Juanita Brooks has been called brilliant, engaging and highly valued.
The Fish & Richardson patent attorney also is very generous. Not only with her time, but with her vast array of courtroom knowledge.
Brooks is an active mentor with the firm's younger associates, and she'll constantly share her legal techniques with he colleagues throughout the legal community.
"She's good about going around and speaking and giving other attorneys ideas about what she does," said Lisa Damiani, who runs her own law office and was a protégé of Brooks' about 20 years ago. "She gives back. She doesn't hide it.
"I'll call her up and ask her opinion on strategies and ideas I have on a case. She's always more than willing to help you out."
John Phillips, managing principal of Fish & Richardson's San Diego office, said Brooks is a tremendous role model for the firm's up-and-coming attorneys.
Brooks relishes the ability to teach and pass on the tricks of the trade.
"I'm not getting any younger, and I'd like to think I'm passing on things that I've learned from the past 32 years," she said. "I really enjoy watching the younger attorneys develop into trial attorneys. It's like watching your children grow and go off to college."
Brooks said mentoring has its advantages for her, like when she needs support handling several cases at one time. She isn't afraid to delegate.
"If you've done a good job mentoring, then you have people you can trust will do the job right and you don't have to micromanage," she said.
Brooks' nationwide practice specializes in complex intellectual property litigation. The past year was one of the most successful ones of her career.
She scored two significant victories for Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), earned a pair of hefty settlements on behalf of drug company Repligen (Nasdaq: RGEN) and helped secure health care for San Diego County's working poor.
"It was a busy year but a rewarding year," Brooks said. "It's sort of the epitome of why I went into law in the first place, and it's terrific every time when it turns out this way."
Brooks defended Microsoft against Lucent (NYSE: LU) in one of the biggest patent cases of 2008. Lucent had accused Microsoft of infringing on multiple patents and was seeking almost $3 billion.
The jury ruled Microsoft did not infringe on two of the patents, determining one to be invalid. While Microsoft was found to have infringed on a third patent, the judgment of $300 million was a third of what Lucent was seeking. That verdict is being appealed, and Brooks is very optimistic the federal circuit will invalidate it as "obvious."
In another case, Lucent sued Microsoft for $600 million, claiming Microsoft's media player infringed on one of its patents. The jury found in favor of Microsoft.
In March 2008, Brooks earned a significant settlement for Repligen and the University of Michigan against Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY). The case settled a month before trial.
Earlier, Brooks represented Repligen as it teamed with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in suing ImClone Systems Inc. for patent infringement. On the morning of the trial, after three years of litigation, ImClone agreed to pay $65 million to settle the case.
Brooks' most rewarding victory of the year came on behalf of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. She served as co-counsel with the center, which challenged San Diego County's health care policy for the working poor. As a result of the case, the county revised its policy.
"We were successful such that the policy is completely redone and now no one can be turned away from medical care just because they're working but barely making a living," Brooks said.
Fish & Richardson, which was awarded attorney's fees for being the prevailing counsel, donated the money back to the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
"She's highly valued," Phillips said. "She's considered one of our best and brightest, not only here in San Diego but firmwide.
"Judges love her demeanor and her wit. She does patent law. It can be dry and boring, but she makes it interesting. People like listening to her."
Brooks said her ability to communicate with the judge and jury plays a big part in her success.
"I think it's my ability to take complex technology and, not only digests it, but explain it to a jury or a court that don't have technical backgrounds, in a way they feel comfortable with and they can understand.
"That's part of the challenge. It's fairly easy when you're doing white-collar criminal defense to put the human drama into it. But to take a patent case and make it real and put in the drama and have it understandable is much more difficult."
Brooks takes a holistic approach to each case she tackles.
"I try to see the big picture and what the ultimate goal is and work backward from there," she said. "It's a similar overarching approach to every case."
Phillips said another one of her strengths is her cross-examination techniques.
"She has a very subtle way of engaging witnesses in a non-controversial way, and walking them through a logical discourse that ultimately proves her point," he said. "And they end up contradicting themselves without even knowing it."
Damiani agreed, saying she "pretty much stole" Brooks' cross-exam techniques and many of her analogies.
Additionally, Brooks has a photographic memory that comes in very handy in the courtroom.
"She's just got a wonderful mind and a quick mind," Damiani said. "She's very personable as well. Not only is she brilliant and intuitive and (can) take complicated issues and convey it to a jury, she's compassionate. She can get along with pretty much any personality.
"She's got a good sense of humor. She doesn't take herself too seriously and can find humor at difficult times so that it tends to lighten the situation."