California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year Awards for 2001

California Lawyer Magazine, March 2002

Section: CLAY Awards; Page 19

Source: Benjamin Howell, Lucia Hwang, and Deborah Rosenthal are associate editors at California Lawyer.

The cutting-edge work of California's leading lawyers helps the state maintain its reputation as a trendsetter. For our annual CLAY Awards, we chose attorneys whose achievements in 2001 shaped the law, the profession, or the way the law affects industry or the public. We divided our list into twelve practice areas and tried to reflect the diversity of the outstanding achievements of California's lawyers. Some of these attorneys broke records; others broke new ground. Their success range from winning $3 billion from a jury for a single client to obtaining the California Supreme Court's approval of a contested "provocative act" murder conviction; from expanding the liability of federal water facilities to curtailing file sharing on the Internet.

Scores of qualified candidates whose work made headlines did not make the final list. Some had big wins in 2001, but by year's end the long-term effects of their lawyering remained unclear. Others made significant contributions in their fields but practiced in areas replete with attorneys who accomplished similar deeds. The lawyers we selected not only won important cases in 2001 but also left a lasting impact on the way those who follow them will practice.

Steven G. Zieff
Rudy, Exelrod & Zieff; San Francisco

None of the year's big overtime-violation class action settlements compared to the $90 million jury verdict that Steven G. Zieff won on behalf of more than 2,400 Farmers Insurance claims adjusters. Bell v. Farmers Ins. Exch. In a unanimous July verdict, an Oakland jury found that Farmers owed this amount for improperly failing to pay the adjusters overtime by classifying them as "administrators," a job class normally exempt from overtime. The case is significant not only for the class size and the amount of the award (which may reach $130 million by the time interest and attorneys fees are added) but also because it was the first private class action to go to jury verdict on damages under overtime laws.