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Noted former federal judge Irving to counsel Lerach firm

Will continue role as mediator in major class-action cases

Former U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Irving will join the San Diego law firm Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP as special counsel on May 1.

The partnership represents a merger of two heavyweights in the securities class-action arena.

Irving has been serving as a consultant to the University of California's board of regents in its role as lead plaintiff in the Enron class-action litigation while Lerach Coughlin is the firm representing the plaintiffs in the case.

"It's a very exciting and challenging opportunity," Irving said by phone from Houston on Wednesday, "and I've always loved new challenges.

"The Lerach firm certainly has some of best and brightest lawyers in the U.S. in litigation matters. It'll be great to be involved with them in big cases."

Irving will advise Lerach Coughlin's institutional investor clients regarding securities matters and act as the firm's liaison with the University of California in the Enron case.

He also will advise the firm on settlement and trial strategies in a variety of cases and help its attorneys interact with investor clients.

"He is a priceless resource," said firm chairman William Lerach. "He's one of the most highly regarded former federal judges around.

"He's been the dean of the San Diego legal community for many, many years. And he's probably one of the best, if not the best, mediator in the U.S. for complex cases. It's a tremendous opportunity for us to benefit from his experience and judgment and for our clients to benefit as well."

Irving, a mediator since stepping down from the federal bench in 1990, brings a wealth of knowledge about the ongoing Enron litigation.

Last summer, he negotiated a $2.2 billion settlement that J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) agreed to pay investors for the bank's role in the accounting scandal. He entered those talks as a consultant for the plaintiffs but when progress stalled, Irving was asked to mediate, a request to which the defense didn't object.

Members of the plaintiffs' class in the Enron case, with the UC regents serving as lead plaintiff, have recovered more than $7 billion, according to James Holst, general counsel for the regents.

"Judge Irving has been of great assistance to us," Holst said, "and we are delighted his services and outstanding judgment will continue to be available for the benefit of all plaintiffs in the case, including the university."

In his new position, Irving will be able to spend more time on the Enron litigation. Cases against seven large banks, among other defendants, remain to be worked out.

"We have billions of dollars yet to go," Lerach said.

Irving will continue as a mediator, although he said he'd cut back his load significantly.

He is currently handing mediation talks between the city of San Diego, the unions and other interested parties in the litigation resulting from the pension crisis.

Irving was elected a fellow in the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers and served as president of the San Diego Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates.

He was appointed U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of California by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, and presided over numerous high-profile criminal and civil trials. Irving resigned from the post in 1990 because of his stance against Guideline and Minimum Mandatory Sentencing Laws.

Lerach Coughlin employs more than 175 lawyers in San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Boca Raton, Fla., Washington, D.C., Houston, Philadelphia and Seattle.


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