While California’s drought has scorched some businesses, it has flooded attorneys in O’Melveny & Myers’ water industry practice group with work.

The group, headed by Century City partner Matt Kline, has seen a material increase in business in recent years as the drought’s impact has become virtually impossible to ignore.

“The big focus these days is really on the water quantity issues instead of the water quality issues,” Kline said.

Kline and other attorneys in O’Melveny’s water group primarily help business clients develop long-term strategies for water use. It also advises investors who are active in the water industry and, increasingly, the practice group has taken on clients who need guidance to comply with the state’s new water restrictions.

Many clients are looking for ways to conserve water, which Kline said is an area he hopes to continue to focus on even after the current drought eases up.

“I think the most exciting thing right now is you’re at a point where the most sophisticated clients are focused on making really broad policies,” he said. “We’ve always been kind of boom or bust in terms of water in the West. But the key is to figure out a way to smooth out supply during those valleys and troughs.

“There’s just more things like that we need to be doing, including conservation, restrictions on water usage, and just being more assertive and aggressive,” Kline said. “But if you look at Los Angeles, while population has increased over the years, water consumption is about the same.”

As demand for legal and strategic advice on water issues continues to climb, he said, the number of lawyers working in this space has increased steadily.

“There are more lawyers who are focusing on this and are engaged in working with colleagues of ours and other new lawyers at the firm who focus on this area,” he said. “My clients who traditionally have a heavy focus day-in and day-out in this space are getting more interested in it and more focused on it.”

New Chapter

Like what every student in law school must do, Laura Seigle devoted a great deal of time reading court cases. But while she read through one legal opinion after another, Seigle said she found inspiration.

“You read a lot of cases written by judges,” she said. “So these judges are someone you look up to because you’re reading their work.”

Looking back, Seigle said her experience at Yale Law School is likely where she first envisioned becoming a judge one day.

But now, her goal has become a reality.

Gov. Jerry Brown this month appointed Seigle, partner in the Century City office of Irell & Manella, and seven others to judgeships in Los Angeles Superior Court.

“I’ve always thought about entering public service at some point,” Seigle said. “Having been a litigator in Los Angeles for more than 20 years, I understand how important it is to have good, committed judges.”

The governor’s appointments, announced July 16, came after Seigle and the other new judges endured a lengthy application and review process.

The start date has not yet been finalized, she said, noting that she is likely to stay at Irell for several weeks as she wraps up projects and ensures a smooth transition for clients.

The others Brown appointed this month: Songhai Miguda-Armstead, Timothy Dillon, Ronald Frank, Julian Recana, Lawrence Riff, Natalie Stone and Lisa Sepe-Wiesenfeld.

Legal Landscape

Intellectual property litigator Robert E. Allen has joined the downtown L.A. office of McKool Smith as principal. …John LeCrone, partner in the downtown L.A. office of Davis Wright Tremaine, has been inducted by the College of Labor & Employment Lawyers as a fellow. … Manhattan Beach crowdfunding real estate lender PeerStreet has hired Sara Priola as general counsel. Priola was previously a real estate attorney at Dechert in downtown Los Angeles. … Jenner & Block has hired Neil Cummings as a partner in its downtown L.A. office. … Jonathan Turner, former founding partner of Epstein Turner Weiss, has joined Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp as a partner in the firm’s labor and employment practice in West Los Angeles. … Antitrust and complex commercial litigator Julian Brew has joined the Century City office of Thompson Coburn. … Latham & Watkins has hired Jessica Stebbins Bina as a partner in its litigation department in Century City. … Intellectual property lawyer James Hill has joined Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr as a partner in the firm’s downtown L.A. office.

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

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