on the planet," said Chu, who is the brother of Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Chu.
But his most challenging case was not a technology-laden patent infringement dispute.
That distinction is reserved for a pro bono death penalty case that Chu took on at the behest of the chief justice of the California Supreme Court. It took six years and went before the U.S. Supreme Court three times, but ultimately Chu and his team prevailed in the case, and the death penalty conviction was overturned.
Matthew T. Washington
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Clients: Johnson & Johnson, Merck Serono S.A. and Columbia University
Reason I'm a Lawyer: Every day I get to work with clients and colleagues who are creative, smart, interesting, and ethical. Every case is a new area of science or technology to master, a new client to help, and a new problem to be solved.
Most Interesting Case: My biotechnology cases for Columbia involving the university's pioneering work in genetic engineering
Best Career Moment: Winning a pro bono case restoring medical benefits, including 24-hour skilled nursing care, to a severely disabled teenager who had been cut off by his insurer on one day's notice.
My Colleagues Don't Know: What they don't know about me is best left that way.
If I Weren't an Attorney: I would be busy with public or community service, studying foreign languages, windsurfing, writing novels, and hanging out at home more.
Latham & Watkins LLP
Clients: Symantec Corp., Monolithic Power Systems Inc. and MIPS Technologies Inc.
Reason I'm a Lawyer: I love being around smart, creative people. That it is lucrative helps as well!
Most Interesting Case: A trade secret, patent infringement and breach of contract case brought by Veritas Software Corp. (a subsidiary of Symantec) against Microsoft, which is scheduled to go to trial in December.
My Colleagues Don't Know: I am a huge fan of Big Bear, and take my family wakeboarding and water-skiing.
If I Weren't an Attorney: I would probably take a shot at being a writer and if that didn't work, perhaps I could try to play poker for a living.
Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP
Clients: Recording Industry Association of America, Motion Picture Association of America and NBC Universal.
Most Interesting Case: Representing A & M; Records in its case against Napster. Also, representing Paul Newman during a deposition and taking the deposition of Yoko Ono.
Best Career Moment: Arguing before a federal appeals court on behalf of the movie studios in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios vs. Grokster case, which involved the right of consumers to make copies of media they have purchased.
My Colleagues Don't Know: I played baseball at Mickey Mantle's fantasy camp.
If I Weren't an Attorney: I don't know. I started practicing law at my firm one week after graduation from law school in 1970.
Arnold & Porter LLP
Clients: VeriSign Corp. and Microsoft Corp.
Reason I'm a Lawyer: The constant learning curve, with interesting work and clients. I don't know boredom.
Most Interesting Matter: Representing VeriSign in connection with new registry agreements to operate the dot-com and dot-net registries, which involved six separate litigations.
My Colleagues Don't Know: I had a misspent youth as a rock 'n' roll and jazz drummer.
If I Weren't an Attorney: I would go into the executive ranks of a growing technology company or travel the West as a ski bum.
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Clients: Amgen Inc., Apple Inc. and Honeywell International Inc.
Reason I'm a Lawyer: My eyesight wasn't good enough to be an astronaut. A college professor suggested law and I discovered I love being an intellectual property trial lawyer. So I have continued for 33 years.
Most Challenging Matter: I occasionally serve as second chair in trials with partners, allowing them their initial "first chair" trial experience. It is very challenging, but equally rewarding, to step aside and help someone else get such an experience, while assuring that the client's interests are fully protected.
Worst Career Moment: My first jury trial defeat. It's been the only one to date.
Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP
Clients: Mattel Inc., Metallica and Gwen Stefani
Reason I'm a Lawyer: I have always wanted to be one since my grandfather, a tax lawyer, gave me a book on a well-known trial lawyer in the 1970s.
Most Interesting Case: Representing the Mexican government in a plant variety protection and plant utility patent case where a U.S. farmer obtained a U.S. patent for Mexican yellow beans.
Most Challenging Case: Taking over a case in which liability was established a week before trial. I ended up getting a verdict of less than $35,000 for our client, when the plaintiff wanted $2.9 million.
My Colleagues Don't Know: I was a good athlete in high school and recruited for the badminton team by Berkeley.
If I Weren't an Attorney: I would want to be on the LPGA golf tour.
Latham & Watkins LLP
Clients: Symantec Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc.
Reason I'm a Lawyer: I always enjoyed negotiating and public speaking. Law was a good way to combine these skills.
Most Interesting Matter: A patent claim asserted against Lucas Art Entertainment Co. concerning the mouth morphing special effects in the movie "Forrest Gump."
Best Career Moment: A patent dispute involving Stac Electronics Inc. and Microsoft Corp. The case settled after a jury found Stac Electronics patent to be valid, awarding the company $100 million. This case kicked off my career in patent litigation.
My Colleagues Don't Know: I am an identical twin. He and I were gymnasts in college and our college newspaper referred to us as "The Flying Steinbergs."
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