Attorney William Lancaster is suing Seyfarth Shaw LLP, claiming the law firm stripped him of his equity partnership status after alleged slip-ups in a case involving celebrity martial arts instructor Billy Blanks.

Lancaster, a commercial litigator who now works as an income partner in the firm’s Century City office, filed the suit Nov. 25 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Lancaster claims that Seyfarth forced him to relinquish his equity status – and instead made him an income partner with a reduced annual base salary of $250,000 – after a jury awarded Blanks $38.3 million in a legal malpractice suit against the firm in 2006. A state appellate court threw out the multimillion-dollar verdict this year.

Blanks originally hired Seyfarth to represent him in a dispute with Jeffrey Greenfield, his former business manager, to recover $10.6 million in commission that Blanks claimed Greenfield had kept without having the right to do so.

Lancaster then filed a suit on behalf of Blanks in Los Angeles Superior Court instead of with the state Labor Commission, as required by state law regulating talent agents, according to Blanks’ suit against Seyfarth. When the one-year statute of limitations expired, Blanks had no recourse.

The firm had pressured Lancaster to boost his billable hours, and Superior Court suits take longer than Labor Commission cases, said Michael Avenatti, a partner in the Newport Beach office of Eagan O’Malley & Avenatti LLP, who is representing Lancaster.

“This case is about the management of the firm placing the pursuit of profits over their client’s interest,” Avenatti said.

Seyfarth attorneys believe the suit is without merit and the firm will vigorously defend it, a Seyfarth spokesman said in a statement to the Business Journal.

Shifting Careers

When Rachael Wexler joined Goodwin Procter LLP nearly three years ago, she helped the Boston firm establish a presence in the L.A. legal market. But the corporate attorney has left Goodwin to help grow another business.

Wexler joined Sunlight Planet LLC last month, a consulting firm for renewable energy companies she co-founded with longtime business associate Paul Le Blanc.

“I left Goodwin to take advantage of what I believe are new existing market opportunities,” said Wexler, who is serving as chief executive of Sunlight Planet.

The Venice firm focuses on finding finance sources for owners and developers of large-scale renewable energy projects. Once a project gets funded, Sunlight Planet’s sister company helps manage the project to bring it in on time and within budget.


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