Coudert Brothers is gone with the wind and the biggest hit on the West Coast is being taken in Los Angeles.


The 152-year-old law firm, which was early in establishing a presence in China, plans to dissolve its 20 offices worldwide, including a Los Angeles office with eight partners, four senior attorneys and 13 associates.


The Los Angeles office is the New York-based firm's largest on the West Coast. In recent years, Coudert closed offices in Palo Alto and San Jose; its San Francisco office, now with just one partner, lost several partners a few months ago.


The question is whether the partners in L.A. will jump ship as a group or go their separate ways. "The office has options to go as a whole, but there will be individuals there who have independent options to do things on their own," said Lawrence Watanabe, a recruiter at Watanabe Nason & Seltzer.


Another possibility is Baker & McKenzie, a 3,000-lawyer firm that was in failed last-minute merger discussions with Coudert, acquiring the firm's local lawyers as a group. Baker & McKenzie does not have a Los Angeles office.


Mark Curran, the firm's spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement that the attorneys have the freedom to pursue various arrangements.


"The partners of Coudert have authorized the firm to enter into combinations of offices and practice groups with other firms," he said in the statement, declining further comment.


David Huebner, managing partner of the firm's Los Angeles office, did not return calls.


Tank Trouble
Two cement masons who suffered broken bones after falling six stories into a tank in Carson are seeking more than $40 million in damages against four companies found liable this month for making faulty products.


The accident occurred four years ago when the workers were pouring cement for the roof of a tank being built for Los Angeles County's Sanitation District.


The roof was almost completed when it partially caved in.


In all, 11 men fell into the tank. "That's when the hole opened up toward the middle and the shoring fell apart because it was very poorly maintained," said Geoffrey Wells, a partner at Greene Broillet & Wheeler LLP, which filed suit on behalf of the two workers in 2001 in Los Angeles Superior Court.


The jury found that the maker of the shoring material, Harsco Corp., was 75 percent at fault for the accident, which left one worker unconscious, with shoulder and ankle fractures, and another worker with a broken leg. DYK Inc., which erected the scaffolding for the tank, was found 15 percent liable. Two other companies were found liable for the remaining 10 percent.


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

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