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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Ringside on 50-Yard Line: Jennifer Keller’s 45 Years in Law

Among the success stories for Irvine-based lawyer Jennifer Keller is her defense of Kevin Spacey against a sexual abuse claim and an order barring Pimco co-founder Bill Gross from blasting the “Gilligan’s Island” TV theme song into his neighbor’s yard in Laguna Beach.

Keller has many other wins under her belt as a well-known Orange County lawyer in a career stretching back 45 years.

Her not-so-secret sauce? Keep the firm small, focus on the law and just be a good professional by avoiding huge monetary temptations.

“When I was growing up, a successful lawyer might be able to buy a Buick, might have a nice little tract house,” she told the Business Journal on March 10. “Now people feel like unless they make millions of dollars a year, they’re not successful.”

She is unabashed about her pride in practicing law well and the challenges it brings, recalling a colorful mixed sports metaphor from a judge in one of the cases she handled: “Keller, we got a ringside seat at the 50-yard line of life.”


Keller graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and from UC Hastings, which has now been renamed UC College of the Law, and started her career as a criminal defense lawyer.

Keller/Anderle LLP has 14 lawyers and is kept small intentionally, ranking No. 79 on the Business Journal’s latest list of the largest OC law firms (see list, page 36).

The firm’s practice includes high-end criminal litigation as well as white-collar criminal defense.

Keller is the former president of the Orange County Bar Association and served for many years as a trustee of Chapman University.

She is a fellow of the invitation-only American College of Trial Lawyers, considered to be among the highest honors a North American trial attorney can receive.

Keller is also a 2018 inductee into the California Lawyers Association Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame, one of only 36 attorneys so honored throughout the years.

She and Managing Partner Kay Anderle founded their firm Keller/Anderle in 2008.

Actors, Billionaires

She teamed up with partner Chase Scolnick to defeat actor Anthony Rapp’s sexual battery claims against Kevin Spacey in a jury trial in a federal district court in New York.

The jury deliberated only 30 minutes before reaching a unanimous verdict finding Spacey not liable and denying Rapp the $40 million he was seeking.

“Despite the passage of time, we could prove that it didn’t happen,” she said. “The jury did the right thing.”

The Bill Gross dispute, meanwhile, took on an almost farcical quality, as the former bond king reportedly blasted the theme song from the 1960s TV comedy series “Gilligan’s Island” toward his next-door neighbor’s home, owned by tech entrepreneur Mark Towfiq and his wife, Carol Nakahara.

A court ordered Gross to stop.

Keller says the dispute is settled for the time being, but added: “You never know with Mr. Gross what will happen next.”

She holds the story up as a kind of morality tale.

“The main thing that strikes me about that case is that money doesn’t buy happiness.”
In another case, Keller is defending a leading U.S. law firm against an heir unhappy with the amount he received from his deceased parents’ enormous fortune.

The parents specified that the bulk of the estate would go to charitable, educational and philanthropic purposes.

“You can’t make this stuff up, can you?” she says. “You cannot make this stuff up. This is why I love being a lawyer.”

Law Business

Keller deplores the “nastiness, bullying” and the sometimes sexist behavior that some lawyers use.

“I’m seeing a lot more of that than I ever used to see,” she said.

She also disagrees with the way “law has become much more of a business in the eyes of many lawyers in our profession,” noting young lawyers are “being whipped like sled dogs’’ to produce 2,500 hours of billable work per year.

“That’s a wrong turn.”

Keller points to the case of Los Angeles lawyer Tom Girardi, who was disbarred last year after accusations of defrauding clients, as another morality tale of sorts for her colleagues.

“We need to redouble our efforts to infuse or restore integrity in our profession,” she said.

“We need to work very hard at restoring civility and professionalism to our profession.”

Saudi Princess, Broadcom
Co-Founder Matters Handled
by Irvine Lawyer

Jennifer Keller of Irvine law firm Keller/Anderle LLP has been at the forefront of plenty of high-profile cases during her 45-year career. Here is a sampling of such cases:

• In 2009, Keller won California’s largest business jury verdict that year—a $350 million verdict for her venture-capitalist client in a five-month fraud trial. The case settled in bankruptcy court for $120 million.

• In 2011, she was lead counsel for MGA Entertainment in the retrial of Mattel v. MGA, a billion-dollar “bet-the-company” case (aka “Barbie v. Bratz”), in which a jury rejected Mattel’s trade secret and copyright claims, and awarded MGA $170 million for misappropriation of its own trade secrets. Including attorney’s fees, the total award was $309 million.

• In 2013, she successfully defended a Saudi princess accused of human trafficking.

• She represented Michael Ovitz, founder of Creative Artists Agency and former chair of the Walt Disney Co.

• She and law partner Chase Scolnick won Broadcom co-founder Henry Nicholas a $43 million tax deduction the IRS had denied.

• In 2018, she won a defense verdict for MassMutual in downtown Los Angeles in a class action jury trial.

—Kevin Costelloe­

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