They tried life as a boutique for more than two years, and now they need the muscle that a partnership with a big firm can provide.

So the partners at six-attorney L.A. firm Spillane Shaeffer Aronoff Bandlow LLP decided to merge with 300-attorney Lathrop & Gage LC.

The merger, which becomes official Jan. 1, gives the Kansas City, Mo., firm its first office in California.

Spillane Shaeffer partner John Shaeffer said the firm increasingly needed a larger platform to better litigate cases for its clients, which include NBC Universal, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. and Nordstrom Inc.

"We were finding that our clients wanted bigger bench strength behind us," Shaeffer said. "But we still wanted to remain autonomous."

Shaeffer said the firm has had the opportunity to merge with much larger, New York and Washington, D.C.-based firms, but Spillane partners wanted to maintain some control over their L.A. outpost by not having to raise hourly billing rates to stay in line with New York or D.C. prices.

"Lathrop is a Midwest firm that doesn't have the overhead concerns of a New York or D.C. firm, which provides us flexibility to provide greater value to our clients," he said.

Lincoln Bandlow, another Spillane partner, said the firm has also been working with Lathrop & Gage attorneys on cases for several years, including a trademark infringement case involving Kansas retailer Payless ShoeSource Inc.

"We had been working with a bunch of lawyers from Lathrop & Gage for a while," Bandlow said. "And we liked them as people."

During the next three years, Lathrop plans to add 25 to 50 lawyers to the L.A. office. The combination makes Lathrop & Gage the second Kansas City-based firm with a presence in Southern California, the first being Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP.

New Prospects

L.A. attorneys who practiced at the now-defunct Thelen LLP are beginning to find new homes for their practices, just as attorneys at Heller Ehrman LLP did when that firm dissolved earlier this year.

Partners of the San Francisco-based Thelen voted to dissolve in late October with plans to close the firm's doors this week. Thelen's dissolution comes after Heller Ehrman, also based in San Francisco, disbanded at the end of September, making it the second large law firm to disband this year.

Last week, Thelen real estate attorney David Fong joined the L.A. office of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP as partner after interviewing with eight other firms and receiving offers from three others.

Fong said he decided to join Sonnenschein because the firm's real estate practice complements the work he does for his financial institution, telecommunications and real estate development clients.

"Sonnenschein represents some insurance companies and other clients that they do work for on the West Coast," Fong said. "There is a natural synergy to help them expand that practice."

Fong, who practiced at Thelen for one year and eight months, represents clients in large real estate financing transactions, including the financing of the Ritz Carlton that is under construction at L.A. Live.

Earlier last month, eight attorneys from Thelen's labor and employment practice joined the L.A. office of Reed Smith LLP. Thomas Hill, the former managing partner of Thelen's L.A. office, joined the Pittsburgh firm alongside Linda Husar, who was the national chairwoman of Thelen's labor and employment practice.

Hill and Husar were joined by partners Remy Kessler and Steven Katz, and associates Christine Kohler, Marytsa Reyes, Aundrea Newsome and Stephanies Henderson.

The L.A. office of Winston & Strawn LLP has also picked up former Thelen real estate attorney Jarrett Fugh.

Solo Driver

After practicing in large law firms for 30 years, real estate attorney Edwin Reeser decided to go it alone.

Reeser, 57, who most recently managed the L.A. office of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, started his own shop after leaving the Chicago-based firm in mid-September.

"With the technology available, I can provide the same service to my clients that I have always done for several hundreds of dollars an hour cheaper because I don't have the overhead," Reeser said.

Since he began practicing in 1976, Reeser has specialized in structuring and negotiating complex real estate and business deals for international and U.S. corporations and individuals. He has advised clients who want to invest in and develop high-rises, industrial properties and luxury hotels.

Reeser traded his downtown L.A. 24th-floor office for an Altadena home office. That allows him to take off his suit and tie and change into a racecar driver jumpsuit whenever he gets the chance.

Reeser recently built a home garage so he can work on his Infiniti G35 coupe.

"About every four of five years, I find something new and master it," Reeser said. "I don't know what the next hobby will be yet, but when the time comes I will get excited about it."

Last month, Reeser served as the chief instructor for the Nissan Performance Festival at the California Speedway in Fontana, where he taught first-time drivers high-performance driving techniques.

Staff reporter Alexa Hyland can be reached at or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 235.

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