On Tuesday, the players in a sex scandal roiling Silicon Valley will have their first day in court.The venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is facing charges of gender discrimination and retaliation by Ellen Pao, one of its partners.
As its lead attorney, it chose a colourful character: Lynne Hermle, a top-notch lawyer who runs Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe’s Silicon Valley employment practice and serves on the firm’s executive committee.
She’s represented companies like AMD, Apple, IBM, and McAfee in lawsuits.
She’s used to winning.
In one case, an attorney going up against Hermle threw up repeatedly as she kept winning pretrial motions. That incident became such a part of Hermle’s lore that Michelangelo Delfino, a defendant in a case Hermle worked on, made reference to it in the courtroom, the San Francisco Daily Journal reported in 2002:
As the two sparred near the conclusion of the rough-and-tumble trial, Delfino said: “I’m just waiting to see who will throw up first.”
“Well, it’s not going to be me, Mr. Delfino,” Hermle retorted, without missing a beat.
But other lawyers praised Hermle.
“I feel she’s honest and direct and can value cases properly,” one told the legal newspaper. “I know she’s going to do a thoughtful, thorough job and figure out the weaknesses in my case.”
That lawyer with the favourable assessment of Hermle 10 years ago?
Alan Exelrod of Rudy Exelrod Zieff & Lowe, who is representing Pao.
A retired judge, LaDoris Cordell, told the Daily Journal that Hermle was “a strong personality” who “comes alive in the courtroom. The adrenaline is pumping. I was delighted because I could sit back and be entertained.”
We’ll get to see that personality Tuesday morning as Hermle attempts to persuade Judge Harold Kahn, who has issued a tentative ruling against Kleiner’s motion to force the case into arbitration, to reverse himself. Exelrod has an easier task: getting Kahn to make his tentative ruling final.
We don’t think Exelrod will be losing his lunch in court.
For one thing, unlike Hermle’s nauseated opponent, he prevailed in Monday’s tentative ruling.