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.


William Shernoff, founding partner, said the Claremont-based firm handles claims related to fire losses, business interruption and directors and officers' liability. He said the firm's Beverly Hills office is closer to many of its recent clients and to future clients with insurance disputes. The firm also opened an office in Ontario to handle disability insurance cases.


Diversity List
Seven Los Angeles-based law firms ranked among the most diverse places to work, according to a report by Multicultural Law magazine.


Among the top 100 U.S. firms in diversity, Latham & Watkins LLP ranked the highest, at No. 26. Other firms were: Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker LLP (No. 30), Irell & Manella LLP (No. 33), Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP (No. 42), Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP (No. 43), Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith (No. 46) and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP (No. 48).


Of the top 50 firms that employ large numbers of women, five were L.A. firms. In hiring Asian Americans, four L.A. firms ranked in the top 25 in that category; for Hispanic Americans, L.A. had two firms in the top 25; and for openly gay and lesbian lawyers, three L.A. firms ranked in the top 25. No L.A. firms made the list of the top 25 in hiring African Americans.


Comings & Goings
A four-lawyer team lead by Los Angeles partner Brad Weirick, at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, represented ValueClick Inc. in its acquisition of Fastclick Inc., a Santa Barbara online advertising services company. Westlake Village-based ValueClick agreed to pay $214 million in the all-stock deal The former co-chairman of the insurance and reinsurance practice group at Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan LLP has joined Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP as a partner in its national insurance group. Barry Leigh Weissman represents insurance firms in film financing litigation and regulatory matters Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi LLP has added a new Los Angeles partner in its business litigation practice. Robert Hinton, a sole practitioner, handles legal malpractice, sexual harassment, insurance and entertainment.


*Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 225, or at abronstad@labusinessjournal.com .

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