Pierce O’Donnell not only represented Shelly Sterling last year in the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, he continued representing Sterling when she went after V. Stiviano, the woman whose relationship with Donald Sterling triggered last year’s sale. Earlier this month, Shelly Sterling prevailed in the very unusual and high-profile case when a judge ruled she can recoup $2.6 million worth of cash, gifts, cars and a house that her estranged husband had given Stiviano. O’Donnell, who joined the Century City office of Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger last year, spoke to the Business Journal last week to share his thoughts on his courtroom victory.

Question: What was your strategy in this case?

Answer: The conventional wisdom in the family law bar is that Shelly was obligated to sue only Donald, a spouse who breached his fiduciary duty by gifting all of this money to his mistress. And when her divorce lawyers and we looked at this, we said, No, there’s a family code statute that says she doesn’t have to sue Donald. She can sue the recipient of the gifts, that would be Stiviano. This is rarely used. Nobody is aware of any case where the spouse is going after the husband’s mistress, and nobody is aware of a case where we have this magnitude of gifts. Family law experts say it’s unprecedented and several family law experts have said they were shocked and surprised. So what we did in this case at Greenberg Glusker is we tried to figure out what would be an innovative approach. We had a statute that was rarely used and we used it.

How did this preparation process differ from other major cases you’ve worked on?

I have a pattern. It’s like a fighter going into training – it’s just focus. If you hunker down, you spend long hours mastering the facts. Joe Friday used to say to the lady in the old “Dragnet” series, “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” I’m obsessed with what the evidence is. I particularly want to know what the best evidence is for my adversary. How do I counter that? How do I anticipate that? How do I have my witness on the stand on direct examination deflate what’s going to be important cross-examination points. All of these things I do just religiously to prepare so when you go in the courtroom, there are no surprises.


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