Stuart Liner decided five years ago that he needed to bolster the insurance coverage practice group at his eponymous Westwood law firm.

But it wasn’t until late last month – after courting Dickstein Shapiro’s Kirk Pasich for several years, including taking him to Arizona to attend this year’s Super Bowl – that Liner was able to get what he wanted.

Pasich, whose clients in insurance-related matters are primarily in the entertainment industry, is now a partner at Liner. He was accompanied by nine other insurance coverage attorneys, three of whom are also partners.

“In getting educated in who was the leader in that practice area, Kirk’s name came to the top of everybody’s list,” Liner said. “About a year and a half ago, we got awfully close to announcing he was coming over, but due to workload and some other issues happening at his firm, that got tabled.”

But even before Liner could pursue an insurance coverage group, his firm had to clear pending cases where it was on the other side of the table, representing insurance companies. Bringing on Pasich and his team would potentially have posed conflicts if Liner continued to represent insurers.

“Their entire practice is exclusively suing insurance companies and suing insurance brokers,” Liner said. “So it’s representing high-net-worth individuals, entertainers, people who are having disputes with their insurance carriers over coverage.”

But, he added, the shift is likely to pay off in the long run. In fact, he expects that the new group will be among the fastest growing at his firm.

“They’re definitely very busy, so it’s not inconceivable for us to have continued growth,” he said. “We have also had discussions about other lateral growth. Those are conversations we’re having about a lot of different areas right now.”

With the addition of the insurance group, Liner has 75 attorneys in its Westwood and downtown L.A. offices, and Liner said he recently leased office space in New York. That office, however, is only used for meetings right now but Liner might hire New York lawyers to fill desks there soon.

“If you’re not willing to take risk and grow when things are good, you’re never going to,” he said. “People are in an expansive mode; people are spending money. This is as good a time as any to bring on vibrant practices.”

Divorce Debacle

A state Supreme Court ruling late last month has turned the practice of family law on its head.

By ruling that divorcing couples are not considered legally separated until the spouses live in separate homes, the high court has changed the way California – a community property state – defines how assets are divided in a split.

“Prior to this decision, the court had determined the date of separation by looking at a number of factors, such as when the people first intended to end their marriage,” said Alex Grager, a certified family law specialist at Lopez & Grager in West Los Angeles. “Now it seems that even filing for divorce, if you’re still under the same roof, is not enough.”

As a community property state, California deems all assets and income accumulated during marriage as owned jointly. Under the terms of the July ruling, if a husband was given a bonus at work, for instance, his wife would be entitled to half unless the two had already moved into separate homes.

Several divorce attorneys, Grager said, are debating whether to ask the state Legislature to amend the family law code in light of this new ruling.

“Frankly, I can’t recall the last time such a heated discussion was happening because a case just came out,” Grager said. “This has created a new kind of separation anxiety.”

New Venture

Downtown L.A. celebrity defense attorney Mark Geragos learned a lot about the digital audio industry when he represented popular podcaster Adam Carolla last year in a dispute over ownership rights.

Geragos liked the idea so much that he has teamed up with his former client to host his own weekly podcast, “Reasonable Doubt.”

“It’s fascinating to me,” Geragos said. “I think it’s the wave of the future. What (Carolla) is doing in media, I think is cutting edge.”

Each week on the digital radio show, Geragos and Carolla discuss current events – oftentimes with legal analysis – and pop culture. Since it debuted last month, the show has been a hit.

After the first episode aired, it became the second-most-downloaded podcast on iTunes that week.

“It’s been a spectacular success so far,” Geragos said. “We’ve been in the top 10 since inception and as high as No. 2.”

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

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