JENNIFER BRETAN ’04
For Jennifer Bretan, family lore held that you were destined to become a lawyer, judge, cop, or criminal. (A career court clerk, her grandfather helped establish New York City’s court systems; another forebear was famed trial attorney Sidney Sparrow).
As a child, Bretan seemed predisposed to follow the legal path.
“I was a bit of an extrovert and a competitor,” she says. “Combine those qualities, and it’s not far-fetched to imagine ending up as a lawyer.”
At first, her career took a different tack. After graduating from Cornell, Bretan jumped into the entertainment industry, ultimately landing as a vice president of public relations at a boutique firm that later became Untitled Entertainment.
“It was so much fun, and you were really in the thick of it,” she says of her time representing such clients as Martin Short, Molly Ringwald, Tim Burton, and Michelle Williams. “But I felt it incumbent on me to fulfill my family destiny.”
Bretan quickly took Berkeley Law by storm, winning the McBaine Honors Moot Court Competition’s best respondent brief award and advancing to its oral argument finals as a 2L.
“I could have been described as a little intense during law school,” she says. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to make the most of it.”
After accepting an associate position with Fenwick & West in San Francisco, Bretan took a class as a 3L in securities litigation and found her calling. Serendipitously, Fenwick was expanding that practice area at the time.
“There was a new team of securities litigators needing help,” Bretan says. “On Day One I walked in and said, ‘What can I do?’ I’ve been doing it ever since.”
And doing it well.
At the end of 2013, she was elected to Fenwick’s partnership.
In 2014, on a matter of first impression, Bretan persuaded the Ninth Circuit to affirm the dismissal of a securities class action. The ruling established that a company’s announcement of an internal investigation does not itself establish loss causation.
The following year, Bretan’s team successfully argued to dismiss derivative claims against a company’s directors. That decision, upheld by the Delaware Supreme Court, affirmed that directors are presumed independent even when their venture capital firms have historical ties to a company’s founder.
Bretan also enjoys consulting with companies on litigation concerns. “It’s equal parts law, crisis management, public relations, and counseling,” she says. “It’s a nice intersection that makes great use of the skills I developed earlier in my career.”
Giving back to Berkeley Law is another priority for Bretan, who served as a captain in last year’s Partners in Leadership campaign.
“I’m so grateful for everything the school gave me,” she says. For one, her ticket to the family business.