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A New Litigation Powerhouse

By Shane Nelson | Apr. 26, 2024

Apr. 26, 2024

A New Litigation Powerhouse

The legal strengths of Rushing McCarl LLP's cofounders make them a formidable duo.

John Rushing, left, and Ryan McCarl have their portrait made at their office in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Photo: Justin L. Stewart / Special to the Daily Journal

Rushing McCarl LLP was started over dinner and drinks at Musso & Frank in Hollywood.

"We sat down, and I bought Ryan a martini," firm cofounder John M. Rushing recalled about the meal with his now partner Ryan P. McCarl. "And I told him, 'Ryan, you are too brilliant, and I am too old to work for other people. Why don't we start a law firm?' That was the argument. ... And thankfully, that was a winning argument."

Rushing conceded that McCarl didn't agree right on the spot - in fact it took about a week for that to happen. And the duo spent the next six months on due diligence, working to precisely define how their firm would help clients. But in the summer of 2020, they officially launched Rushing McCarl LLP in Santa Monica, aiming to tackle complex business litigation.

"We do some transactional work, and ... we end up providing regulatory counseling and writing transactions for many of our clients, negotiating for them, doing demand letters," McCarl explained, noting the shop is home for three attorneys today.

"But our bread and butter is complex business litigation - both on the plaintiff and defense side," he continued. "We tend to gravitate toward complex partnership disputes between co-founders, minority shareholder oppression disputes, business fraud cases, breach of contract cases."

The firm's cofounders both have big law backgrounds. Rushing spent five years on a trial team at Sidley Austin LLP before moving to Levin & Perconti, where he was a trial attorney. McCarl worked as a litigator for both WilmerHale and Hueston Hennigan LLP. The two met while McCarl was teaching AI law and policy as a UCLA Law School fellow.

"Ryan McCarl is hands down the smartest attorney I have ever worked with in my life, and I have worked with some gifted, gifted lawyers," Rushing said. "And I just couldn't fathom why this brilliant young man would work for anybody else."

The author of "Elegant Legal Writing," published in February by University of California Press, McCarl said he loves arguing and taking depositions, but he was quick to note that his strengths really are writing, analysis and research.

"It's really a wonderful match because John's an elite trial lawyer, and he's got such an amazing presence," McCarl said about his partner. "He just conveys power and authority and charisma in a way that few attorneys do. ... When it comes to communicating with jurors and telling the client's story in a trial, that's where John is better than anybody. I think he's a well-kept secret, and I've seen him far and away outmaneuver competing attorneys at much larger firms."

Rushing explained that he tries to apply a genuine approach in front of juries.

"I've never been more frightened than when I stand in front of a jury, but I don't try to hide that. I let them see it," Rushing said. "When you try to have all the answers and you try to look like the big man, the jury can smell the rat. ... I don't think trial law is about a show. I don't think it's about pulling the wool over people's eyes. I think it's about telling a story honestly in a compelling way and letting the jury really see you for who you are."

Rushing McCarl LLP earned a $17.8 million jury verdict in November 2022 on behalf of their client Virgin Scent Inc., a Gardena-based cosmetics company that shifted to selling hand sanitizer and masks during the pandemic. Virgin Scent Inc. v. BT Supplies West Inc., CV-21-184-DMG (C.D. Cal., filed Jan. 8, 2021).

"We represented them against a defendant who bought something in the range of $17 million worth of those masks and sanitizer, and then just didn't pay the bill," McCarl explained.

Rushing added that the trial featured a late, unexpected twist.

"There was a surprise witness at the end, a rebuttal witness that came in and caught the defendant in a fib that he had told on the stand," Rushing recalled. "We were able to nail him down on it, and when we did, the jury gasped."

Rushing McCarl LLP filed a putative class action in February against the makers of Stanley cups, claiming the company sold its popular drinkware knowing they contained a risk of lead exposure. Mackenzie Brown et al. v. Pacific Market International LLC, 2:24-CV-01765 (C.D. Cal., filed Mar. 19, 2024).

"They're marketed primarily to women of childbearing age as well as people who like to adventure outdoors," McCarl said of the Stanley tumblers. "But they didn't disclose that by design in the manufacturing process, those cups contain lead. Once that was discovered back in January, and then the company admitted that was true and that the lead could come out if [the cup] was damaged, ... we moved very quickly to write a complaint."

Playa Del Ray trial attorney Stephen A. Jamieson has referred cases to Rushing McCarl LLP, and he said the boutique is exceptional.

"They seem to be killing it," Jamieson said. "They're busy. They've got good clients. They've got some good matters that are very interesting."

Jamieson noted that he's known Rushing for nearly 10 years.

"I think he's innovative. I think he's clever. I think he thinks outside the box and looks at things in a uniquely different way that's beneficial," Jamieson explained. "I think he's efficient in his thought analysis. There's just not a lot of fluff in terms of where he's going."

Newport Beach appellate lawyer Timothy M. Kowal has worked with Rushing McCarl LLP on cases, and he described the boutique's cofounders as "very smart attorneys."

"They have a really organized way, a systematic way of jointly producing really superior work product," Kowal said. "Usually, you find top talent like that going to bigger firms, and so they are rare in that regard in that they are a very small firm, but you're getting really top-notch talent."


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