2015 marked the year when Ruth Bader Ginsberg evolved from a soft spoken sitting Supreme Court Justice into a millennial icon, thanks to her outspoken opinions and fiery presence. It got us thinking about women lawyers who have achieved legendary status. There have been female lawyers throughout our history who achieved iconic status in law, but most focused their work in civil rights or helping the poor. The work of trying a major commercial dispute or putting together a corporate merger was left to the men until recently.We've come a long way in a short time. Harvard Law didn't allow women until 1950. Now women dominate the classes at the law schools of Harvard, Yale, Stanford and many others.
So here's to the women lawyers who made the list this year. You are legends.
Top Women Lawyer: Jan Nielsen Little
The work that kept Little busy in 2014 is work she mostly can't talk about.
"If I'm really doing my job well, then no one ever knows about it," Little said.
In one recent case, Little represented an executive of a local company under criminal investigation in a matter that involved hundreds of millions of dollars.
"I've been advocating on my client's behalf for the last three years, and finally earlier this year got the wonderful news that no charges would be brought," Little said.
But that's all she could say.
Little was able to open up more about her representation of Sushovan Hussain, the former chief financial officer of Autonomy Inc., in connection with government investigations and civil litigation in the wake of Hewlett Packard Co.'s 2011 purchase of Autonomy.
"In 2014, our team did something unusual: We moved to intervene in shareholder derivative action in an effort to challenge an HP settlement that would give broad releases to HP officers and directors in connection with the Autonomy merger," Little said. "The HP settlement and the issue of intervention remains pending before [federal] Judge [Charles] Breyer."
Little said she feels lucky to say that she loves her job.
"I love dealing with the 3D chess game when you have criminal proceedings together with civil proceedings and regulatory proceedings all at the same time," Little said. "Every move in one arena can affect another one, and you have to be constantly thinking about the ramifications of what you're doing."
Little also loves helping people.
"I love standing up against the government and against authorities that are trying to bring someone down," she said.
Top Women Lawyer: Susan Harriman
Federal Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District overturned a jury verdict against Harriman's client, Electronic Arts Inc., last year. Robin Antonick, the programmer of the John Madden Football game, claimed EA owed him royalties from the sales based on a 1986 contract.
There were two questions before the jury: Did EA copy Antonick's football plays and did EA copy the field dimensions? The jury found against [Antonick] on the field dimensions.
"There was no evidence of copying," Harriman said. "On the football plays EA actually published a book of plays with the game. It owned the copyright in the plays it published. The jury found in [Antonick's] favor because the plays in the next [Madden Football] game did look similar."
After the jury found in Antonick's favor, Harriman persuaded Breyer that the plaintiff failed to prove EA copied his source code code never presented at trial. Antonick appealed that decision. Antonick v. Electronic Arts Inc., CV1101543 (N.D. Cal., filed March 30, 2011).
Harriman also represents the Koret Foundation against allegations of conflict of interest and misuse of charity capital.
Susan Koret, the widow of the foundation's founder Joseph Koret, sued the Koret Foundation and its board of directors. Harriman also represents all of the board of directors except Susan Koret. Harriman's clients have cross-complained to remove Susan Koret from the board of directors.