As the local real estate market has improved, local real estate attorneys practicing land-use law are seeing a resurgence in business. In fact, the industry’s boost prompted Century City corporate and real estate transactional law firm Sklar Kirsh last month to launch its own land-use practice.

“The first couple years coming out of the recession in 2012 and 2013, most of the focus of our client base was on existing properties and repositioning them,” said Andrew Kirsh, founding partner. “When we headed into 2014 and throughout 2014, new opportunities expanded into new ground-up development, which is now happening all over.”

Kirsh and Jeffrey Sklar started their firm early last year with four other attorneys. The increased demand for real estate counsel has since led the boutique firm to beef up its staff to 18 lawyers.

Meantime, projects that stalled after the economy tanked have recently begun to resurface, said Matthew Hinks, a partner in the land-use practice at the Century City office of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell.

A prime example is a massive mixed-use development on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. The project, located across from Walt Disney Concert Hall, was originally approved in 2007 but came to a screeching halt shortly thereafter.

“It was quite the controversy as to whether or not that project would ever break ground,” Hinks said.

But last month, the project’s first phase – a 271-unit luxury high-rise apartment building – finally opened. The outcome, however, didn’t reflect the initial plans from seven years ago.

Plans for the Grand Avenue project changed, much like other developments that were put on hold. The alterations meant the project had to first obtain new entitlements, Hinks said, which generated more business for land-use lawyers.

As more old projects continue to once again see the light of day, Hinks said he expects his plate will stay full. The same is likely true for other L.A. real estate and land-use practices.

“The outlook is we’re going to stay busy for quite some time,” he said. “But the biggest driving factor will be the economy, which is driving a number of projects forward now.”

Jumping Ship

Global law firm Latham & Watkins, despite its huge presence in entertainment hub Los Angeles, is seldom considered a major player in the entertainment, sports and media industry. But that is expected to soon change.

The firm last week acquired five partners from the Century City office of rival law firm O’Melveny & Myers, where the entertainment industry has been a major focus for nearly a century. The move was called one of the year’s largest bulk lateral hiring moves.

Representatives from Latham & Watkins declined to comment. But a source familiar with the move confirmed the transition is under way and is expected to be completed within the next few weeks.

Jumping to Latham are partners Joseph Calabrese, Christopher Brearton, Nancy Bruington, Kenneth Deutsch and Robert Haymer, all of whom will be housed at the firm’s office downtown. Another partner from O’Melveny’s London office was also acquired last week.

Meantime, O’Melveny announced last week that it had tapped partners Stephen Scharf and Matthew Erramouspe, and senior counsel Bruce Tobey to take over as transactional co-heads of the practice.

“Our clients could not be in better hands than with these three sought-out entertainment lawyers,” O’Melveny Chairman Bradley Butwin said last week in a written statement.

None of the partners set to move to Latham & Watkins returned calls and emails from the Business Journal before deadline.

News & Notes

Century City law firm Glaser Weil has hired Bob Hertzberg away from the downtown L.A. office of Mayer Brown, where he spent the last dozen years. The announcement came the day after Hertzberg was elected to the state Senate. He will now be of counsel to Glaser Weil.… Loeb & Loeb has promoted Steven Hurdle Jr. to partner at the firm’s Century City office…. Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed six new Los Angeles Superior Court judges, including Hector E. Gutierrez, Colin P. Leis, Lillian Vega Jacobs, Rob B. Villeza, Shirley K. Watkins and Michael E. Whitaker.

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

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