When London’s Norton Rose and Houston’s Fulbright & Jaworski merged in June to form Norton Rose Fulbright, the new firm’s downtown L.A. office was hit with significant exits. It quickly lost one-fifth of its attorneys, including the heads of its local health care, and labor and employment groups, to rival firms.
But firm leaders are looking to bounce back, starting with the recent addition of David Ben-Meir, a former partner at Alston & Bird’s downtown L.A. outpost. They’re counting on Ben-Meir to build out an intellectual property practice here for the firm.
“We were very sorry about the folks that left, but we are very excited about the prospects going forward,” said Peter Mason, partner in charge of Norton’s L.A. office. “We would not have been able to speak to a guy like David but for the combination.”
It is not uncommon for attorneys to leave after a merger due to client conflicts and other clashes, although those attorneys who left previously told the Business Journal the merger was not a factor in their decision.
The merger also offers opportunities, however. Ben-Meir, a patent litigation attorney with clients on both sides of the Pacific, cited Norton’s strong international presence and offices in Japan as a reason for joining.
“With my practice having a significant international component to it, particularly Asia focused and particularly in Japan, it looked like it could make a lot of sense for me,” he said. “To be the starting point for developing the IP practice here in Los Angeles was also very attractive to me.”
Ben-Meir’s addition brings the firm’s attorney count in Los Angeles to 44, still down from 54 before the merger. Mason said the office is looking to hire more lawyers, including other intellectual property attorneys and those handling cross-border transactional work. It has also placed a priority on hiring new labor and employment attorneys to replace the team of six it lost to Winston & Strawn.
When Sklar Kirsh formed in February, its co-founders were banking on a lot of corporate and real estate transactional work for middle-market clients, at rates cheaper than what traditional big law firms offer.
They say the model’s worked so far. The firm has grown to 14 attorneys, up from nine in February, and has now moved into a larger space, signing a long-term lease valued at $4 million for 10,000 square feet at 1880 Century Park East in Century City. The space, down the street from its old offices, is large enough to accommodate up to 25 attorneys.
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