Two years ago, mortgage-backed securities started losing their value as home loan borrowers couldn't make their payments when their teaser rates ticked up.

This means the time is at hand for covered bonds. These are securities backed by cash assets from mortgages or public sector loans. Covered bonds are considered less risky than mortgage-backed securities because the mortgages remain on the bank's balance sheet rather than being sold onto the market as securities.

As a result of this trend, Los Angeles-based Buchalter Nemer LLP is launching a covered bonds practice group to help the firm's real estate clients navigate the financial structure of covered bonds.

The new group, made up of lawyers from the firm's real estate, tax, business practices and financial solutions departments, will work with clients to establish proper procedures for the purchase of covered bonds.

L.A. partners Joshua Mogin and Michael Williamson are co-heading the group.

Although Buchalter Nemer has started the group to serve clients from residential real estate industry, Williamson and Mogin said the firm is also expecting that covered bonds will become part of the commercial real estate sector.

"Two years ago, commercial mortgage-backed securities were one of the predominant sources of financing for office, retail and industrial loans," Williamson said. "When the securitization market dried up, those sources of funds dried up. And the next logical step is to apply covered bonds to the commercial real estate finance market."

Solo Appeal

Los Angeles lawyer Daniel Koes has been practicing appellate law his entire 10-year legal career at two L.A. firms.

Now he's opening his own appellate firm, the Law Offices of Daniel J. Koes.

"The main reason I started my own firm was to be able to handle cases that I want to handle, and to be able to offer clients the service of handling an appeal from the beginning," Koes said.

Koes left Minnesota in 1997 after graduating from law school and interned at the California Court of Appeals in Los Angeles. After passing the bar, he started working at litigation boutique Robie & Matthai LLP.

"It was a little bit of a struggle to come to L.A. and try to find a job in the appellate field right away," Koes said. "It was hard to find a firm that would allow someone the opportunity to do appellate work."

So far, Koes has made a career out of doing solely appellate work. He is handling an appeal for financial planning and investment firm Universal Trading & Investment Co.

Koes is representing Universal in their appeal of a judge's ruling over its ability to sue a foreign official. The case involves Pavlo Ivanovych Lazarenko, the former prime minister of Ukraine who was put on trial for money laundering, corruption and fraud in San Francisco federal court. He was convicted of stealing $114 million while in office, and attempting to hide $21 million in American banks.

Koes said he was contacted to serve as an appellate lawyer in the federal case through a referral.

"It's an interesting case," he said. "I like these types of cases where I am representing the underdog. Those are the most challenging cases because I am always fighting."

Mock Trial

A group of inner-city students from Heart of Los Angeles' youth development program mastered their trial skills when they got the chance to play lawyers for one day.

The students participated in a mock trial two weeks ago in the courtroom of federal judge Consuelo Marshall. The trial topped off a nine-week training session by lawyers from Bingham McCutchen LLP. Warren Rissier, a partner at Bingham, organized the event.

Fifteen Bingham lawyers taught the students how to prosecute and defend one of their peers, who was accused of setting off firecrackers in a school locker but claimed he was framed.

The 10 students were divided into two groups, and served as prosecutors and defense lawyers. During the trial, they gave opening statements, examined four witnesses and gave closing arguments.

A group of local executives served as jurors, including Bingham consultant and former Mayor Richard Riordan; Peter Marco, vice president of business and legal affairs for Fox Cable Networks; and Tim McNeil, vice president of talent development and diversity for Disney-ABC Television Group.

Riordan served as the jury foreman, and delivered the verdict of not guilty.

"It was great to see their confidence build during the nine weeks as they learned more about trial advocacy," Rissier said. "To see them perform in a real court in front of a judge with a distinguished group of jurors was really impressive."

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

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