In a sign of the ongoing real estate pickup in West Los Angeles, a group of Santa Monica attorneys has formed a boutique firm to handle financing deals, litigation and estate issues.

Chris Harding and Tom Larmore, name partners of Harding Larmore Kutcher and Kozal, have bulked up their four-person operations with the addition of Dennis Mullen, a litigation partner at the former Maloney & Mullen PC in Santa Monica, and two of his associates. Another lawyer, John Jakle, a sole practitioner in Santa Monica with one associate, has joined the firm to handle trusts and estates work.

The new firm, Harding Larmore Mullen Jakle Kutcher & Kozal LLP, handles land use permitting for projects throughout Southern California, focused primarily on Santa Monica.

Larmore, managing partner of the firm, said his clients have demanded more litigation and estates work. "They fit nicely with what we do," he said of the additions. "We're often getting requests to represent clients with disputes they have happening and generally would refer them to Mullen. Estate planning is a nice fit because a lot of the clients are individual investors and individual developers and property owners, so we had a lot of the same clients as John (Jakle)."

Previous work included master planning for Santa Monica College, the land use for various mixed use projects for JSM Construction Inc., Legacy Partners' development of 350 apartment units in The Plaza at The Arboretum and the addition of the private dining area for Wolfgang Puck's Chinois on Main restaurant.

Jury Scam
Los Angeles Superior Court officials have begun an investigation into a potentially new form of identity theft involving jury service.

In the past month, at least three Los Angeles residents have contacted the local courts about a fraudulent caller who claims to be a jury service employee and requests that they provide their Social Security numbers. The information has been turned over to court security officials.

"We would never contact jurors by phone or ask for the Social Security numbers of jurors," said Susan Matherly, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles Superior Court. "Our advice to people who are potential victims is to hang up on these folks."

In the past month, the Los Angeles Superior Court has been running an alert on its Web site that says, "Los Angeles Superior Court does not and will not telephone jurors or potential jurors and ask them to disclose personal financial information."

Similar scams have popped up in other parts of the country. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which operates all the federal courts, began running warnings about the scam on its Web site last month.

Top Rank
A team of former Los Angeles Daily Journal editors has started a new quarterly magazine that ranks the nation's top lawyers by practice area.

Lawdragon Inc., launched this month, was created by Katrina Dewey, who left the Daily Journal earlier this year after serving as editor for nine years, and Robin Davidson, the former managing editor, who now lives in New York.

The new magazine was distributed with Corporate Legal Times, a monthly targeted to in-house counsel that claims a paid circulation of 40,000. Dewey, who plans to piggy-back on the publication's distribution for the first few issues, said she would like to reach a circulation of 100,000 within the first year.

Unlike other lists that rank lawyers based on paid placements, Dewey said the publication uses colleague interviews in order to rank the lawyers. "We've given you information we validated and checked with peers and clients. Through reporting and editing, we've provided a guide that has been vetted in a way that others haven't," said Dewey, who helped develop the Daily Journal's Top 100 list of California lawyers.

Lawdragon, funded by friends and family, attracted more than a dozen advertisers in its first issue. This month's issue featured the 500 top lawyers in the U.S.

Comings and Goings
The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles has tapped a new executive director, Victor Geminiani, who served as head of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii for 11 years Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker LLP has officially incorporated four partners into the firm from its Tokyo affiliate, the Taiyo Law Office O'Melveny & Myers LLP snagged three former lawyers at the Taiyo Law Office to become partners at its Tokyo office. O'Melveny also lured the former managing partner of the Watanabe Kokusai Law Offices, its Tokyo affiliate, to that office along with six associates Andrew Kugler, senior advisor to U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, in charge of technology issues, has joined the Los Angeles office of Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw.

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

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