At 77 years old, real estate attorney Dick Volpert is past the age when most law firms would be expected to jockey for his services.

Yet earlier this month, 100-plus attorney Century City firm Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro LLP announced it had hired Volpert away from Munger Tolles & Olson LLP as a senior partner.

“I might bring a different perspective here as they grow and expand,” Volpert said. “Given most law firms are ushering out anyone over 65, all my friends told me they’re amazed.”

Volpert is a notable veteran of real estate law who has been involved in several major developments in more than 50 years of practice. In recent years, he has represented the County of Los Angeles and the Disney family in the construction of Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in its $75 million purchase of Union Station. He also continues to advise the county in relation to the $3 billion Grand Avenue project.

In addition to continuing his practice, Volpert will take on more of a leadership role at his new firm, providing input on firm management issues.

Name partner Patty Glaser called the hiring a “complete no-brainer.”

“We get the dean of the real estate bar in Los Angeles, maybe the country,” she said. “There’s a trend we’d like to start of welcoming with open arms wonderfully talented lawyers who have experience, whether they’re 65 or 77.”

Volpert’s hiring marks the first lateral partner move to Glaser Weil since the firm brought on a team of intellectual property litigators last year. Glaser said she has been wary of growing the firm too much beyond its current head count, but is currently looking to add mid-level litigation associates.

Health Care Hires

One firm that continues to try to grow in Los Angeles is Washington, D.C.-based Crowell & Moring LLP, which launched a downtown L.A. office in 2008 with eight attorneys. This month, the firm poached health care partners Kevin Kroeker, Peter Roan and Scott J. Moore from Locke Lord LLP, boosting its local head count to nearly 30 attorneys.

Crowell has been on the hunt for more health care partners in California to complement its health care practice in D.C. Last year, it added a team of seven health care attorneys to its San Francisco office. Kroeker and his cohorts, meanwhile, had been looking to team up with a firm with a strong presence in D.C.

“As health care has developed over the last few years, it’s becoming more and more of a federal regulatory practice,” Kroeker said. “And we found the L.A. office of Crowell & Moring to be dynamic and growing, and being a part of this particular office was attractive.”

Kroeker, 53, represents health care companies in transactions, with a focus on the fast-growing managed care industry. He said he expects more work from the ongoing trend of consolidation in the industry as large insurance companies look to acquire managed care companies.

Jason Murray, managing partner of Crowell’s L.A. office, said the office is looking to continue to grow in its current core practices of white collar defense, antitrust, government contracts, health care and litigation. He also wants to add intellectual property and corporate practices down the line.

“It’s really just a part of a bigger story for the firm growing in California and especially growing in Los Angeles, and we intend to continue doing that,” he said.

Music Industry Veteran

Another Washington, D.C., firm that’s grown in Los Angeles in recent years is Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

Since opening a second local office in Century City in 2006, its head count in the area has grown from about 15 attorneys to more than 50. Almost all of that growth has come out of Century City, which houses several practice groups and also serves entertainment industry clients.

The firm’s latest addition is entertainment litigator Harvey Geller, formerly deputy general counsel and head of litigation at Santa Monica’s Universal Music Group. He started this month.

At Universal, Geller was at the forefront of major legal issues involving the music industry, working on landmark intellectual property cases against file-sharing services including Napster, LimeWire and Grokster. He left Universal in March amidst a management shakeup.

Geller said he joined Steptoe because it is committed to expending resources in Los Angeles, and also has a presence in New York and D.C., two other hubs of intellectual property legal work. At Steptoe, he will continue to work with music industry clients as well as other media and entertainment companies. He said he expects more intellectual property battles as content companies try to figure out ways to monetize the Internet.

“There are going to be some battles along the way,” he said. “Television companies, studios, gaming companies, everybody needs to learn how to navigate the new world.”

Mark Neubauer, managing partner of Steptoe’s Century City office, said Geller was well suited to meet the changing needs of entertainment industry clients.

“He is someone who’s very familiar with all the challenges in all forms of new media,” he said. “This is certainly one of the fastest moving areas of the economy.”

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

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