The Century City office of Chicago’s Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP just landed three new partners – but they won’t be there long. That’s because Bill Freeman, Jan Cate and Brad Wolf will be opening a downtown L.A. office for the firm in the next two months.

The three partners are part of a high-profile bankruptcy and finance team that has jumped from New York-based Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. The team also includes Craig Barbarosh, who will split time between New York and a new Orange County office, and Karen Dine in New York.

Freeman, 49, said the new downtown outpost will enable him and the other new hires to better assist their financial services clients. The team is finalizing a move to a Class A building downtown.

“I think there is a huge benefit in being close to the bank clients, private-equity funds and financial institutions,” he said. “I didn’t want to be in Century City and we all felt we ought to be downtown where they are.”

Barbarosh, 44, said he met with a recruiter at the beginning of the year who facilitated the move.

“We weren’t looking, but we were sort of in the back of our minds thinking it was time to explore our options,” he said. “I wanted to see what was out there and whether there was a better platform for what we do.”

He declined to give the team’s book of business but said it was “consistently one of the largest books of business at Pillsbury for the last decade.”

Joshua D. Wayser, managing partner of the 75-attorney Century City office, said that the new hires would play to Katten’s national strengths in commercial finance, lender representation and insolvency. He added that he expects the new office will grow and attract talent.

“In Los Angeles if you’re a Westside of-fice, half the talent pool isn’t available to you,” he said. “So it’s great for us to have a downtown presence.”

Bunker Hill Lawyer

For decades, John H. Welborne has been the face of Angels Flight Railway in downtown Los Angeles. He led years of efforts to reopen the long-defunct Bunker Hill railway in 1996. After a crash in 2001 killed a passenger, he oversaw resolution of the resulting litigation, and raised millions of dollars for repairs and upgrades. The funicular reopened in 2010.

But before he stepped into the non-profit world, Welborne was a practicing attorney at Adams Duque & Hazeltine, which has since dissolved. Now that Angels Flight has reopened, he’s spent more time practicing law again, and recently joined downtown law firm Hill Farrer & Burrill LLP as of counsel.

“We’ve been back in operation and (Angels Flight) no longer requires that much time and attention,” said Welborne, 64.

At Hill Farrer, he will focus on real estate and land-use issues for both for-profit and non-profit clients. He also still works with non-profits seeking assistance in their corporate and management affairs.

Welborne’s new office is just steps away from Angels Flight.

“I will say that when the partners started talking to me, the convenience was not lost on me,” he said.

Web Launch

The web presence of many big and midsize firm lawyers doesn’t go much beyond the bio page of their firm’s website. So it’s curious that Jim Butler, an already well-established name in hospitality law and the chairman of the global hospitality group at Century City firm Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP, would feel the need to launch a separate website, HotelLawyer.com.

The new site hosts blog posts, resources for potential clients, and brochures and other information about his practice group.

“We are one of the biggest sources of traffic to the firm website and vice versa,” he said. “This is not in competition, but this is a very significant practice area.”

But does this kind of thing actually result in business? Butler, 50, said it does, naming two clients building upscale hotels in Sri Lanka and India that he signed after they came across the website and contacted his group.

He also said there’s a larger reason, to position himself as a resource for a certain kind of client.

“HotelLawBlog, and now HotelLaywer.com are part of our efforts to even the playing field for owners, developers and lenders, and to alert them to pitfalls, opportunities and resources,” he said.

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

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.