London’s Norton Rose Fulbright has lost 11 attorneys in its downtown L.A. office to rival firms this month, including the heads of its L.A. labor and employment and health care practices.

Both the firm and the departing attorneys said the moves were unrelated to the merger last month of Norton Rose and Fulbright & Jaworski, which formed Norton Rose Fulbright.

The departures drop Norton’s L.A. office attorney head count to 43, down from 54 at Fulbright & Jaworski before the merger. Norton did not have an L.A. presence prior to the merger.

The partner in charge of the office, Peter Mason, maintained in an emailed statement that Norton remains attractive for laterals and recruits.

“We are a very large law practice with many partners, and partners leave firms for a variety of reasons,” he said. “We also have had a number of talented partner lateral hires over the last year. Our enlarged global platform will further enhance our ability to attract and retain the top legal talent in the world.”

Winston & Strawn LLP poached six labor and employment attorneys from the firm last week, a group led by Marcus Torrano, who headed Norton Rose’s L.A. labor and employment practice and will co-chair Winston & Strawn’s L.A. labor and employment practice. Making the move with him were partners Michael Chamberlin and Julie Capell, and associates Amy McGinnis Gillinger, Julie Chen and Olivia N. Tran.

Torrano and Chamberlin cited Winston’s strong labor and employment practice and its West Coast growth plans as reasons for their move.

“If anything, the merger was a disincentive to the move,” Chamberlin said. “I was quite excited about it, but the opportunity with Winston was such a good opportunity.”

Their hires are the latest in a rapid string of additions at Winston’s downtown L.A. office. The Chicago firm has added 13 attorneys in Los Angeles and three in San Francisco since January, part of a concerted effort by firm leaders to grow its West Coast presence.

Office Managing Partner Eric Sagerman said he would like to add 20 attorneys a year until the outpost grows to about 100. The current office attorney head count is 63.

He is looking to hire attorneys who complement the firm’s practices on the East Coast, including intellectual property litigation, energy, private equity, complex litigation and antitrust.

“We’d like to achieve geographic balance with rest of the firm,” he said. “I like to think of it as ‘Winston on the move.’”

Earlier this month, Pepper Hamilton LLP added a group of five Norton health care attorneys, led by Partner Mark A. Kadzielski, who headed Norton’s L.A. health care practice and will now lead Pepper’s firmwide health care industry group.

Joining Kadzielski in his move to the downtown L.A. office of Philadelphia’s Pepper were Kristina Pervi Ayers, Tambry Lynette Bradford, Jee-Young Kim and Dayna C. Nicholson. Kadzielski said he was attracted by the chance to take a greater leadership role at Pepper. He, too, noted that the move was not related to his old firm’s recent merger.

“This was an opportunity to move to an outstanding national law firm and gave me a chance to become the head of a national health law practice,” he said.

The new group boosts the attorney head count at Pepper’s L.A. outpost to 10. The firm opened the office last year, but the outpost has grown slowly until now.

Gary Apfel, office managing partner, said he passed up opportunities to hire lateral partners, waiting instead for attorneys who fit the firm’s nationwide strengths in areas including health care, health effects litigation, white-collar litigation and corporate work.

“The market is pretty fluid right now to bring others on, but we were waiting for someone like Mark whose practice works as part of a national office,” he said.

San Francisco Expansion

Century City boutique Browne George Ross LLP has opened an office in San Francisco, its first branch outside Los Angeles.

The 28-year-old firm, specializing in business litigation, hired three attorneys – Joe Russoniello, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California; Andrew August; and Kevin Rooney – to launch the outpost this month.

Managing Partner Eric George had wanted to open a Northern California branch since taking the reins of the firm three years ago.

That became a real possibility when Russoniello and August told him privately that they were interested in joining the firm. George, who once clerked for a judge in the San Francisco area, has known Russoniello for years through Northern California legal circles, and he met August after the two squared off in a trial several years ago.

“The opportunity to open up an office with Joe and Andy was irresistible, whether it was San Francisco or some other city,” George said.

The move boosts the firm’s head count from 11 to 14. Though small in size, it handles many high-profile cases. Cases scheduled for trial this year include the defense of Creative Artists Agency founder Michael Ovitz in a civil case alleging his involvement in the Anthony Pellicano scandal.

The firm has also represented several investors in Indian casinos in their lawsuits against American Indian tribes, including West L.A. investor Kayne Saybrook Municipal Opportunities in a current lawsuit against the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians.

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

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