Meredith Dearborn was a literature major at Yale University. And as a trial lawyer representing companies like Apple Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc., she likes to make sure juries know the stories behind the people responsible for major business decisions.
“I explain that these are real people,” Dearborn said of her clients. “I get to work with business people who put a real face on the company that is operating in a competitive landscape.”
Dearborn was part of the team representing Apple against a $350 million lawsuit brought by a class of iPod purchasers who claimed in 2005 that Apple excluded competitive music players on iPods by pairing the device with iTunes. Apple gave Dearborn the opportunity to interview Apple’s former vice president of finance, Mark Donnelly, on the stand in the fall of 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
“It was the first witness I’d ever taken at trial, and he got to tell the jury that he was spending his retirement flying people who needed healthcare from rural portions of California to cities for free care through an organization he worked with,” she said.
Dearborn said it was important to show witnesses as real people and let them explain their decisions and what the company was trying to accomplish. The jury ultimately granted a verdict in favor of Apple in 2014, finding that Apple’s practices improved iPods.
Dearborn most recently represented Apple as one of its lead trial lawyers in its latest antitrust suit brought by Epic Games over Apple’s App Store practices in the Northern District of California in May.
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers largely struck down Epic’s antitrust claims in a September ruling. But she also ordered Apple to change its rule that bars apps from informing customers about alternative online payment options outside its own App store by Dec. 9.
Epic appealed the September ruling, which included an order for Epic to pay $4 million to Apple for breaching contract terms by collecting payments outside of Apple’s App Store system.
In October, Apple sought to delay the district court’s order imposing App Store changes, but the motion was denied. Apple filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in November.
“I am gratified that the court found that the antitrust laws do not require Apple to give away its innovations for free or fundamentally change its goals of providing a safe, secure, high-quality product to its customers,” Dearborn said.
Dearborn’s other notable work includes successfully defending Uber against Boston taxicab drivers who sought $750 million in damages. They filed unfair competition suits in 2016 and 2017--later consolidated--against the ride-sharing company in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
“During the trial, the Uber witnesses got to tell a really amazing story about engaging with regulators and being welcomed and allowed in Boston,” she said. A federal judge ruled in favor of Uber in 2019—a decision that was later affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in August.
In July 2020, Dearborn was one of the first lawyers hired by Paul Weiss to set up the firm’s new San Francisco office, which now has over a dozen attorneys.
A native of Palo Alto, California, Dearborn is a self-described “nerd” who always took pleasure in reading more than the assigned homework. Now that Dearborn is arguing in high-stakes trials—she’s completed nine of them—she said her tendency to over prepare helps settle those nerves in the courtroom.
“I make sure that I know the witness documents forwards and backwards, make sure my witness and I have good rapport and that they’ve had some practice with cross examination,” she said.
That’s the advice she gives her students at Stanford Law School, where she teaches a practical trial course to first-year students. Some of those students come to Dearborn asking how to prepare for the performance of a trial when they had no prior public speaking experience.
“I tell them that the substance of what they say matters so much more than how you say [it]. So if you prepare and you know your stuff, you’ll succeed and have the corollary benefit of calming your nerves,” she said.
Over a three-year break between Yale and UC Berkeley Law, Dearborn spent three months biking across the U.S., helped set up a non-profit that empowers youths in Nicaragua, interned at YES! magazine on Bainbridge Island in Washington state, and worked at an international human rights non-profit in San Francisco.
Dearborn graduated from Berkeley in 2009 expecting to apply for a government job, having had a positive experience as an extern at the Justice Department’s antitrust division during law school. But the agency was under a hiring freeze due to the global recession.
“I thought, I’ve got student loans, let’s try out a law firm for a little while—and eleven years later I’m still at it,” she said.
Dearborn’s high standards and attention to detail are what made her a standout colleague to one of her mentors, William Isaacson, a litigation partner at Paul Weiss who was lead attorney defending Apple against the iPod purchasers class action.
“Meredith has very high standards and she has a lot of drive to keep working until those standards are met,” Isaacson said.