Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Congrats to "Top Women" Appellate Lawyers

Several Southern California appellate lawyers made the Daily Journal's list of "Top Women Litigators 2011."  Congrats to:

Laura Brill, Kendall Brill & Klieger
Lisa Perrochet, Horvitz & Levy
M.C. Sungaila, Snell & Wilmer
Miriam Vogel, Morrison & Foerster

Here is some of what the DJ wrote about OCBA Appellate Law section member M.C. Sungaila:

Of the more than 30 briefs filed at the U.S. Supreme Court about whether 1 million women employees can sue Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Sungaila's may be one of the most unusual.  That's how she likes it.  Sungaila strives to come up with innovative, outside-the-box approaches to appellate issues, she said. "She's very creative, lots of ideas," said her partner at Snell & Wilmer, Richard A. Derevan. 

Potentially the biggest sex-discrimination case in U.S. history, the suit claims the giant retailer systematically discriminated against women in pay and promotions. (Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes, (U.S., 10-277, arg'd March 29, 2011). In her amicus brief for Wal-Mart, Sungaila argued that class litigation won't give the women workers the change in corporate culture they seek. "The question that came to my mind was, 'Is this really the best way to achieve the result the plaintiffs want?'" she said.

Stepping outside law to cite experts in management and organizational behavior, Sungaila concluded that improving employment prospects for women would require change from within Wal-Mart itself, starting at the top.  If there is significant discrimination at the company's stores, litigation won't make much difference, she contended.

In the second half of her amicus brief, filed on behalf of the International Association of Defense Counsel, she focused on more traditional legal questions, including whether the plaintiffs' contentions were inconsistent, a point Justice Anthony M. Kennedy focused on during oral arguments.

Sungaila filed the Wal-Mart brief early this year, shortly after joining Snell in December. She made the move from appellate boutique Horvitz & Levy LLP in hopes of becoming more entrepreneurial in her practice, she said. Sungaila said she tries to take "a comprehensive, proactive approach" to her cases generally. That requires working with trial lawyers early in the litigation process and working with clients to spot issues before any litigation is filed.

"To be strategic, you have to look at the much bigger picture," she said. "You want to have a strategy with an end game in mind." When the strategy pays off, it works well, she said. "One of the good things about being an appellate lawyer is you can change the world with one case."