Venable LLP continued its expansion into Southern California with the addition of eight tax and estate planning attorneys to the firm's Century City outpost.

The attorneys Brad Cohen, Michael Foster, Robin Gilden, David Schwartz, Michael Luftman, Charles Kolstad, Kyle Neal and Richard Luftman joined the Washington, D.C.-based firm two weeks ago. Seven of the attorneys came from Reish Luftman Reicher & Cohen, which is now Reish & Reicher; the eighth, Neal, joined from Freeman Freeman & Smiley LLP.

"We have bucked the trend of either no growth or the inverse of growth," said Douglas Emhoff, partner-in-charge of Venable's Century City office. "We have managed to continue to grow this office despite the economy, and we are happy about that."

With these most recent additions, Venable has expanded its Century City office from 20 to 47 attorneys since it opened in 2006. Just since January, the firm has added labor and employment litigator Rebecca Aragon and intellectual property attorney George Borkowski.

Cohen said he'd thought about joining Venable for two years, but had some reservations about enlisting at a national law firm. A friend who works there had discussed the matter with him over the years and he was ultimately convinced despite earlier doubts.

"It's my first time at a larger firm," Cohen said. "I was unsure about how that would impact the way I practice."

Cohen and the seven attorneys who joined Venable with him advise companies and individuals in the entertainment industry on tax issues. They also help non-profits navigate the tax rules that govern such organizations.

Sibling Rivalry

Thanks to the City of Hope, high-profile intellectual property attorney Morgan Chu is keeping up the competition with his brother Steven, the U.S. secretary of energy.

The Duarte research and treatment center for cancer and diabetes gave Chu an honorary doctorate at its commencement ceremony June 12.

"I was kidding a little bit about sibling rivalry because my brother Steve was the commencement speaker a number of years ago at the City of Hope," Morgan Chu said after the ceremony. "But he didn't receive an honorary degree from them. They didn't give him an honorary degree because he didn't have a sufficient body of work."

Steven Chu was at the ceremony to hear his brother's jokes, along with a noticeable entourage.

"There were a bunch of security people with plugs in their ears," Morgan Chu said.

The City of Hope is a longtime client of Irell & Manella LLP, the Century City firm where Morgan Chu is a partner.

The intellectual property attorney represented the City of Hope in its battle with biotech company Genentech Inc. over how royalties should be paid for company-funded work by two City of Hope researchers. Chu and a team of Irell lawyers won more than $475 million for the research center in 2008.

Legal Maneuvering

Bryan Cave LLP has beefed up its ability to represent financial institutions with the addition of attorney Doug Thompson.

Before joining the firm's Santa Monica office June 4, Thompson had spent 11 years as an in-house attorney for Countrywide Financial Corp. including a stint as managing director of the litigation department. After Bank of America purchased Countrywide in 2008, Thompson helped integrate the home lender's litigation department with Bank of America's and then left.

Thompson said the time he spent defending Countrywide in class-action lawsuits, combined with his experience as an in-house attorney, will allow him to better serve Bryan Cave's clients.

"I have the ability to provide the insights that I built up over the years, which will facilitate in providing excellent service and an understanding of what in- house lawyers' needs are," he said.

Bryan Cave attorneys represent financial institutions, and the St. Louis-based firm has a financial crisis response team that represents clients in litigation, government investigations and bankruptcy proceedings.

Bryan Cave served as one of the outside law firms that Thompson would contract with at Countywide.

"I was attracted by the number of things the firm offers," he said, "its strong national platform for class-action and commercial litigation representation, and its substantial experience representing financial institutions."



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

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