While the legal battles surrounding the possible return of professional football to Los Angeles have already begun, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher looks to capitalize on the burgeoning sports industry beyond the National Football League.

The firm last week launched a sports law practice group, which will be headed in part by Maurice Suh, a partner in the firm’s downtown L.A. office. Other attorneys in New York; Washington, D.C.; and Dallas will serve as co-heads of the group.

Even though the practice is new, Gibson Dunn attorneys have been taking on high-profile sports cases for years.

Right now, lawyers are representing Hollywood Park Land Co., a joint venture that includes St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, that’s working to develop a $1.86 billion NFL stadium in Inglewood. The firm is also representing pro basketball’s Golden State Warriors in the team’s negotiations, entitlements and environmental review for a new arena in San Francisco.

“We very strongly feel that this is really a great time to provide and open our sports law practice because we can provide very seamless and 360-degree level of service on issues that relate to sports,” said Suh, who couldn’t discuss details of deals Gibson Dunn is working on. “You’ve seen a lot more litigation and many more disputes that arise. The interesting thing about litigation relating to sports issues is that it is a constantly evolving area of law.”

Regardless of the sport at issue, Suh is confident his formal practice group will be equipped to tackle even the toughest cases. Indeed, he added that he expected the group will generate business for the firm.

“We definitely view it as a growing practice area,” he said. “The sports issues we’re involved in – and have been involved in – are the most cutting edge and we expect that to continue.”

Book Building

One annual report by the American Bar Association revealed daunting statistics that stopped Celeste Brecht in her tracks.

The report, published last summer, found that only 17 percent of equity partners in U.S. law firms are women, up just 2 percent from the association’s 2013 “Current Glance at Women in the Law” report.

“We have women graduating from law schools at the same rate as men, but then if you look at equity partnerships at firms, it’s not anywhere close to that,” said Brecht, counsel at Venable’s Century City office. “It’s a success if you’re at 20 percent and there really hasn’t been a ton of movement in that direction.”

The report prompted her to form Rise, an all-female networking group composed of attorneys from multiple L.A. firms.

Eight women attended the first meeting, held in October, she said. Rise has since started hosting bimonthly meetings – which are free and rotate between Century City and downtown Los Angeles – and more than 50 attorneys have joined the group.

The primary goal behind Rise, Brecht said, is to learn new techniques for generating larger books of business.

“If you look at most people who have large books of business, it’s men,” she said. “So they are the ones who are being brought into equity partnerships.”

Rise just launched a website, RiseLawyers.com, this month. Ideally, the group’s online presence will spur even more female attorneys in Los Angeles to join, said Elizabeth Glasgow, also counsel at Venable and a Rise co-founder.

“Business development is an art and it’s not something that’s taught in law school,” Glasgow said. “Business development is really something you’ll do every day for the rest of your working life.”

Many L.A. law firms already have in-house “diversity groups,” Brecht said, but it’s rare to have an initiative that connects lawyers from other firms. She added that it’s possible, as a result of this structure, that some business could be shared between women at competing firms.

“Ideally, this would be a group where people grow and get to know each other,” she said. “There could be a potential for a referral service in the future.”

Legal Landscape

Strategic Law Partners has hired Joseph Salamunovich in its downtown L.A. office. … Michelle McCarthy has been promoted to partner in the Century City office of Fox Rothschild. … William I. Hochberg and Mitchell Manger have joined the entertainment law group at Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger in Century City. Hochberg is now a partner and Manger is an associate. … Hartford O. Brown, shareholder in the downtown L.A. office of Klinedinst, has been elected to represent lawyers in the Americas on behalf of Swiss legal organization Lawyers Associated Worldwide. … Latham & Watkins has hired litigator Marvin Putnam in its Century City office. … Jean-Paul Buchanan has joined the Century City office of Greenberg Traurig. … Dirk Michels has joined Ballard Spahr as a partner in Century City.

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

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