Charleston native has become a Hollywood power attorney - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Charleston native has become a Hollywood power attorney

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Patty Glaser Patty Glaser

The likes of Conan O’Brien and Paula Deen know where to turn when they need legal representation.

They hire Patty Glaser.

And actress Kim Basinger? She knows the ills of being on the opposite side of the courtroom of Glaser, one of the nations’ most successful, respected and feared attorneys.

Glaser, born in Charleston, now practices law in California as a litigator with Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro. This month, The Hollywood Reporter selected her as one of its “Power Lawyers 2014.” It was THR’s seventh annual list.

As to be expected, Glaser has many star-studded tales from her job. Her Basinger story is classic. Glaser recalled her 1993 case against Basinger as “the most high profile for me was when it was just me and not a team of people.”

Basinger was sued for backing out of a film called “Boxing Helena.” Her then-husband, actor Alec Baldwin, was present each day in court as well.

“(Basinger) made a deal with my client, a producer, to do the film,” Glaser explained. “We alleged the breach of an oral agreement and breach of a written agreement.

“The jury found (in the producer’s favor) 12-0 that there was an oral agreement and 9-3 that there was a written agreement, which is all that is required (in California courts).”

The film’s producer Carl Mazzocone had used Basinger’s star quality to drum up financial support for the project. “Boxing Helena” is about a doctor who saves the title character’s life from a car accident and becomes grotesquely infatuated with her. The surgeon cuts off the woman’s arms and legs and mounts her torso and head in a box on his dining room table — literally boxing in Helena.

“It’s a little weird,” Glaser said. “Kim Basinger was to star in it; in fact there were millions of dollars in foreign pre-sales because she was going to be in the movie. But she backed out.”

So what was the turning point in court?

“Her new agent was on the witness stand, and he says that he advised her not to do the movie,” Glaser said. “Why did he do it? Because, he said, ‘Kim, you are not a good actress and the best thing going for you are your legs. And your legs aren’t in the movie.’”

“That’s what he said,” Glaser recalled with a laugh. “I didn’t say it. I actually think she is a very good actress. She was great in ‘L.A. Confidential.’

“You get these gifts every once in a while in trial. Those moments are wonderful.”

Good press

Being named a “Power Attorney” in Hollywood has its advantages. Or does it?

“Perception is important here,” Glaser said, only slightly kidding. “You shrug when you’re on the list and if you’re not on the list, you’re devastated.

“It’s not so big a deal to be on the list, but it’s bad not to be on the list, especially if you’ve practiced as long as I have.”

One thing is for certain: Glaser thoroughly enjoys what she does.

“I can’t believe they pay me the money they pay me to have such a good time,” she said. “It’s really fun. It’s like those high-priced baseball players — you get paid to do this?

“I found something that I’m pretty decent at and they pay me — what’s wrong with that?”

Her reputation as a tough lawyer is real, but she still must do more than show up in court, Glaser said.

“I face new lawyers all of the time — people that I haven’t opposed before,” she said. “The first thing they think about is your reputation. But then they see if you deliver.

“If I tell you that I’m going to do something, you can take it to the bank. If I tell you that if you don’t do X, Y and Z, then I’m going to sue you, you can take that to the bank. I’m not kidding. I’m going to do it. If you don’t deliver on what you say you’re going to do, whatever it is, you don’t get the reputation. It goes away.”

And it’s advice Glaser said she shares with younger lawyers.

“It’s not just a question of integrity, though that is most important,” she said. “But second most important is that people will believe you.

“People need to be able to believe you, whether it’s a big thing or a little thing.”

More than glitz

Glaser is much more than an entertainment lawyer. She is known as one of the best business trial attorneys in the U.S. as well.

“I’m a business trial lawyer,” Glaser said. “One of the significant businesses in my community is entertainment business.

“There are concrete companies, clothes manufacturers, construction companies, real estate companies, investment bankers — we represent all of those people in business litigation.”

For a girl who grew up in Kanawha City, went to Horace Mann Junior High and Charleston High School, winding up in southern California representing and going up against mostly world famous clients is all just part of a story that begins with an “idyllic childhood.”

“My siblings and I had great parents,” Glaser said.

Her mother, Jane Glaser, was director of the former children’s museum at Sunrise in Charleston. Her father was Richard Glaser, an associate with Loewenstein Hardware and a radio announcer.

“Stanley Loewenstein and his wife were two of my parents’ best friends,” Glaser recalled. “He had a store started by his dad that did very well in downtown Charleston (on Capitol Street). My parents were originally from Cincinnati.

“Both of them were also involved with the (Charleston theater group) Kanawha Players. Our next door neighbors on Chappell Road, the Lingers, had a daughter Becky Linger that eventually married (actor) Nick Nolte.”

Although she doesn’t get back to West Virginia often — the last time was for a Charleston High School Reunion — she maintains some Mountain State connections.

“Shelley Moore Capito’s husband Charles Capito and (Charleston attorney) Michael Carey and my younger brother were best buddies when they were in school,” Glaser explained. “I was a Capitol Hill intern for Shelley’s dad, Arch Moore. I even beat Arch Moore once at ping-pong! He was wonderful to me.”

And Glaser returned the family favor.

“I had a little fundraiser for Shelley out here (in California),” Glaser said. “She seems like a super person and has some of the same belief systems that I have. She is a big supporter of Israel, which is important to me.”

Great parents

The Glasers’ influence on their children is still evident today.

“I happen to be Jewish, and we went to Sunday School at the Virginia Street temple for years,” Glaser said.

Her parent’s involvement with Sunrise and the Kanawha Players no doubt shaped Glaser’s advocacy for the arts, as she currently serves on the board of directors of several organizations, including the Los Angeles Music Center Theatre Group and Geffen Theater.

In line with her faith, she also serves on the Board of Trustees for The National Judicial College, on the Board of Governors of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as Vice Chair of the Western Region of the American Friends of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and on the UCLA Israel Studies Program Advisory Board.

Real life drama

The thrilling moment when a verdict is about to be read remains a highlight of Glaser’s career, she said.

“Nothing on television, nothing in the movies captures the real life drama like waiting for when the jury comes back,” she said. “There’s nothing like it. It is fabulous.

“I’ve had grown men that I’ve represented break down and cry from the shear tension of it. It’s a big deal.”

Despite her tough reputation and fierce courtroom success, Glaser remains humble.

“I have three siblings that are all more accomplished than me,” she said. “My younger brother is a Duke University and West Virginia University graduate and now practices law in North Carolina; my younger sister is a museum director; and I have an older sister who also practices law in California, who just completed 18 months in Nigeria doing work with the poor.

“And you’re talking to me?” she playfully asked.