Lieff Cabraser Antitrust Chief to Launch Own Firm

(Law360)  Joseph R. Saveri, one of the attorneys behind the nonpoaching agreements case against Apple Inc. and others and price-fixing litigation over the liquid crystal display industry, plans to leave Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP in the coming weeks to set up his own practice, Saveri said Tuesday.

The attorney one antitrust observer described as the “Michael Jordan of plaintiffs’ antitrust” will give up his role as chair of Lieff Cabraser’s antitrust group after more than two decades with the San Francisco-based plaintiffs’ firm.

Saveri, the son and nephew of the groundbreaking founders of Saveri & Saveri, told the firm April 25 that he planned to leave in 30 days to open his own shop—The Saveri Law Firm, which will also focus on antitrust class actions and other complex litigation—and is currently working out the details of when he can officially leave and how the transition will work with the firm, Saveri said Tuesday.

“I’m very proud of my contribution to the success of the firm and I’m hoping on and plan on collaborating successfully with the firm in the future both on the cases that I have now and that I’ll be working on in the future,” Saveri said. “It’s really a continuation of what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years at the firm.”

Among his current caseload are two suits that have garnered considerable press in recent weeks:  litigation accusing Apple Inc. and a slew of other tech companies of illegally agreeing not to poach one another’s employees that recently survived a dismissal bid, and direct purchasers’ price-fixing claims against a group of LCD manufacturers gearing up for trial against Toshiba Corp.

“When I have a really tough antitrust case that needs creative thinking, Joe is on the top of my list,” said David Balto, former policy director at the Federal Trade Commission. “He is the Michael Jordan of plaintiffs’ antitrust. He has a critical ability to bring the landmark antitrust case.”

One of the most prominent cases on Saveri’s resume is a class action accusing De Beers SA of unfairly monopolizing the rough diamond market from 1994 to 2006.  The $295 million settlement in that case was originally tossed on appeal based on concerns that the distribution of damages to consumers and other indirect purchasers didn’t take into account variations in state law, but was later reinstated when the entire Third Circuit reviewed the case.

Saveri counts his “most important contribution” to that case as investigating the claims, developing the legal theory and getting the litigation up and running, though he also worked on the appeal.

Though Saveri spent the early years of his career doing general litigation work at a firm that would eventually become part of Bingham McCutchen LLP, his experience with antitrust issues dates back to childhood.

“I come from a family of plaintiffs’ antitrust lawyers,” Saveri said. “My father and uncle established a firm in the early ’60s and did some of the leading cases of that time with people like Joseph Alioto, who was one of the leading antitrust lawyers on the West Coast.”

“So I’ve been around the plaintiffs business for a long time,” he added.

But after leaving McCutchen in 1992 for Lieff Cabraser, Saveri quickly began to build a reputation all his own. He made partner two years later and started the antitrust and intellectual property practices at the firm.

“I . . . hired all the lawyers at the firm and trained the lawyers at the firm who do that now,” Saveri said.

Now that he’s gearing up to launch the second Bay Area firm to bear the family name, Saveri said he expects to have even more opportunities to do the same kind of complex litigation he specializes in now.

“I don’t think it’s going to be much different,” Saveri said. “Frankly, the cases that I’m working on now are ones that I’ve initiated, investigated, been hired to handle—and I don’t see that really changing at all.”

Since revealing his plans, Saveri said he has received a lot of calls from other lawyers, many to discuss working together on new cases.

“The prospect of having my own law firm and my own venture are very exciting and it really aligns with . . . what I want to spend the next phase of my career doing,” Saveri said. “The prospects of building a law business are exciting, and the response to my news has been overwhelmingly positive and I’m getting a lot of encouragement and support.”

That support also extends to his current firm, according to Lieff Cabraser managing partner Steven E. Fineman.

“Joe Saveri’s been a partner at our law firm for 20 years and he’s been my partner for 20 years, so we’re very sorry to see him go, but we understand his desire to try something different,” Fineman said.  “He has our support and the intention is for us to work together on cases in the future.”

Partner Eric Fastiff will take over as chairman of Lieff Cabraser’s antitrust group, according to Fineman.

Saveri emphasized that the complexity of the types of cases he handles means that one attorney can’t handle them alone, and said he hoped to continue working with many of the other plaintiffs lawyers he’s collaborated with in the past.

While he anticipates eventually having other attorneys work with him at his new firm, Saveri declined to go into details while he’s still working out the transition with Lieff Cabraser.

“Obviously I’m excited about this and I’m really looking forward to the future,” Saveri said. “Stay tuned.”

(Reporting by Melissa Lippman.  Editing by Katherine Rautenberg.)