Apparently, you can go home again. The Los Angeles office of Mayer Brown LLP announced last week that Brian Aronson has rejoined the firm as partner.


Aronson will head up the firm's real estate practice in Los Angeles, which has been the scene of several departures in recent months. James Tancula, head of the firm's Los Angeles office, couldn't be reached for comment but in a press release he said: "We are pleased Brian has agreed to head up our local real estate group. With an impressive track record representing a large number of major clients, he will play an important role in the further expansion of the practice in both Southern California and globally."


So far this year, Mayer Brown's Los Angeles real estate practice has been contracting, not expanding. In March, two partners left the firm's local real estate practice to establish a downtown Los Angeles office for Boston-based Goodwin Procter LLP. And in August, two more real estate partners left the firm for the Los Angeles office of Proskauer Rose LLP. Aronson was among of a group of real estate attorneys that left the firm for Holland & Knight LLP in 2005. In a press release, Aronson explained why he was now returning to the firm: "(Mayer Brown's) strong platform and commitment to growth provide me with an extraordinary opportunity to develop a stellar West Coast practice and increase the firm's national presence."


Grunfeld Job

Daniel Grunfeld, president of the pro bono organization Public Counsel, was appointed deputy chief of staff in the office of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa late last month. Grunfeld will coordinate, prioritize and implement the mayor's policy agenda as part of a team.


In his 10 years at the helm of Public Counsel, Grunfeld has become synonymous with the organization, which provided legal services to 25,000 individuals and non-profit organizations last year. The organization describes itself as the "the largest pro bono public interest law firm in the world." During his tenure at Public Counsel, Grunfeld, a former partner at the law firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP, endeared himself to the legal community with his personal campaigns aimed at increasing the industry's charitable outreach. And Grunfeld believes these skills will easily transfer to his new position, which he will assume the second week of October.


"The last 10 years at Public Counsel have been the highlight of my professional career," Grunfeld said. "But given the chance to take what I have learned at Public Counsel and apply them to the mayor's office is hard thing to say no to, and I didn't."


This isn't the first time Grunfeld has been unable to say no to Villaraigosa. The mayor has previously appointed him to the Recreation and Parks Commission, of which he is the chairman, and to the Coliseum Commission.


Grunfeld's departure leaves the board of directors of Public Counsel with the task of finding a replacement. A selection committee has been formed and is beginning the formal process, but some candidates aren't waiting. Several resumes from possible candidates for the position have already been received and Grunfeld expects many more in the upcoming weeks. "I have been contacted by a number of people who want to know more about the job," he said.


High-End Pro Bono

The term pro bono usually conjures up images of lawyers donating their time and skills to combat slumlords or protect threatened species. But at the law firm Reed Smith LLP, pro bono has gone Hollywood.


For the past year, lawyers at the firm's Century City office have handled all the legal matters for the Elevate Festival of Film and Music, which describes itself as "an all inclusive movement of professional artists, dedicated to elevating global consciousness and unifying all people." Participants in the festival are given 48 hours to complete short films of "social and global importance" that highlight individuals and organizations making a positive impact on the world. This year's festival will include celebrity participants such as Alanis Morrissette and culminate with a screening on Saturday at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre, a much more impressive setting than the yoga studio where the first Elevate festival was held in 2005.


Sitting in the audience at the first festival in the yoga studio was Reed Smith partner Miles Cooley. "I was blown away by what the filmmakers were doing, especially the documentaries," said Cooley, who was especially moved by a film about a community farm in the South Central section of Los Angeles. "Not to get too Disney, but you rarely hear about the good things that are going on in the world."


Cooley approached his firm's management about getting involved with the festival, and received the green light. "They thought it sounded like a fantastic idea," said Cooley, who now serves as a director for the Elevate Foundation. "It is a great way to demonstrate the firm's involvement in Los Angeles and showcase the firm's expertise in the entertainment arena." About a dozen lawyers at Reed Smith, including a few at offices in London and New York, have devoted more than 200 hours to servicing the festival's legal needs including filing state incorporation documents, drafting employment agreements and negotiating licenses. Cooley said, "When I am watching the movies it will feel good to know that in some small part Reed Smith had something to do with making it happen."


Staff reporter Drew Combs can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 228, or dcombs@labusinessjournal.com .

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