Whether the perception is accurate or not, corporate lawyers aren’t traditionally seen as harbingers of good, seeking to defend the everyman from dishonesty.
But that’s exactly how San Francisco attorney Reid Kathrein sees his role.
"I really like the David and Goliath thing," said Kathrein, who was recently named head of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP’s San Francisco office. "I grew up with that mentality, to help out the little guy against the big corporation. Every day now I wake up excited to go after our cases."
HBSS specializes is class-action lawsuits, complex litigation, and antitrust and securities frauds cases. Some of the firm’s pending cases include suits against giants such as LG Phillips (LPL), for allegedly maintaining a conspiracy to set inordinately high prices for their LCD screens; and Apple (APPL), based on claims the company ineffectively conveyed possible hearing-loss damages due to its headphones’ designs.
The class action lawsuits that HBSS most often take on are lengthy affairs, with some cases taking years before a verdict is reached. Still, Kathrein sees the process as essential to confront corruption.
"There is a pretty dicey risk-reward ratio for taking on these companies," said Kathrein, who has lived in San Francisco since 1988. "They are usually heavily protected and it takes an extremely well-researched case to be brought before them. Financially, we won’t see the payoff unless they’re found guilty and fined, but politically we feel it’s the right thing to do."
Graduating with a law degree from the University of Miami, Kathrein has made a career of cases against high-profile companies while working alongside nationally-renowned attorneys such as David B. Gold, Lawrence Milberg and Melvyn Weiss.
During his professional career, Kathrein has helped reach record settlements against Tenet Healthcare (THC) and 3COM Corporations (COMS).
"I got into law because I’ve had a fascination with securities fraud and antitrust cases," Kathrein said. "The hours are long, even on normal days, but I felt I was a natural for this kind of work."
After a successful career offering his services for a variety of firms, Kathrein hopes to make a lasting relationship working with one of his old business associates, HBSS founder Steve Berman.
"Unlike a lot of other firms I’ve worked for, I’m actually very close with Steve [Berman]," Kathrein said. "I feel like this is going to be a true team effort, and I want to stick with this team."
New project: Lawsuit against Juniper Networks to invalidate stock option plan put forth by board of directors
Last project: Settling a lawsuit against eBay, which resulted in $2.1 million being distributed to 20 consumer-rights organizations and legal clinics
Number of e-mails a day: Typically between 80 and 150
Number of voice mails a day: Between 10 and 20
Best perk: The people I work with are fantastic friends
Gadgets: Cell phone, BlackBerry, digital SLR camera
Education: B.A. in Latin American Studies and J.D., University of Miami
Last conference: Spoke at Executive Enterprises, Dealing with the Press and Analysts
First job: Janitor. I have cleaned a lot of toilets
Original aspiration: I wanted to be an oceanographer like Jacques Cousteau Career objective: Doing the best job I can representing the average person against corporate goliaths
Hometown: San Rafael
Hobbies: Skiing, photography, biking
Transportation: Saab 9000
Favorite restaurant: Gaspari on Geary and now Terra Linda in San Rafael
Computer: Sony Vaio portable, cordless keyboard and dual screens
Vacation spots: In the last two years, I have visited the Dominican Republic, China, Hawaii and Tahoe. I will be in Croatia this summer.
Role models: Abe Lincoln, Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi and Steve Berman (my law partner)
Reading: During my commute, I listen to audiobooks. Michael Toms’ interviews of Joseph Campbell, in "The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell," are heartwarming
Worst fear: My son Jonathan getting attacked by a great white shark — which happened in 1998. Today he is running a nonprofit where he teaches kids how to confront their worst fears
Motivation: My family and ever-growing community of friends motivate me to get out of bed every morning