For most of his 17 years at Sidley Austin LLP, Steve Ellis’ practice has consisted of two kinds of work: complex commercial litigation and consumer financial services litigation.
But in recent years, the L.A. office of his firm began to focus less on consumer financial services litigation, and defending companies involved in such suits dropped to about 10 percent of his business.
Now, Ellis, 46, has moved to become a partner at Goodwin Procter’s Century City office, which focuses heavily on consumer financial services litigation. That will allow for more of a 50-50 balance. Both he and the firm are noticing that the downturn has triggered a surge of such cases, especially class-action lawsuits against mortgage lenders.
“Goodwin has just such a broad array of contacts in the consumer financial services litigation space,” Ellis said, “that right from the start I’ll be able to use the skills I was able to develop at Sidley – as well as client contacts on the platform that Goodwin’s already built.”
Tom Hefferon, head of Goodwin’s consumer financial services litigation practice, said that Ellis’ addition was part of an effort to expand the Boston firm’s California presence.
“The two areas that we currently have and are growing in litigation (in Los Angeles) are the class-action practice as well as the commercial litigation practice,” Hefferon said. “Steve has a combination of experience in those areas. We look forward to practicing together.”
After 11 years at Winston & Strawn LLP, Evan Moses is moving to the downtown L.A. office of labor and employment law firm Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC as a shareholder.
The Atlanta-based firm has 40 offices and only represents management in labor and employment disputes. The bulk of Moses’ practice will continue to be defending wage-and-hour cases. A press statement by Cheryl Schreck, managing shareholder of the firm’s downtown office, cited Moses’ “wide knowledge of employment law, particularly with respect to wage-and-hour class actions.”
But he also cross-specializes in disputes involving intellectual capital, such as theft of trade secrets and breach of noncompetition and nonsolicitation agreements.
“It’s one of the big trends,” he said. “Because of the economy and California’s tech bubble bursting, employers are aggressively seeking to protect intellectual capital and employees, sometimes inadvertently, are taking intellectual capital to find that next job.”
Moses, 38, said his specialization in those kinds of cases was born partly out of personal curiosity. He also lectures on the legal issues that social media presents for employers.
“I’m a bit of a technology wonk, which is rare for an employment attorney,” he said. “But now it’s taking off.”
His clients are in the retail, cosmetics, pharmaceutical and technology industries, among others, and include Fortune 500 companies.
When Guy Halgren took over as chairman of L.A.-based Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP in 2001, the firm had four offices, all of them in California. Since then, he’s overseen the opening of seven more offices, including in Washington, D.C.; New York; and Shanghai, China. The number of attorneys has grown from about 290 to 535 along the way.
The last such expansion was in 2008 in Silicon Valley, and that office has been so successful – having grown from four to 14 attorneys – that it’s already moving into larger digs. Last week, the Silicon Valley office moved from Menlo Park to a larger space in downtown Palo Alto that can house about 30 attorneys. The firm plans to move to an even bigger space next November to allow it to meet its target size of 50 to 60 attorneys within the next five years.
“We never open an office with the hope that business will come but we listen to our clients and try to open offices where we can best serve them,” Halgren said.
The Palo Alto office’s primary practice groups are intellectual property, corporate and litigation, said Marc Sockol, the office’s managing partner.
“Sheppard Mullin really does understand the California emerging growth and venture capital legal needs and markets,” he said. “So to better service those communities it recognized it needed an office in Silicon Valley.”
The office’s clients include Yahoo Inc., Aviat Networks, Electronic Arts Inc. and Marvell Technology Group Ltd., Sockol said.
Staff reporter Alfred Lee can be reached at email@example.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 221.
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