Last week, Benchmark Litigation, the definitive guide to America’s leading litigation firms and attorneys, released its 2020 rankings. Lewis & Llewellyn is pleased to have once again been recognized as one of the few “Recommended Firms” in both San Francisco and California—meaning Benchmark deems the firm a “leader” in both markets. Additionally, Marc Lewis was named as a Labor & Employment Star, with an emphasis on his burgeoning employee mobility practice. And Paul Llewellyn was named as a Benchmark Litigation Star, a category which Benchmark identifies as the preeminent litigation practitioners in the U.S.
Sign up to receive monthly
updates from our firm
SIGN UP TO RECEIVE MONTHLY UPDATES FROM OUR FIRM
Last week, Lewis & Llewellyn partner Paul Llewellyn was a featured speaker at the Practising Law Institute’s Pocket MBA 2019 program. This two-day intensive course was designed for non-accountants, in-house and law firm attorneys looking to improve their understanding of business strategies and accounting fundamentals taught by a faculty from elite accounting and law firms, private equity investors, bankers, consultants and academics.
And on November 1, 2019, Lewis & Llewellyn partners Evangeline Burbidge and Ryan Erickson will be speaking at Pincus Professional Education’s Superior Court Boot Camp in San Francisco on “Mastering Oral Argument” and “How to Prepare for Trial.” This full day program will focus on the nuts and bolts of litigating in California State Court from the filing of a complaint to post-trial motions and appeals. To learn more about the program, or to register, click here.
Lewis & Llewellyn partner Nick Saenz is a regular contributor to Tech Crunch, one of the web’s leading publications focused on the technology industry. In a recent article, Nick cautioned readers on how to avoid accusations of trade secrets theft, when either leaving for a competitor or onboarding new employees. You can read the article, which includes Nick’s sage advice, below or on TechCrunch’s website.
Lewis & Llewellyn is pleased to announce that seven of its attorneys were recently selected for inclusion in the 2019 edition of Super Lawyers. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained the highest degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. Ryan Erickson, Evangeline Burbidge, Nick Saenz, Becca Furman and Nathalie Fayad were all selected as Rising Stars, limited to just 2.5% of California attorneys. And Marc Lewis and Paul Llewellyn were named as California Super Lawyers, a recognition limited to just 5% of the profession.
Additionally, Benchmark Litigation, the definitive guide to America’s leading litigation firms and attorneys, recently selected partners Ryan Erickson and Evangeline Burbidge to be part of its 40 & Under Hot List. Based on extensive peer and client review, and case evaluation, the list seeks to identify the country’s most talented litigators under the age of 40.
As a firm, Lewis & Llewellyn is committed to fighting the epidemic of sexual abuse in America. Last month, Becca Furman spoke at the The Worldwide #MeToo Movement: Global Resistance to Sexual Harassment and Violence Conference, hosted by Berkeley Law. The conference brought together legal scholars and practitioners from around the world to examine the systemic issues that permit sexual harassment. Becca spoke about the effect of non-disclosure agreements on the #MeToo movement, including 2019 changes to California law that limit the confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements.
Additionally, last month Becca Furman and Ryan Erickson spoke at a Bar Association of San Francisco panel on Civil Litigation of Sexual Assault Cases in the #MeTooEra. Joined by Deputy Attorney General Missy Kendra, the panel focused on how to bring a civil lawsuit on behalf of men, women, and children who have survived sexual abuse.
In the previous litigation tip we discussed several recent cases that concluded employee non-solicitation provisions in employment agreements are per se invalid under California law. It is axiomatic that parties in litigation generally pay their own attorneys’ fees. Section 1021.5 of the California Code of Civil Procedure is an exception to this rule. It allows a court to award attorneys’ fees to a litigant if (1) he or she is a “successful party,” (2) the action has resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest, (3) the action has conferred a significant benefit on the public or a large class of persons, and (4) an attorney fees award is appropriate in light of the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement. In AMN Healthcare, Inc. v. Aya Healthcare Servs., Inc., 28 Cal. App. 5th 923 (2018), the Court of Appeal affirmed the award of attorneys’ fees to the prevailing defendant who had successfully argued that an employee non-solicit provision contained in a contract was invalid. The practitioner would be well-advised to keep this in mind when defending against claims involving employee non-solicit provisions. The threat of attorneys’ fees could prove to be a powerful weapon in the litigator’s armory and could lead to a quick resolution of the dispute, or at least increase the stakes for the plaintiff.
