The L.A. office of Latham & Watkins, the region’s biggest law firm by revenue, has made its first two partner hires of the year in John M. Pierce and Scott A. McPhee.

Pierce is a trial lawyer coming from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. McPhee, a real estate finance attorney, hails from Morrison & Foerster.

Latham has added seven lateral partners in Los Angeles in roughly two years, most of them younger than 45. Office Managing Partner Jim Beaubien said the hires are designed to maintain the firm’s brand and market share in coming decades. Pierce is 41 and McPhee is 42.

“We were the firm’s first office, which means demographically we have had kind of an older partner base and we are in the process of replenishing that,” said Beaubien, 51. “You’ll notice our lateral partner hires are not people in their 50s. They’re very strong young partners in their late 30s and early 40s who’ll practice for the next 15 or 20 years.”

Pierce has litigated cases for financial institutions including Charles Schwab and Morgan Stanley, and has obtained verdicts, retrial judgments and settlements totaling more than $292 million. He said that he made the jump to Latham in part to take advantage of its large transactional practice.

“The depth and breadth of the transactional practice, the kinds of clients and the major deals they work on, will obviously present opportunities for litigators both with respect to disputes that may arise from transactions and simply from the standpoint of building relationships with those clients,” he said.

The firm lists 210 attorneys in Los Angeles on its website, down from 249 it reported to the Business Journal in 2012. Beaubien attributed the decline to attrition and partner retirements. He expects the head count to remain north of 200 for the next five to 10 years.

New Bankruptcy Service

Bankruptcy work has slowed amid the national drop in bankruptcy filings. But the lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell and Shulman Hodges & Bastian believe there’s demand in the market for dispute resolution services for bankruptcy-related litigation.

The firms have jointly launched 9019 BAM, an arbitration and mediation service specializing in bankruptcy and commercial litigation. (The name is a reference to a section of the federal bankruptcy code dealing with arbitration, 9019; BAM stands for Bankruptcy Arbitration and Mediation.)

Based in Century City, it’s already contracting with a panel of arbitrators and mediators at law firms in several California cities. Rates will be split between panelists and 9019 BAM, which is indirectly owned by the two firms.

John A. Graham, a partner at Jeffer Mangels and co-manager of 9019 BAM, said he saw a need for the service as no other alternative dispute resolution services focus exclusively on bankruptcy and commercial litigation.

“Everybody knows there’s been a drop-off in bankruptcy business,” said Graham, 63. “But concomitant with that is the fact that the people who are litigating are all looking to be smart and cost-effective, and to make sure that if you’re going to invest money in complex litigation, you haven’t missed the opportunity to settle or narrow a case.”

Startup Attorney Move

Seattle law firm Perkins Coie is known for its experience with technology and startup companies, with clients including Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. As competition between law firms for startup work in Los Angeles heats up, it’s picked up partner Jonathan F. Atzen to bolster the emerging companies and venture capital practice in its Century City office.

Atzen, 49, is a corporate attorney representing emerging and public companies and previously worked at downtown L.A. firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton. With Silicon Valley firms such as Cooley and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati moving into Los Angeles, he said he felt it was best to move to a firm with a national technology platform.

“My move was related to linking up with a firm that’s a little more technology industry focused,” he said. “Given the incredible growth in L.A. in the tech sector and the emerging venture capital sector, I thought I should be on that kind of platform.”

Perkins Coie’s Century City office has about 55 attorneys, up from 39 in 2008.

Ron McIntire, 53, office managing partner, said the firm is looking to hire attorneys in practice areas including white collar, labor and employment, litigation and corporate.

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

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