Downtown L.A.-based Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP’s defense of Dole Food Co. and Chevron Corp. in massive tort cases originating from Central America and Ecuador has boosted its reputation in that field. Now, with the formation of its transnational litigation and foreign judgments practice, the firm is seeking to make its name known as the go-to legal defense for corporations facing tort cases outside U.S. borders.
The leaders of the new group are partners Theodore Boutrous, Scott Edelman, Andrea Neuman and William Thomson. Boutrous and Thomson are based in the firm’s downtown L.A. office, Edelman in Century City and Neuman in Orange County. All four have been involved in the Dole and Chevron cases. The group is made up of about 30 attorneys from offices across the country.
“We’ve been operating informally for many years,” Thomson said. “By giving the group a more formal structure, we’re better able to organize internally and better able to communicate the capability externally to future clients.”
Gibson Dunn gained notice for its success defending Dole against claims that the company’s use of a pesticide left former plantation workers in Central America sterilized. Thomson and his colleagues got several cases dismissed after uncovering alleged recruitment of fraudulent plaintiffs who had never worked for the company. That led Chevron to hire Gibson Dunn earlier this year to fight multibillion-dollar pollution claims in Ecuador.
Thomson expects the number of these cases to continue to grow, citing a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study released in June that found that the number and aggressiveness of transnational tort cases had risen significantly over the past decade.
“The need for this kind of group is a reflection of some of the increasing and substantial threats that U.S. multinational corporations are facing,” he said.
Large corporations and celebrities are often the only clients that can afford jury consultants, human behavior experts who help attorneys select jurors, and observe their reaction to testimony and evidence during trials. Torrance resident Richelle Lyon, who has worked as a consultant at Trial Behavior in San Francisco and Jury Insight in Culver City, thinks her new boutique firm, Los Angeles Legal Strategy, can attract more customers by lowering the price.
While most jury consultants work for companies defending themselves against civil suits, Lyon, 45, wants to offer her services to plaintiffs and criminal defendants.
Lyon, who started the company in June, said she generally charges at least one-third lower than most of her competitors. She keeps overhead low: Her four employees work from their homes.
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