Latham & Watkins has appointed a new managing partner for its Century City and downtown L.A. offices.

Jeff Greenberg, a member of the firm’s project finance and development practice, officially began his term as head of Latham’s global headquarters on March 1. He replaced Jim Beaubien, who spent six years at the helm.

Greenberg, a 20-year veteran of the firm, said his directive was simple: continue to build upon the successes of his predecessor.

“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” he said. “We’re extremely proud of what we have here in the city already and my primary goal is to build on this success.”

The firm has 229 attorneys in the L.A. area split between the two offices. Founded in 1934, it is ranked as the highest-grossing law firm in the world, according to annual calculations from American Lawyer. It pulled in an estimated $2.6 billion in 2014, the latest year that figures were available.

Greenberg said the key to the firm’s success is an integrated system whereby attorneys view business development from a global perspective.

“We want to approach client relationships as a firm, not as individuals or as offices,” he said. “Whether lawyers are based in New York or L.A., we want the best lawyers on the case regardless of location.”

Even though management positions at Latham come in addition to an attorney’s full-time practice rather than in lieu of them, Greenberg said the added responsibility is an honor.

“This is really exciting for me,” Greenberg said. “The chance to lead my fellow Los Angeles attorneys at Latham is a special opportunity.”

Pioneering Pays Off

Forty years ago, a solitary attorney specializing in labor and employment law set up shop in Los Angeles as the only member of Philadelphia’s Morgan Lewis & Bockius stationed west of the Mississippi River.

It’s difficult to remember those humble origins – neither of the firm’s co-managing partners in Los Angeles could name the pioneering lawyer – when viewing the office’s position in the city’s legal hierarchy today. With 38 partners and more than 100 attorneys in its downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica offices, firm leaders said they now compete for clients with some of the biggest names in the region thanks to a selective growth strategy.

“We’ve done very well growing smartly,” said David Schrader, the firm’s co-managing partner in Los Angeles. “We only bring in people that are a culture fit and help our clients. We’re not interested in growing just to increase the size of the office.”

The firm did, however, pick up a huge number of attorneys both locally and nationally when it brought on more than 700 lawyers from now-defunct Bingham McCutchen in November 2014. One of those lawyers, Rick Rothman, co-manages its L.A. operations along with Schrader. He said that despite the fact that some of the former Bingham attorneys remain in their old space across the street from Morgan Lewis’ Bunker Hill office downtown, the move is progressing according to plan.

“The practice area fits were very good and we pretty quickly started working on some significant cases,” he said. “From our perspective, it’s been a very smooth transition.”

When asked about some highlights from the firm’s 40 years in Los Angeles, two things stuck out, according to Schrader. Both, interestingly, were awards given to the firm last year: the National Law Journal’s Southern California Litigation Department of the Year and Public Counsel’s Law Firm Pro Bono Award.

And the name of the Morgan Lewis attorney who started the L.A. office and made those prestigious awards possible? It was William Emanuel, now at Littler Mendelson in Century City. When asked for details about the opening in 1976, he kept it simple.

“We opened the office and went from there.”

New Hires

Century City’s Glaser Weil Fink Howard Avchen & Shapiro added former Rutan & Rucker Partner George Wall as the charter member of its Newport Beach office. Wall, a transactional attorney who has brokered an array of complex deals, will chair the firm’s merger and acquisitions practice. He’s represented clients in both the Sacramento Kings’ recent ownership change and the proposed acquisition of the New Orleans Pelicans. … Holland & Knight appointed Joel Athey executive partner of its downtown L.A. office. Athey, who does white-collar defense and complex civil litigation, takes over from Paul Workman, who led the office for more than four years. … Tax law attorney Robert Duran returned to West L.A.’s Manatt Phelps & Phillips after several years away from the firm. Beth Fox has also joined as a partner, leaving her in-house position at Southern California Edison. She will be part of the firm’s energy and natural resources practice group. … Adam Mehr joined Pryor Cashman’s entertainment and media group in Century City, leaving Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp.

Staff reporter Henry Meier can be reached at hmeier@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 221.

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