Call it "Extreme Makeover: Law Firm Edition." Howrey LLP's Los Angeles office has been replacing some familiar faces with local rainmakers as it rebuilds following a year's worth of declining revenues and profits.

"Recruiting is one of our big pushes," said Joanne Caruso, managing partner of the Southern California offices of Howrey, which recently hired an in-house recruiter. "We've been aggressively out there finding legal talent."

The firm has attracted Jan Handzlik, a former white-collar criminal defense partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and former U.S. Attorney Terree Bowers, who recently came from the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office.

The Washington D.C.-based firm expects to add 20 to 25 lawyers to its 65-lawyer local office by the end of the year, Caruso said.

The new entrants come as several long-time lawyers leave this month, including Maurice Suh, now deputy mayor for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Jeff Eglash, in-house counsel for one of the firm's clients, General Electric Co.

Howrey's revenues and profits have declined since obtaining a $65 million fee award in a 2003 class action settlement with several tobacco companies. Last year's revenues were $352 million, down 8.9 percent from 2003, while profits-per-partner were $775,000, down 28.9 percent from 2003.

Executive Exemption
Employees cannot sue their managers or the officers and directors of a company personally for illegally denying them overtime or other wages, according to a recent state Supreme Court decision.

The ruling is a setback for employees who have obtained multimillion-dollar settlements in wage and hour claims against large companies, including Starbucks Corp. and Coca-Cola Co.

The case pits Sherman Oaks-based Earl Scheib Inc. against a former shop manager who claims that he, along with 400 other employees of the company, are entitled to unpaid overtime compensation.

The employees sued the Earl Scheib executives seeking to hold them personally liable because they believed that the company was unable to pay if found liable for unpaid overtime, said Robert Boulter, a partner at San Rafael-based Legal Solutions Group, representing the employees.

"We don't have a great deal of comfort in that there's been any significant change in whether we'll be able to collect the full amount of overtime that is owed," said Boulter, whose case against Earl Scheib now returns to Los Angeles Superior Court.

Beverly Hills Bound
Shernoff Bidart & Darras LLP, a firm that represents insurance policyholders, has opened a Beverly Hills office to accommodate its existing and future business clients.


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