Eric Reimer had spent nine good years at the Los Angeles office of McDermott Will & Emery LLP. But Goodwin Procter LLP wanted him to jump ship and bring his corporate practice to the more prominent firm's Century City outpost.

The combination of his corporate practice with Goodwin's private equity group proved too tempting to pass up.

"It was a tough decision because I was well situated there," Reimer said. "It had to be a unique situation for me to move."

Elliot Hinds, Marc Jones and Q. Scott Kaye also left the L.A. office of Chicago-based McDermott, joining Reimer as partners at Goodwin.

The addition of the McDermott quartet early this month was the latest coup for 850-attorney Goodwin, which has grown in Los Angeles to 29 lawyers since its Century City office opened in April 2006 and its downtown Los Angeles office opened in July 2007.

The Boston-based firm's growth in Los Angeles is a rare accomplishment for a firm that charges higher rates than most of its regional competitors.

Los Angeles is a middle-market business economy with few large banking institutions, and clients often bristle at paying large-market rates upward of $600 per hour for legal services. So large corporate firms that command high rates often find it difficult to compete for business.

"This market is a little sobering on rates at times, and to be attractive in Los Angeles it helps to have rate flexibility" said Dan Hatch, a partner with legal search firm Major Lindsey & Africa LLC. "Premier rate firms like Goodwin have to carefully navigate this issue."

Peter Zeughauser, a Newport Beach-based legal industry analyst, said the firm may find it challenging to continue growing both its L.A. offices.

"Most firms have found that having two offices in Los Angeles is difficult, and it hasn't worked for them," he said, explaining that it's difficult to build a critical mass of lawyers when they're split into two locations. "I think Goodwin will ultimately come to the same conclusion."

Different approach

Legal analysts said other East Coast-based firms that moved into the Los Angeles market during the last decade haven't enjoyed success similar to Goodwin's.

Boston-based Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC opened a Century City office at the beginning of the decade. The office, which houses two lawyers, hasn't grown since.

Unlike Mintz Levin, Goodwin successfully expanded its offices without altering its premium billing rates. Instead, industry observers and firm leaders said Goodwin made a name for itself in Los Angeles by recruiting top-notch talent from a small pool of lawyers who already bill at high rates.


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