Attorney Paul Aronzon reported for his first day of work in the Los Angeles office of Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCoy LLP on a Monday. That was the day New York financial giant Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Before Aronzon had time to get settled into his new office, he was on a red-eye to New York to vie for the position representing the Lehman Bros. creditors committee.

By Wednesday, the committee hired Milbank Tweed for consulting on the corporation's postbankruptcy petition financing, the sale of its assets and tax issues related to the restructuring.

Aronzon rejoined Milbank Tweed after spending two and half years as head of L.A.-based Imperial Capital LLC's restructuring advisory services department. He had worked at Milbank Tweed's L.A. office for 17 years before joining Imperial Capital.

"Being back at a firm like Milbank, which has a great reputation and a Wall Street presence, was important to me because I did see this downturn coming," Aronzon said. "And I wanted to be in a position to capture some of the biggest cases that come out of it."

Other Los Angeles restructuring lawyers are reaping the benefits of a distressed financial market.

Robbin Itkin, a restructuring lawyer in the Los Angeles office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, is working overtime advising clients who have a lot of shares in distressed companies, including Lehman Bros. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Itkin represents both creditors and debtors. And she is advising clients that are preparing for a postbailout economy, which is likely to be filled with new government regulations.

"A lot of our people are approached with 'What should we be doing, what's next?'" Itkin said.

Guantanamo Detainee

Litigator Charles Patterson is a former Marine who handled a number of court martial trials in the '60s and '70s. So he knows his way around a military courtroom.

Still, defending Saudi national Jabran al-Qatani, who was arrested in Pakistan and is being detained in Guantanamo Bay on charges of conspiracy and aiding terrorism, poses special challenges.

"Like many of the detainees, he has been interrogated by the military, CIA and FBI numerous times," Patterson said. "So, he has a problem with trusting me and his military counsel. He thinks it's another interrogation."

Patterson, a partner in the L.A. office of Morrison & Foerster LLP, started representing al-Qatani pro bono in 2005 after the American College of Trial Lawyers asked him to look into the case. A team of about 12 Morrison & Foerster lawyers are working alongside Patterson.

Since Patterson began defending al-Qatani, he has made five trips to meet with the 30-year-old electrical engineer.

Morrison & Foerster lawyers have also represented John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban" who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring to kill U.S. nationals and aiding al-Qaeda.

BID Battle

When William Little learned that his rent-controlled 30-unit apartment was going to be included in the Hollywood Entertainment District, he filed a petition in August to object.

Little's property, on Yucca Street at the northeastern edge of Hollywood, is part of an area that was added to the Hollywood Entertainment District last month. The building was added because a repair shop does business there.

In September, property owners endorsed, and the Los Angeles City Council approved, an extension and expansion of the BID. Little filed a lawsuit in L.A. state court as a result.

In his suit, Little claims his property should not be included in the business improvement district, and he should not be charged a property assessment fee because the property is zoned as an apartment building.

"This building doesn't get any benefit from the BID," said Mitchel Ezer, a Century City-based attorney who is representing Little in the suit.

Once a property is included in the BID, the owner is charged a property assessment that pays for services like security and sidewalk cleanup. Ezer said Little's assessment fee would total about $15,000 a year.

The executive director of the BID, Kerry Morrison, said Little is the only person to object.

Food Work

Los Angeles appellate lawyers Alicia Pell and Margaret Thomas wanted to get the legal community involved in fighting hunger, so the Horvitz & Levy LLP associates organized the Motion to Strike Hunger campaign to raise funds and collect canned food for the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank.

Pell and Thomas started rallying support from former colleagues and current clients. Ten law firms, including Encino-based Horvitz, participated in the campaign alongside local non-profit Liberty Hill Foundation and Santa Monica-based real estate investment trust Douglas Emmett Inc.

Pell said the Foodbank had received just under $3,000 in donations, which translates into about 12,000 meals.

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

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