At Lewis & Llewellyn we routinely advise and represent clients regarding all facets of employee mobility. California businesses commonly include employee non-solicitation provisions in their employment agreements. But several recent cases have concluded these provisions are per se invalid under California law, resulting in significant potential consequences for companies statewide. It is well-established that California law favors employment mobility and does not recognize non-compete agreements restraining employees from leaving one job to work for a competitor. This policy is codified in Business & Professions Code section 16600. Unlike non-competes, however, courts have long held that employee non-solicit provisions barring individuals or companies from poaching company talent do not violate section 16600 because the restraint on employee mobility is minimal. Until now: in AMN Healthcare, Inc. v. Aya Healthcare Services, Inc., 28 Cal. App. 5th 923 (2018), the Court of Appeal cast significant doubt on the enforceability of employee non-solicits. This analysis soon gained traction—federal courts in Barker v. Insight Glob., LLC, No. 16-CV-07186-BLF, 2019 WL 176260, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 11, 2019) and Weride Corp. v. Kun Huang, No. 5:18-CV-07233-EJD, 2019 WL 1439394, at *10 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 1, 2019), relied upon AMN Healthcare to conclude employee non-solicits were unenforceable under section 16600. While it is too early to say whether these rulings will become the majority view, companies now face significant risk that former employees can legally raid the company’s talent pool. Moreover, as with non-competes, companies can face liability for wrongful termination for firing an employee who refuses to agree to an employee non-solicit provision. Accordingly, both company and outside counsel should closely monitor these developments to determine whether these cases are the new norm or a string of outliers.
Becca Furman and Ryan Erickson will be speakers at a Bar Association of San Francisco panel on Civil Litigation of Sexual Assault Cases in the #MeTooEra, on May 2, 2019. This session will focus on how to bring a civil lawsuit on behalf of men, women, and children who have survived assault, abuse, or rape. The speakers will also focus on how to work with the District Attorney’s office during and following the criminal prosecution of the abuser, who to file a civil lawsuit against, when to file the lawsuit, and what causes of action to consider. Becca and Ryan will be joined by Deputy Attorney General Missy Kendra, and all attendees of the lunchtime panel will receive an hour of MCLE credit.
In a recent arbitration, a Lewis & Llewellyn team led by partners Nick Saenz and Paul Llewellyn defended one of the world’s largest computer manufacturers facing a multi-million-dollar damages claim for alleged fraud, trade secret misappropriation, and interference with contractual relations, among other causes of action. After successfully obtaining the dismissal of the Claimant’s interference claim, the case proceeded to a multi-day evidentiary hearing. Following the hearing, Lewis & Llewellyn secured a complete defense victory, with the arbitrator ordering the Claimant to cover a substantial portion of our client’s costs. With this most recent victory, Lewis & Llewellyn maintains its 100% success rate in arbitration.
As every litigator knows, most California settlement agreements include a waiver of Civil Code section 1542. Because, in a settlement agreement, the parties typically agree to abandon, or give up, rights or claims that otherwise could be pursued or enforced, a section 1542 waiver is needed if the settling parties wish to include both known and unknown claims in a general release. Effective January 1, 2019, the language of section 1542 has been amended as follows:
A general release does not extend to claims
which that the creditor or releasing party does not know or suspect to exist in his or her favor at the time of executing the release, which and that if known by him or her, must would have materially affected his or her settlement with the debtor or released party.
While these amendments may seem picayune, the practitioner would be well advised to be sure the new language is included in future settlement agreements, otherwise he or she risks the section 1542 waiver being ineffective.
The New Year also saw a change in the rules governing mediations. Effective January 1, 2019, all parties to California based mediations will be required to sign a written disclosure form confirming that the client understands and agrees to mediation confidentiality. The new rule, which is embodied in California Evidence Code section 1129, requires the attorney to obtain a printed acknowledgment, signed by that client, stating that he or she has read and understands the confidentiality restrictions governing mediation. There are many samples of such forms, such as the one found here. While some have criticized the new rule as fixing a non-existent problem, practitioners should ensure compliance as a matter of routine practice to avoid any issues on the day of the mediation.