Last week Hunton & Williams LLP became the fourth East Coast law firm in six months to establish a Los Angeles office. Goodwin Procter LLP, Venable LLP and McGuireWoods LLP are all recent arrivals.


Hunton is different, however. Goodwin and McGuire are known for their real estate work. Venable is a business litigation and intellectual property firm. Richmond, Va.-based Hunton is a trial powerhouse with big tobacco defense work fueling much of its fire. This is the only West Coast office for the international firm, which has three Asian offices and two in Europe. Hunton now has about 850 lawyers in 13 offices in the U.S. and 18 worldwide.


To set up shop, Hunton snagged six partners and two associates trial from boutique O'Donnell & Mortimer LLP. Managing partner Pierce O'Donnell is one of the best-known trial attorneys in the country, leading products liability cases for Pfizer Inc. and intellectual property cases for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. regarding the James Bond brand.


His partner, Ann Marie Mortimer, is leaving the firm to head the new Hunton office.


"There's a time in every mentoring situation where the mentee has to step out of the shadow," said Mortimer, who added that she is grateful for the 10 years she worked with, and learned from, O'Donnell. While she is more interested in complex business litigation, O'Donnell has told her that he's more interested in civil justice work.


Another bonus of Mortimer was the firm's tendency to promote women within the firm.


"They really back up what they say in their diversity platform about being committed," said Mortimer, who was conducting the phone interview with her nine-month-old baby on her lap. She also has three stepchildren.


Partners Tim Toohey, Belynda Reck, Lisa Brant, Daniel Tepstein and Steve Valerio join Mortimer in the move.


Pfizer approves of this merger. Hunton & Williams was one of the largest and O'Donnell Mortimer one of the smallest firms selected to be part of Pfizer's Outside Counsel Partnering Program.


"We are very pleased that two of our highly esteemed firms have decided to unite," Sandra Phillips, chief litigation counsel for Pfizer. "Having worked with great lawyers from each firm, we are confident that the expanded Hunton & Williams will offer even stronger resources from the combination of these skilled attorneys."


This is unlikely to be the end of the story. Nine U.S. firms did $1 billion in business, or close to it, in 2005. Only four of those firms have L.A. offices. The region is attractive to big firms because of its thriving economy and many mid-sized firms have found Los Angeles to be welcoming because of the great real estate work.


In the Los Angeles Business Journal's 1996 list of the city's 50 biggest law firms, only 11 of them were based outside of L.A. County. That number is likely to be at least 30 by the end of 2006.


Computer Caring
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP donated 190 laptops to five non-profit youth organizations in Los Angeles and Virginia last month.


The Los Angeles Leadership Academy, Equal Footing Foundation, Grandma Rita's Children, New Village Charter School and St. Anne's are getting 2003 IBM T40s with 30 gigabyte hard drives, built-in modem, wireless capabilities, and a DVD drive. The firm also donated software for each laptop.


"We targeted organizations that serve young people with the hope that access to technology will help them secure better opportunities for the future," said Ruth Fisher, a Gibson Dunn partner who serves on the Los Angeles Leadership Academy's board of directors. Three of the organizations receiving laptops are based in Los Angeles.


Echo Park's New Village Charter School is receiving 90 computers. The school primarily serves young women in the neighboring community and helps them with college prep. The Los Angeles Leadership Academy, another college preparatory program, is receiving 50 computers. St. Anne's in Los Angeles is receiving 10 computers. The organization is focused on helping parents and children break cycles of abuse and prepare for more successful futures.


Two Virginia-based organizations are each getting 20 laptops. Grandma Rita's Children is a "special trips" camp for needy and abused children, ages 5 to 12, who reside in a Fairfax County low-income housing project. The Equal Footing Foundations has a long-term commitment to develop leaders from the underserved youth of Northern Virginia.


Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes
In line with the emerging trend of going with shorter names, law firm DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary US LLP has truncated its shingle to DLA Piper US LLP. The abbreviation comes 20 months after the merger of Piper Rudnick, Gray Cary Ware and Freidenrich and DLA. Dina Appleton has joined Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP's entertainment practice in the media and communications group. Appleton previously spent about ten years as general counsel at Writers and Artist Agency. She is co-author of the book, "Hollywood Dealmaking: Negotiating Talent Agreements." Mary McKelvey and Daniel H. Wu have joined Carroll, Burdick & McDonough LLP as associates. Transactional tax specialist Chad Coombs joined Buchalter Nemer PC last month as a shareholder. He will focus his practice on tax, real estate and tax credit transactions. Gary Pancer, Edward Stumpp and Victoria Brunn have joined Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold LLP.Grancer will be Of Counsel. Stumpp and Brunn are associates. Giam Nguyen has joined Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham as an associate in the intellectual property department. He was previously with Jones Day.


Staff reporter Emily Bryson York can be reached at eyork@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 223.

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