The largest law firms in Los Angeles County showed steady growth in 2017 as the generally strong economy provided a boost across a range of practice areas.
A review of the county’s top 200 law firms ranked by the number of lawyers employed here showed a 2.5 percent increase, for a total of 10,254 attorneys, according to this week’s Business Journal list.
Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith again topped the Business Journal’s list of law firms with 297 attorneys, 11 more than in 2016. The firm’s overall count included 174 partners, up one from the previous year. The firm employs more than 1,100 lawyers in 41 U.S. offices.
“The fastest growing (practices) are our data privacy group, our employment group, and our business practices group,” said Timothy Graves, managing partner of Lewis Brisbois’ Los Angeles office. “A lot of our lateral efforts have been in the business and corporate side.”
Sheppard Mullin rose one spot to No. 2 with 258 lawyers employed locally, up nine attorneys from 2016. The number of Los Angeles-based Sheppard Mullin partners remained unchanged at 97 lawyers.
Guy Halgren, chairman of the firm’s executive committee, credited a strong economy for the firm’s performance last year.
“In L.A., health care, M&A and entertainment practices were all very hot last year, as well as real estate,” he said.
Corporate clients continue to seek alternative billing arrangements, and to cut spending on outside counsel by bringing more legal work in-house. Additionally, some Fortune 500 companies that had local headquarters have moved them to other states. The number
of lawyers at some of the biggest law firms in Los Angeles reflects those trends.
Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, with more than 7,000 lawyers, employs 59 attorneys
in Los Angeles, nine fewer than 2016, to rank 48th on the Business Journal’s list of top
200 law firms.
Corporate litigation nevertheless provides a steady flow of revenue for the top law firms. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher fell one spot to No. 3 as its number of local attorneys declined by four to 253, and its local office lost two partners – but the firm still had a busy year last year due to fractious business issues.
Gibson represents Chevron Corp. in climate-change litigation that the oil and natural gas producer currently faces, and also represents Apple Inc.’s contract manufacturers in the tech giant’s patent and antitrust battle with Qualcomm Inc. The firm also represents Apple in litigation over charges that the batteries are deficient over time.
Other Gibson Dunn work includes getting the legalities hammered out for the Los Angeles Rams’ new football stadium in Inglewood, which is projected to cost $2.6 billion.
“It’s a very strong, balanced practice in Los Angeles,” said Kenneth Doran, Gibson Dunn’s chairman and managing partner.
“We’re as busy as I’ve seen it for several years (locally).”
Among the top five on the Business Journal’s list, O’Melveny & