Tony Canzoneri has merged his 35-year-old real estate law firm, Brown Winfield Canzoneri Abram Inc., with a Washington, D.C., firm in order to capitalize on development opportunities that the federal stimulus bill will bring.

Canzoneri and a team of 16 attorneys joined the downtown L.A. office of McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP.

"Being just a real estate firm required us to go outside for certain kinds of services because we now have clients who are in the estate planning and succession of business stages," Canzoneri said.

Canzoneri's clients, including L.A. real estate developer Jerry Snyder, will move with him.

The marriage comes at a difficult time for the legal industry. Firms are being hit by the economic downturn, and some are laying off associates and support staff in mass numbers to withstand the storm.

However, McKenna Long decided to add the group of Brown Winfield attorneys because the firm is gearing up for an influx of business as local real estate developers and contractors prepare to bid on the infrastructure projects that result from the federal economic stimulus package.

"The stimulus package is going to spend a lot of money on infrastructure projects and we needed a real estate component to support that," said Thomas Abbott, a partner in McKenna Long's local office who leads the firm's government contracts practice. "We are getting more calls from commercial contractors and developers who are interested in doing business with the government."

McKenna Long's area office dates to the 1980s, when the firm established a presence here to serve aerospace clients. The office expanded from aerospace and government contracts to real estate and environmental practices.

New Presence

It's no secret that Philadelphia's Blank Rome LLP has been in the market to open an L.A. office since last year.

The firm made it official March 2, when it announced the creation of an office in Century City with five new partners.

"We made it known that we were very interested and had met with a number of headhunters in Los Angeles over the months," said Carl Buchholz, Blank Rome chief executive. "We are excited to raise the Blank Rome flag in Los Angeles with this group of partners."

The lawyers Lawrence Hinkle, Andrew Kim, Warren Koshofer, Glen Rothstein and William Small specialize in litigation and real estate transactions.

Hinkle and Kim previously practiced together at the now-defunct Dreier Stein Kahan Browne Woods George LLP. Koshofer joins Blank Rome from Musick Peeler & Garrett LLP, while Small and Rothstein hail from Bingham McCutchen LLP and Rosenfeld Meyer & Susman LLP, respectively.

"It's exciting to be part of team-building something almost from scratch in Los Angeles," Hinkle said.

Hinkle, Kim and Rothstein also have entertainment clients. The trio represents actors, writers, producers and video game developers in a variety of matters, including intellectual property issues, right of privacy and right of publicity matters.

No Lawyer?

People who feel they need to turn to the courts to fight for their rights, but who can't afford an attorney, can now turn to the federal Pro Se Clinic for advice.

The clinic, which officially opened last week in the L.A. federal courthouse, is a joint venture by Proskauer Rose LLP and L.A.'s Public Counsel, the nation's largest pro bono public interest law firm.

In 2008, approximately 800 cases were filed by pro se litigants in the Central District of California which includes Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties. That doesn't include lawsuits from prisoners.

Hernan Vera, chief executive of Public Counsel, said the firm recognized the need for a clinic that helps people navigate the court system without an attorney.

"A lot of folks really have to
represent themselves to access their rights," Vera said.

Proskauer Rose donated $500,000 to fund the clinic. The money is from attorney fees that a team of the firm's lawyers was awarded after successfully arguing a civil rights case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case, which ended the racial segregation of inmates in California prisons, was brought by a prisoner who had been representing himself. The firm signed on as the suit advanced.

Bert Deixler, head of Proskauer Rose's Century City office, argued the case before the Supreme Court. He said the case is a prime example of why the federal Pro Se Clinic is needed in the courthouse.

"There are hundreds of cases where having a lawyer give direction will be critical to getting people on the right track and staying there," Deixler said.

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

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