Carroll, Burdick & McDonough LLP

The San Francisco-based international partner in navigating new market litigation
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Kyle Gahm

With offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Beijing, Böblingen/Stuttgart and Hong Kong, Carroll, Burdick & McDonough LLP has expanded to Europe and Asia from its coastal California home of the last 67 years. The successful midsized business and litigation law firm has been building international relationships and the foundation for global expansion over the last decade. Specializing in high-stakes litigation, including products liability coordination, “bet the company” business disputes, corporate governance and compliance, as well as intellectual property and counterfeit protection, Carroll Burdick is making its presence known as the go-to firm for managing the risks clients face domestically and internationally.

Carroll Burdick has become a leader in global litigation management with lawyers on three continents, speaking more than 16 languages, including German, Mandarin Chinese, French, Latvian, Romanian, Russian and Spanish. More than 20 percent of the firm’s lawyers have legal education in two or more countries, providing Carroll Burdick clients with a truly global perspective on risk management.

Leading expertise

Founded in 1948, Carroll Burdick has a long-running history as a premier litigation firm. Over the years, the firm has enjoyed a reputation for providing legal excellence, a creative approach, aggressive intellect and earning client confidence.

Carroll, Burdick & McDonough LLP

“In addition to our established products liability team, we have top-notch appellate and class action groups, but also specialize in complex commercial litigation such as unfair business practices and trade secret claims, food and beverage law, insurance coverage litigation, intellectual property, prosecution and defense, mass tort litigation, and corporate transactions including mergers, acquisitions and more,” says David Godwin, vice chairman of Carroll Burdick. “Our practice areas complement each other and each has grown over the past decade.” Godwin points to the firm’s appellate and class action groups as examples of specialized excellence.

Twice honored as a California Lawyer Attorney of the Year, appellate group chair, Laurie Hepler explains, “Appeals are a world all their own. Partnering with trial counsel, we specialize in making generalist appellate courts – with no background in our client’s case – understand and care about why a win should be affirmed or a loss reversed.”

Echoing this strategic approach to litigation, class action defense leader Troy Yoshino reveals, “We aggressively defend our class action clients, attacking on numerous fronts from first notice of potential claims through resolution. With this philosophy, our team has obtained dozens of dismissals on the pleadings and other favorable results – working to ensure that our clients are not marked as targets for easy class settlements.”

Building the foundation for global business

While Carroll Burdick originally built its reputation in San Francisco, in the last 15 to 20 years the firm has made important global connections. Firm wide chairman Dr. Matthew Kemner notes, “We have really developed into a multi-national firm, although we remain midsized. We have transformed ourselves into the firm that European, particularly German, clients come to for advice on how to protect and expand their business into the U.S.”

Kemner says this business has blossomed through relationship building. “We’ve been working in these markets and with our attorneys in Europe and Asia for many years, eventually bringing them into the Carroll Burdick fold in 2013 after acquiring our international offices,” he explains. “This was a big achievement for the firm because when most firms expand into Europe or Asia, they struggle without relationships in place. We have not; we have excelled because we had the foundation.”

The firm now has 60 attorneys throughout offices in California, Böblingen/Stuttgart, Germany, Beijing and Hong Kong. “We have the largest German practice, including the largest number of German-speaking and German-educated attorneys on the West Coast and likely in the U.S. – in our size, you won’t find another firm with this type of practice,” says Kemner.

A landmark win in jurisdiction

Carroll Burdick’s international litigation team has become the premier group of practitioners in challenging personal jurisdiction and venue in cases not validly brought in U.S. courts. The team has handled nearly 100 such cases in the last decade with renowned success. This includes in-court work at every level, from state trial through supreme courts across the U.S., and at all levels of the federal courts.

A recent landmark case that provided Carroll Burdick a platform for growth with German clients was the famous Bauman decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014). “This case really helped to elevate our profile with clients looking for advice on how to have subsidiaries take advantage of the U.S. market without needlessly exposing the foreign parent company to the risk of litigating in U.S. courts,” explains Kemner. “In Bauman, the United States Supreme Court unanimously agreed with our position that there is no general jurisdiction over our German client in the U.S. despite the significant business of that client’s U.S. subsidiaries. The Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that general jurisdiction existed because our client’s U.S. subsidiary served as its implied ‘agent’ in California.”

“The Supreme Court rejected this theory of implied agency jurisdiction and held that, even assuming there is general jurisdiction over a subsidiary in California, there still is no general jurisdiction over the foreign parent if it does not have contacts with California that are ‘so continuous and systematic as to render [it] essentially at home’ in California,” continues Kemner. “The court explained that a corporation ordinarily is ‘at home’ in the places it is incorporated and where it has its principal place of business and only rarely in any other place. The court further held that simply doing a substantial amount of business in the forum is not a basis for general jurisdiction.”

Facilitating market access

Carroll Burdick’s success in coordinating products and commercial liability matters domestically helped the firm expand its coordination practice internationally. Now Carroll Burdick works with a range of companies, mainly manufacturers, and helps them to manage their product-related risks – litigation, government compliance, recall, etc. – both in the U.S. and worldwide.

“We assist with supplier and distributor contracts and we’ll get into insurance issues and introduce the client to U.S. regulatory matters dealing with product safety and help them build a team and a plan that prepares them for the inevitable product liability litigation that comes with the manufacture and distribution of consumer products,” says Godwin. With a strong foothold in this advisory role in Germany, Carroll Burdick is rapidly expanding a similar practice with Asian entities. “We offer similar services in legal coordination and assessing all aspects of risk when these clients are looking to enter new markets,” says Godwin.

Brand protection

One practice area that serves a particular need among Carroll Burdick’s clientele is counterfeit and brand protection. In today’s business world there is an ever-growing need to protect brands and intellectual property from counterfeiters, IP thieves, grey market traders and cyber criminals.

“Companies are now at risk to counterfeit manufacturers in a wide range of product areas,” says Godwin. “We have extensive, firsthand experience in setting up and running global brand protection and anti-counterfeiting coordination programs for some of the world’s most valuable brands and marks.”

Poised for growth

As one of the most diverse international law firms of its size, Godwin says Carroll Burdick is poised for future expansion. “In the past, we were happy with our size, but now we have definite plans to expand, both domestically and internationally, and we’re actively pursuing that strategy,” says Godwin.

Carroll, Burdick & McDonough LLP is growing relationships across the globe and building clientele as a trusted partner in paving the way to new market access while ensuring risks are managed and brands are safe, secure and protected.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.
Montage Services Inc.
Profit Recovery Partners LLC