L.A. businesses are increasingly soured by the daunting waiting game that is California’s Superior Court, so much so that several companies have recently opted to take their disputes to private mediation and arbitration firms.

Litigator Roy Jimenez, partner in the Long Beach offices of Tredway Lumsdaine & Doyle, said a growing number of his cases are resolved at firms like Jams, an Irvine-based mediation and arbitration services provider. Jimenez and numerous other L.A. attorneys say the waiting period at the Superior Court remains a nagging thorn in the side of businesses.

“Just to do regular mundane things, you’re looking at a hearing date maybe 30 to 60 days out,” Jimenez said. “I just filed a complaint last week and it’s not going to be heard until June 2015, and that’s just to make sure things can move forward.”

To keep up with demand, Jams opened its own courtroom in downtown Los Angeles in August. The firm’s Los Angeles Resolution Center, which now includes the courtroom, moved from the Aon Center to the 32nd floor of downtown’s Gas Company Tower, adding five more conference rooms designed for mediation and mock trials.

Such proceedings used to occur inside standard conference rooms, but the new courtroom offers clear demarcations for claimants and respondents. It also includes a witness stand, court reporter’s desk and separate rooms for jury deliberation.

The goal is to cater to clients who seek a traditional courtroom atmosphere, said Gina Miller, Jams vice president of the west region.

“For years, we’ve been getting cases – things like mock trials and appellate arguments – and what clients do is they rebuild the conference room,” Miller said. “They set it up like a courtroom or they rent space in a hotel and set that up like a courtroom.”

But the fresh digs enhance the process far beyond today’s L.A. courtrooms. Also featured are several 90-inch high-definition TVs and modern technology that connects to computers and tablets.

So far, the mock courtroom has been a hit.

“The first day we opened, the courtroom was booked,” Miller said. “It has been extremely popular and I absolutely believe our business will continue to grow.”

Recruiting Young

Law firms have always sought to attract the best and brightest law school grads, but Vince Farhat, partner in the downtown L.A. offices of Holland & Knight, heads a program that taps into a pool of younger prospects – Boy Scouts.

This Saturday, Farhat will host 70 Scouts at Loyola Law School for the second annual Law Day. The program is intended to teach Scouts the basics of the U.S. legal system, some legal history and introduce them to a handful of local professionals.

Former Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley will be the keynote speaker and the young men will later participate in a mock trial: the People v. Jack (from “Jack and the Beanstalk”).

“It’s based on the state trying to prosecute Jack for trying to kill the giant,” Farhat said. “Last year, Jack was acquitted by two-thirds vote. We’ll see what happens this year.”

Though the event is supposed to be both fun and educational, Farhat said he hopes that a number of Scouts would be inspired to pursue a career in law.

“The law is a noble profession and there are many ways you could make a contribution to society as an attorney,” he said.

And the good news, he said, is the market for young attorneys is picking up.

Lawyers specializing in health care, manufacturing, professional services, real estate and technology are in greatest demand in California, according to a report published last month by Menlo Park staffing agency Robert Half Legal.

“That mirrors what’s going on in the economy as a whole,” Farhat said. “I know the market has been tough but I still think it’s a profession filled with opportunity.”

News & Notes

The deadly Ebola virus seems to be on everyone’s mind. It isn’t considered an outbreak in the United States, but two L.A. attorneys last month helped launch a team tasked with counseling clients on the legal risks stemming from the virus. Law firm Arent Fox tapped partners Lowell Brown and Wayne Matelski, who both work in the firm’s downtown L.A. office, to join the initiative. The pair, plus four other attorneys from around the United States, plan to inform employers of the obligations they face to ensure the safety of their workers. … Michael Berger, a partner at West L.A. law firm Manatt Phelps & Phillips, last week became the first practicing lawyer to receive the Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize. The William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Va., presents the award each year to individuals who work to protect Americans’ property rights. Law professors account for the majority of past recipients, and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was also honored.

Staff reporter Cale Ottens can be reached at cottens@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 221.

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