ILN-terviews: Frank Cialone, Shartsis Friese LLP

Welcome to ILN-terviews, a series of profiles of ILN member firm attorneys, designed to give a unique insight into the lawyers who make up our Network. For our latest interview, we chose ILN member, Frank Cialone of our member firm, Shartsis Friese LLP in San Francisco!

In one sentence, how would you describe your practice?
I represent businesses and business owners in matters involving the company control, management, and restructuring (or "business divorce"). I also represent lawyers in disputes with clients and other proceedings, and fiduciaries and beneficiaries in trust and estate disputes.

Who would be your typical client?
A joint venture or a closely-owned business (a partnership, private corporation, limited liability company, law firm, etc.) -- or one of the owners of such an entity -- that has a dispute with some of the owners or managers about the management and control of the business.

What would you like clients and potential clients to know about you?
I get intensely and personally involved with my cases, and always look for ways to improve the outcome for my clients, whether it's through litigation or a business resolution. I'm proud that many clients have said that I approach litigation like a businessperson, and many have thanked me for getting so personally committed to their cases.

What has been your most challenging case? Why?
I represented several investment partnerships in a series of cases that arose from pattern of fraud and misappropriation of assets by the manager of several of the partnerships. This was potentially devastating to my clients, not only because the misconduct and the disputes that arose from it threatened the survival of the businesses but because there were intense feelings of personal betrayal to manage. In the end, we reached a settlement with the manager that pushed him out of the partnerships entirely, and had good results in litigation against one of the investors (including a six-week trial and two appeals) that we could use to negotiate a business settlement that brought more value to my client than any litigation result could have provided.

What has been your proudest moment as a lawyer?
I represented a start-up company and its founders, who had successfully landed a huge project. They were immediately sued by the company for which the founders had previously worked, which had bid on the same project. The plaintiff company claimed unfair competition, theft of trade secrets, misuse of confidential information, and the like. There were several bad emails in the file about my clients' plans to leave and start a competing business. They faced a serious risk that the costs and disruption of the litigation would ruin their company, because of that bad evidence and because the plaintiff company was much bigger and better-funded.

After interviewing all of the key witnesses, we figured out the "weak spot" of the case -- a very efficient way to demonstrate, conclusively, that our clients did not use any trade secrets or confidential information to win the key project. We revealed that evidence in a very careful and strategic way, and the plaintiff company responded by voluntarily dismissing the entire lawsuit. It was incredibly satisfying to call my clients and say "it's over - they surrendered and we won."

What do you do when you’re not practicing law?
I love to cook, I read a lot of fiction and some history, and I spend time with my wife and our three kids.

What would surprise people most about you?
I have black belts in two martial arts, Taekwondo and Jiu-jitsu, which I studied for about 20 years. (I am sadly out-of-shape now.)

What has been your most memorable ILN experience?
I've only been to two meetings so far, and I've most enjoyed the personal interactions I had with the many lawyers who have welcomed me as a new member. I particularly enjoyed the salsa-dancing outing after the Gala Dinner at last week's meeting in Panama City!

What career would you have chosen if you weren’t a lawyer?
I would have gone to a graduate program in public affairs and pursued a career in government.

If a movie were made of your life, who would you want to play you?
Robert Duvall. His role in A Civil Action is a model for me of how a lawyer should behave (leaving aside that he was on the side of the bad guys in that movie). He's smart and intensely focused on getting the best result for his client, and he has no patience for showiness and silly tactics.

How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who loved his life, was thankful for everything good that he had, and who tried to bring some joy and happiness to the people around him.

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