Four years ago, Sheldon Eisenberg decided to leave St. Louis-based Bryan Cave LLP, where he was a partner and leader of the L.A. litigation practice group, to start his own firm.

He recruited some of his Bryan Cave cohorts to form Eisenberg Raizman Thurston & Wong LLP, a Westwood boutique that he hoped would grow into a force in complex litigation. But Eisenberg admits now that he didn’t foresee the difficulties a six-attorney firm would have in landing large commercial cases.

“We were extremely busy when we started off, but by the end of 2009 it was clear that we were not growing the way we wanted to,” the 53-year-old said. “Having a large national firm behind you is an advantage. General counsel can tell CEOs that large firms are handling a $20 million or $30 million matter, as opposed to six good folks at this firm Eisenberg Raizman.”

So the firm began looking around late last year to fold into a larger firm. As a result, all six attorneys joined the Century City office of Philadelphia-based Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP earlier this month. They brought with them a collective book of business worth about $4 million.

Drinker Biddle opened its Century City office earlier this year after recruiting noted litigators George Caplan and Henry Shields Jr. away from Irell & Manella LLP. Eisenberg and his fellow name partner, David Raizman, knew Caplan and Shields from their own days at Irell and heard from them that Drinker Biddle was looking to build out its Century City office.

The addition of the Eisenberg Raizman group means Drinker Biddle’s L.A. presence has grown from three to 15 attorneys this year.

Andrew Kassner, the firm’s managing partner, said that the firm has targeted Los Angeles for growth. More moves could come in the next six months. The core work will be representing companies in labor and other business disputes, with an emphasis on the media and entertainment industry.

“Our strategic plan now calls for us to focus in California,” he said. “We really need to make sure we have the support and excellent litigation capability on the West Coast.”

Big Case Connection

Chicago-based Jenner & Block LLP is another national law firm seeking to expand its L.A. presence. The recent addition of former Kirkland & Ellis partner Nick Saros marks the 15th attorney and first patent litigator in the downtown L.A. office since it opened in April 2009.

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