Dan Grunfeld left his post as one of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s top policy advisors to join the Century City office of Kaye Scholer LLP.

But before Grunfeld starts his duties as co-chairman of the firm’s litigation department on Nov. 2, he’s fitting in some rest and relaxation.

“I’m going to head off to Vietnam for three weeks of bicycling and scuba diving,” Grunfeld said. “I think it’s my first vacation since my honeymoon 20 years ago.”

Grunfeld served for two years as the deputy chief of staff for policy in Villaraigosa’s administration for two years. He joined Villaraigosa’s office from the pro bono organization Public Counsel, where he served as chief executive for 10 years. Previously, he was a partner in the Century City office of McDermott Will & Emery LLP.

At Kaye Scholer, he will be focusing on green technology, alternative energy, media and entertainment law, health care and venture capital.

“You make decisions like this partly on objective criteria, but also based on your gut,” Grunfeld said. “And that’s the way I’ve made my decisions in the past. And Kaye Scholer just felt like the right place for me for the next chapter of my life.”

Stepping Down

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Larson surprised the legal community when he announced two weeks ago that he was stepping down to make more money in private practice.

In a letter to his colleagues, Larson said his resignation was due to the government’s failure to increase judicial salaries, and even the loss of cost of living adjustments.

“Over the course of the summer I started reflecting on it,” Larson said. “And it became clear that there wasn’t going to be a cost of living adjustment going forward.”

Federal district court judges make about $169,000 per year. By comparison, first-year associates at Los Angeles’ largest law firms make at least $160,000 per year.

Although Larson’s salary as a federal judge is still a hefty sum to the average American, he has seven children – ages 2 to 13. What’s more, Larson has been in public service for 18 years. He joined the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1991, and was appointed a magistrate judge in 2000 in the Central District’s Riverside division. President Bush nominated him to serve as a federal district court judge in 2005.

Since becoming a federal district court judge, Larson has overseen some high-profile cases including the protracted legal battle between Mattel Inc. and MGA Entertainment Inc. over the Bratz fashion dolls.

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