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Shark Week: Top Legal Sharks of 2015

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 08, 2015 10:59 AM

Sharks may not be nature's cuddliest predator, but they've definitely got their fans. The fact that Discovery's Shark Week extravaganza is in its 28th year is proof enough of that. Legal sharks, too, aren't without their admirers.

Though lawyers' reputations as ruthless killing machines are much exaggerated, there are plenty of top litigators whose zealous advocacy, intimidating reputations, and killer instincts make them stand out -- for better or worse. Here are three great whites of the legal world:

Neal Katyal -- Destroyer of Interns

Unpaid interns are at the bottom of the corporate food chain. But, occasionally, even the lowest among us can organize for their rights. When former unpaid interns sued Fox for back wages, Fox turned to Neal Katyal, shark and partner at Hogan Lovells, to help gobble up the pesky minnows. Katyal did just that, winning a Second Circuit appeal that applied a much more employer-friendly standard to internships. Keeping big business from having to pay starving students? That's pretty ruthless. Of course, sharking isn't Katyal's only hobby. The former Solicitor General also acts on the side, having made a brief appearance in Netflix's House of Cards earlier this year.

David Woll -- Taking a Bite Out of Mortgage Suits

The use of the word shark to describe lawyers and other scoundrels developed in the late 1500s, influenced at least in part by the German "schurke," meaning rogue. It's fitting, then, that David Woll, partner at Simpson Thacher and Bartlett, was at his sharkiest when defending Deutsche Bank. The commercial litigator somehow convinced the New York Court of Appeals to relieve the German bank of billions in potential liability from its sale of mortgage backed securities. Helping one of the major drivers behind the housing credit bubble, bad CDOs, and ensuing financial crisis to walk away because of missed deadlines? Truly schurke-like.

Lynne Hermle -- Smelling Blood in the Water

Lynne Hermle has a killer instinct. Having won nearly 20 employment trials, she knows just how and when to go in for the kill. And kill she does -- most recently in her defense of Kleiner Perkins, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm sued by Ellen Pao for sexual harassment and discrimination. Though Pao's case struck a chord with the media and many professional women, Hermle knew just what bites to take out of her case. Zeroing in on her poor performance reviews and credibility, the Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe partner made chum out of Pao.

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