The addition of James R. Evans Jr. to the downtown L.A. office of Alston & Bird LLP marks another sign of the Atlanta firm’s aggressive growth plans here.

Alston’s downtown office has grown from about 60 to 85 attorneys since opening four years ago through a merger with Weston Benshoof, and those numbers are expected to continue upward.

Thomas Wingard, partner in charge of the L.A. office, said he expects the outpost to round out to between 100 and 125 attorneys in the next three to five years. Evans’ hiring follows the addition of environmental litigator Mark D. Johnson in September and finance partners Matthew J. Wrysinski and David A. Barksdale in the first half of the year. Wingard said he will likely announce one more lateral partner hiring by year’s end, and is looking to hire more in the corporate, intellectual property, health care, environmental and tax areas, among others.

Evans, previously a partner in the downtown L.A. office of Houston’s Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, first received an offer to join up with Alston about two years ago but turned it down, deciding to wait to see how things would shake out at the firm postmerger.

The 53-year-old visited the firm again this year and was convinced.

“As I looked at where I was going to spend the next 15 years, or last third of my practice, it became clear to me that Alston had a tremendous office and resources in Los Angeles that are significantly greater than those than I had at Fulbright,” he said.

Evans’ former employer has seen firmwide financial struggles and contraction in its L.A. office. Those considerations, as well as the potential distraction of a merger announced last month between Fulbright and London firm Norton Rose, were also factors, he added.

Fulbright reported 73 L.A. attorneys to the Business Journal in 2008 and now has 54 listed on its website. Nationally, its firmwide revenue was $695 million in 2008 and fell to $598 million in 2011.

Entertainment Beachhead

Another national firm with big plans for Los Angeles is Philadelphia’s Fox Rothschild LLP, which has grown from nine attorneys in Century City in 2009 to 38 attorneys today, some of them in a second office that’s since opened in downtown Los Angeles.

The firm has added family law, corporate and litigation attorneys, but growth has also come from its work with entertainment clients, which began three years ago with the hiring of Darrell D. Miller.

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