The attorneys at Los Angeles-based Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP were surprised to find their firm listed as No. 133 on the American Lawyer's list of the 200 most profitable law firms this year.


It's a respected and thriving practice, so it's not that Lewis Brisbois didn't deserve the ranking. It's just that they didn't apply for it.


Every year, hundreds of firms scramble to assemble data for the list because a lofty ranking means more than bragging rights it's an accepted measure of standing in the legal community.


But Lewis Brisbois has long had a policy about not giving out the information upon which the magazine bases its rankings. The firm points out that its clients are insurance companies that aren't typically concerned with the list. There's no reason for the 400-lawyer firm to release the information, it would seem, since insurance work rarely commands the highest rates and it doesn't compete with higher-rolling firms for $145,000 first-year associates.


Still, because the AmLaw lists carry such weight within the industry, the ranking and the revenue figures accompanying it put Lewis Brisbois in an awkward position: they can't confirm or deny the accuracy of the numbers.


"They just guessed," was all firm spokesperson Tiffany Truffo would say about the list data. This isn't the first time, either. Truffo said AmLaw takes a crack at their numbers every few years for the list.


"Their estimates are way off," said partner Robert F. Lewis, although he wouldn't say which way. "I have no idea where they get the information. The only people that would have that would be our equity partners and I haven't had an equity partner leave."


The main issue Lewis Brisbois had with the list is that there's no notation denoting which of the firms' numbers are approximations. In response, the magazine says the numbers are more than educated guesses.


"For every firm on the list, we back up that information with additional reporting," said American Lawyer executive editor David Brown. "Whether a firm cooperates or not, we still check out the numbers. So we've never felt it was necessary to specify whether one firm cooperates or one doesn't."


There is, however, a disclaimer in the methodology description, which states " most law firms provide their financials voluntarily for this report. Some refuse to cooperate, so we call partners and calculate revenue and profits. But all data, whether it comes officially from the firm or not, is investigated by our reporters. In the event that an error in reporting is discovered, we will correct the numbers and base the percentage changes in future years on restated numbers."


Earning Stripes
Rockers Jack and Meg White of the White Stripes are likely breathing a sigh of relief this week, thanks to local entertainment and intellectual property lawyer Bert H. Deixler of Proskauer Rose LLP.


Engineer and sound mixer Jim Diamond, who worked on the band's first two albums, had sued, claiming he was entitled to a share of the royalties. The Eastern District of Michigan ruled in the band's favor on the ownership issue after a week-long trial.


Deixler argued that Diamond's technical work on either album did not meet the Copyright Act definition for creating an original work and therefore did not meet the standard for authorship.


"While Mr. Diamond was no doubt involved with these albums, his role was akin to that of a carpenter following a blueprint it did not entitle him to royalties or copyright," Deixler said he told the jury. "The White Stripes are pleased that the jury agreed."


Deixler represents a number of musicians including Axl Rose, Snoop Dogg, Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana LLC.


He believes that this case may result in closer scrutiny of work-for-hire agreements. The deals are commonly made between artists and producers to avoid future copyright claims, but are rarely made with engineers and sound mixers.


"We're now beginning to see the extension of work-for-hire agreements to all participants in the recording process, which will be invaluable to avoiding future litigation of this type," Deixler said.


Singular Vision
L.A.-based Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP continues to get more than its share of the merger and acquisition pie. The firm represented UBS Investment Bank, financial advisor to Univision Communications Inc. on its recent sale.


Univision was acquired for $13.7 billion by a group led by Haim Saban and his Saban Capital Group that included Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners. The acquisition includes the assumption of $1.4 billion in debt.


Century City partners Jonathan Layne and Ruth Fisher and associate Ronen Elad worked on the deal in Los Angeles.


Ch-Ch-Changes
Moldo Davidson Fraioli Seror & Sestanovich LLP is moving its Century City offices from Watt Plaza to the next door Twin Towers at 2029 Century Park East. The firm, which has grown to 30 attorneys from 23 just two years ago, will occupy the 21st floor at its new location. The firm added equity partner Darren Enenstin to the litigation practice in 2005 and had to add associates to accommodate the business he brought with him. The firm has also experienced growth in their real estate and bankruptcy practice Joshua Wattles has joined Dreier LLP's Los Angeles office as counsel. Wattles come from Paramount Pictures where, as deputy and acting general counsel, he was responsible for the studio's highest-profile talent and content agreements and major litigations. He also was the parent company's senior intellectual property lawyer, advising the film, book publishing, sports and cable television units.


Staff reporter Emily Bryson York can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 235, or at eyork@labusinessjournal.com .

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