International law firm McGuireWoods LLP expanded its foothold in the Los Angeles market last week by acquiring Van Etten Suzumoto & Becket LLP, a mid-sized regional player.

McGuire opened an L.A. office in September with two just lawyers, while the 40-lawyer Van Etten firm started looking for a buyer in December.

The two firms share areas of expertise: labor and employment, real estate and commercial litigation. And over the past few years, the two firms have done business at each other's offices in an effort to serve their clients on both coasts.

"We had a number of clients in Southern California we'd been doing work with for a number of years and they encouraged us to open an office, which we did last year," said Bill Strickland of McGuire. "But we wanted to expand as soon as we could. We were looking for a firm with experience and expertise that would be most useful to our clients."

Meanwhile, David Van Etten, a name partner at the nearly 10-year-old regional law firm, said he talked to several suitors before committing to McGuire, saying the acquisition market is highly competitive right now.

"We were getting to the point where we needed significantly more administrative support," said. "We have lawyers who have clients asking for us to provide services in other locations."

Although he will be the managing partner of the newly combined firm in Los Angeles, Van Etten said he's looking forward to having a national management structure in place and having his time freed up from operations. The combined firm will have about 45 lawyers in L.A. The merger should be final by April 1.

Seeing Yellow
Steven A. Velkei at Liner Yankelevitz Sunshine & Regenstreif LLP is waiting for a response from Verizon Communications on a class-action complaint filed in February. Velkei represents Cellular Abroad Inc. and other California business owners who claim to have been renewed for Yellow Pages listings without their consent.

Velkei estimates that the class action, if approved, could apply to hundreds of thousands of people.

"It appears to us, based on the form letter that this is a policy and practice where they'll automatically renew you," Velkei said. "But they don't send you the bill until they've placed the ad and if you don't pay it, they send you to collection."

A Verizon official said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Switching Horses
Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory LLP partner and land-use lawyer R.J. Comer has jumped ship to Armbruster & Goldsmith LLP, a local land-use boutique. He will continue to specialize in complex land-use entitlements, redevelopment, California Environmental Quality Act compliance and land-use litigation.

"There are about six local firms with land-use practices and having a partner move from one firm to another is unusual," said name partner Dale J. Goldsmith. "Firms tend to hold on to land-use lawyers. R.J. is an excellent lawyer who will add considerable depth and breadth to our practice. It would be a big deal if he moved to a larger firm, but it's a big deal for us because we're such a small firm."

Armbruster & Goldsmith has represented United Air Lines, Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Costco Wholesale Corp., The Rand Corp. and KB Home.

Scott McPhee has rejoined the L.A. office of Morrison & Foerster LLP as of counsel in the firm's capital markets real estate finance practice. He was previously senior legal counsel to Countrywide Commercial Real Estate Finance Inc .Former bankruptcy Judge Ralph R. Mabey joins Stutman Treister & Glatt, a bankruptcy boutique, as senior of council. Mabey was a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge until 1983 and has since been an examiner, expert witness, mediator and arbitrator in bankruptcy restructuring cases. He's been involved in some of the most famous bankruptcy and reorganization cases, including those involving TWA, Dow Corning, American Airlines and Enron Corp. DLA Piper Rudnick LLP announced the arrival of real estate partner Mark L. Nelson, previously of Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker LLP. He brings four associates: Cary A. Kleinman, Jason R. Morgan, Tiffany K. Switzer, and Jean-Loup F. Ziegler. The firm also announced the appointment of real estate lawyer Michael Meyer to managing partner in the Los Angeles office.

Liner Yankelevitz Sunshine & Regenstreif LLP added lawyers. Charles M. Grant, partner from Heller Ehrman LLP; Patricia K. Oliver, of counsel from Sunshine Nath & Rosenthal LLP; and associate Jennifer Gin Lee join the firm's business litigation practice. Other hires include Mary Aversano, senior counsel in IP.

Top Litigator
Last week, the Century City Bar Association honored Gail Migdal Title of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP as Litigator of the Year. Title is head of the firm's entertainment litigation practice and managing partner of its Los Angeles office. She has been involved in important intellectual property cases and entertainment industry accounting disputes.

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

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.