The Los Angeles market could have yet another merger on the way. Although neither Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP nor Dewey Ballantine LLP is based in Los Angeles, both firms have offices here. The firms made their negotiations public last week.

Both Los Angeles offices are relatively small, with both local practices focusing on litigation and finance. Orrick has 65 lawyers here. Dewey has 30.

No final decisions have been made about where a combined office would be located, but there's talk of shuffling attorneys between the two offices which are less than one mile apart with the eventual goal of having once space. The firms are beginning their due diligence on local real estate.

The combined 1,500 lawyer firm would likely be called Dewey Orrick LLP with 21 offices worldwide and an estimated $1 billion in revenues, which would put the combined firm in line with the top 10 revenue generators in the United States.

Orrick posted $554 million in 2005 revenues with 723 lawyers. The firm now boasts 950. Dewey reported $393 million with 502 lawyers. It now employs 550. Perhaps more tellingly, the two firms had nearly the same profit-per-partner, $1.23 million at Dewey and $1.24 million at Orrick. Disparity in profits-per-partner is often given as the reason for failed mergers.

Lawyers at Dewey and Orrick weren't able to comment.

"Globally-dominant legal providers will be characterized by market-leading practice groups, with a particular strength in M & A;, finance and litigation; by having significant operations in all the world's leading commercial and financial center; and by attracting and retaining top legal talent due to their superior economic performance," Orrick Chairman Ralph Baxter said in a press release, adding: "All of these characteristics would mark Dewey Orrick."

In fact, Orrick has been looking for a firm that would give it entry into New York's financial markets. If Dewey gives Orrick the "in" on the East Coast, Orrick's reputation, profitability and larger size would benefit Dewey.

"I think it's pretty clear that New York is one of the most important financial markets in the world and this merger would give us one of the strongest footholds of any firm there," said Orrick Spokesperson David Schaefer. "It's New York and then the M & A; practice."

Troubled Estate

Century City estate-planning firm Hoffman Sabban Watenmaker PC has beaten back a case against the firm for the handling of a family trust.

Phillip Heller of Fagelbaum & Heller LLP represented members of the Sternlight family who claimed Hoffman Sabban allowed their sister to bilk funds from the family estate. It sought a judgment against the firm in the millions.

The case comes at a time when estate planning as a practice area is shrinking. Big firms, like O'Melveny & Myers LLP, have dropped their estate planning practices just as the wealthiest Angelenos are getting richer. Many of these aging lawyers are moving to boutiques. There's little interest among younger lawyers to pursue estate planning as a career, because the fees aren't as high as they are for litigation.

Last month, the jury came back with a $37,000 decision on the Hoffman case for the plaintiffs to split. Post-trial motions, which are still going on, could reduce or erase any monetary penalties, said Paul Gordon Hoffman of the Hoffman Sabban firm.

"I think the jury was very clear in assessing our firm," Hoffman said. "Our firm was really completely vindicated by the jury."

However, Heller remains just as confident about the merits of his case on appeal.

"There are numerous issues on which the appeal will be taken," Heller said. "Any one of which would result in a reversal."

Movin' On Up

Steptoe & Johnson LLP has hired four attorneys for its new Century City office. Patent lawyer Robert Kovelman is joining the intellectual property practice from Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner LLP. Three of his team members, Of Counsel Brooke Quist and associates, Vanessa Owen and Andrew Chen are coming with him Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP has two prominent new attorneys: Debra Wong Yang, the former United States Attorney for the Central District of California and former Deputy Mayor Maurice Suh. Yang will co-chair the firm's crisis management group. Yuh will focus on litigation and corporate investigations Winston & Strawn LLP hired Mark B. Richards for the west coast energy practice from White & Case LLP Richards Watson & Gershon LLP hired Robert Horton from Bingham McCutchen LLP and Bill Dunsmore from Burke, Williams & Sorensen LLP Tamara L. Manask and Heidi S. Feldman have joined Greenberg & Bass LLP as associates Bryan Cave LLP Partner John W. Amberg is the new chair of the California State Bar's Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP opened an office in Lafayette, Ind .And intellectual property firm Sheldon & Mak has added two partners' names to its shingle. Robert J. Rose and Denton L. Anderson are being recognized for their work in growing the firm, reflected in the new name, Sheldon Mak Rose & Anderson PC.

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

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