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.

Miller, then the only entertainment attorney in the office, built out what he called a “proof of concept” entertainment practice group, bringing in several attorneys throughout the country. Last month, the firm launched its 11-attorney national entertainment department, with Miller, 49, as its chairman.

“I needed internally to let the firm know that entertainment was a viable business and it could be a player in the space,” he said. “I’m proud to say we’re now much bigger.”

He said he hopes to grow the department to 20 to 25 attorneys in the next three to five years, and is looking to hire entertainment dealmakers and sports attorneys.

In October, the firm hired Jody Simon, previously managing partner of Beverly Hills entertainment boutique Peter Rubin & Simon LLP.

Fashion Group

West L.A. firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP is known primarily for its strength in entertainment law. But work in the fashion industry has picked up in recent years, prompting the recent formation of a new fashion industry practice group.

Patricia Benson, group co-chairwoman, said fashion clients are all facing special challenges in immigration, labor and employment, trademark law and other areas.

The new group culls about 20 attorneys from different practice areas, mostly in Los Angeles and New York, to address those issues.

“It developed out of a realization that the fashion practice should have an interdisciplinary focus that caters to what are fairly complex needs,” she said.

Benson declined to name clients. The attorneys have also started a fashion law blog and might hire lateral partners. Last month, Ariel Weindling, former president of Philip Simon Footwear Group in Vernon, joined the firm as of counsel.

Staff reporter Alfred Lee can be reached at alee@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 221.

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