Nossaman LLP has boosted its insurance law practice with the addition of Joan Cotkin and Terry Leuin.

Cotkin and Leuin, who joined the downtown L.A. firm last week as partners, represent policyholders in high-stakes insurance coverage litigation, including directors’ and officers’ coverage disputes and bad faith litigation. The attorneys previously practiced together at Cotkin Law Group in downtown Los Angeles.

Cotkin said she and Leuin opted to join Nossaman in an effort to grow their practice while offering existing clients the legal resources of a larger firm.

“Our existing firm was so small that it was hard to attract the larger cases,” Cotkin said. “And with the work we’ve done with existing clients, we wanted to expand the services that we can provide.”

Nossaman houses about 150 attorneys in its seven U.S. offices. While the firm handles health care, financial services and insurance coverage matters, it is best known for expertise on public infrastructure projects and water issues.

Cotkin and Leuin have practiced together for more than 20 years. Cotkin has spent the majority of her legal career handling insurance-related cases, while Leuin focuses on both insurance law, product liability litigation and real estate matters.

Throughout the years, Cotkin said that she and Leuin started representing insurance companies in litigation but have since shifted to representing policyholders. She believes the experience of handling cases for companies and policyholders gives her and Leuin an edge.

“I find it helpful to be able to see both sides of the issue,” Cotkin said.

Merging Boutiques

Partners at boutique law firms Petillon Hiraide & Loomis and Zagzebski Brothers have merged their practices and formed Petillon Hiraide Loomis Zagzebski & Zagzebski LLP.

The new firm, which launched in March, houses six attorneys in downtown Los Angeles and Torrance, and focuses on general business litigation, corporate and securities matters, and transactional work such as mergers and acquisitions.

Senior Partner Lee Petillon said the merger will allow him and his partners to take on more cases.

“There are certain matters that we were capable of handling,” Petillon said. “But we felt that if we had a little more heft, then we might be able to bring in more matters and clients.”

For example, he added that he is helping form four different private equity funds at the same time, which would have been a difficult task to handle before the firm’s merger.

“I’m not sure I could have handled that by myself,” Petillon said. “But now we can handle those kinds of matters.”

The merger between the two firms also comes at a time when the Securities and Exchange Commission is tightening regulations. As a result, Mark Hiraide, a name partner at the new firm whose practice includes representing local companies in regulatory matters, said he expects to see an increase in case load.

“The SEC, in the last couple of years, and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and other regulators has stepped up their game,” he said. “And we foresaw the demand in the area we’ve been practicing in.”

The partners plan to grow the firm by bringing in some younger associates, although Petillon said the attorneys don’t plan to expand too much.

“We don’t want to be a big firm,” Petillon said. “I think we enjoy the freedom of a smaller firm.”

Covering Risk

When Kevin Martin left Bingham McCutchen LLP to start an insurance company, he wasn’t necessarily leaving the legal world behind.

That’s because Martin’s new venture, Sonoma Risk Insurance Agency, provides insurance that protects plaintiffs from financial exposure in contract litigation.

For example, when parties in a contract become involved in litigation, there’s often a clause that allows the prevailing party to recover attorney fees. A Sonoma Risk policy covers the attorney fees that the losing side would have to pay.

Martin said the idea for Sonoma Risk emerged from his days as a litigator, when he realized that litigation arising out of contract disputes was financially risky for the parties involved.

“It’s helpful to litigants because it provides them with budgeting certainty,” Martin said. “They know that a major unknown risk is now covered.”

A leading investor in Sonoma Risk is Zurich in North America, a unit of Swiss insurance giant Zurich Financial Services. Sonoma Risk’s board includes local business executives and lawyers from some of L.A.’s top firms.

“Zurich is one of the leading providers of malpractice insurance to lawyers,” Martin said. “And we recognized that Zurich offered us the ability, experience and know-how to teach us and make attorneys aware of the program.”

Martin said Sonoma Risk is targeting attorneys, encouraging them to talk to their clients about the benefits of the policy, which is primarily being sold through Kansas City, Mo.-based independent insurance brokerage Lockton Inc. However, the company is focusing on building its own sales force.

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