Raymond Kepner likes his view of downtown from Seyfarth Shaw’s offices.

Raymond Kepner likes his view of downtown from Seyfarth Shaw’s offices. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

For 35 years, the One Century Plaza building in Century City served as the only base of operations in the L.A. market for Chicago corporate law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

But by 2008, downtown Los Angeles became too important for Seyfarth Shaw to ignore. The area was quickly becoming the center of action for business transaction law, and labor and employment law, the bread-and-butter work for the firm. When it wanted to find additional attorneys with experience in these areas, Seyfarth Shaw had to look at other downtown law firms.

“We found that as we had conversations to attract corporate and real estate lawyers, they were downtown more often than not,” said Raymond Kepner, one of two managing partners in Seyfarth Shaw’s downtown office.

Indeed, in 2008, the company did recruit several attorneys from another firm in downtown. Most of them lived in communities closer to the area, such as Pasadena and Los Feliz, and joined up once they received a promise that Seyfarth Shaw would set up shop in downtown.

“These attorneys were not willing to go to Century City; that’s just too hard to get to with all the congestion on the Westside,” Kepner said.

But there were other reasons for Seyfarth Shaw to consider opening a downtown office. With all the new development, and entertainment and cultural attractions there, it was becoming a more attractive place to work and for employees to live.

“There was a renewed vibrancy to the downtown business community, and to the level of energy and activity downtown,” Kepner said.

In addition, many of Seyfarth Shaw’s clients in the financial services industry are also based downtown.

So, in early 2009, the firm signed a lease for 55,000 square feet on the 38th and 39th floors at 333 S. Hope St., the Bank of America Plaza building owned by Brookfield Properties Management LLC. The space had been occupied by another law firm, San Francisco-based Heller Ehrman, which dissolved in October 2008.

The deal, financial terms of which were not disclosed, came as a welcome relief for Brookfield, which had some understandable concerns about marketing the space amid the biggest economic meltdown since the Depression. The space ended up being vacant less than six months, however.

“It was a situation that could have been very bad for us,” said John Barganski, Brookfield vice president for leasing in Southern California. “But with this deal, we were able to mitigate our losses, so it was very welcome, indeed.”


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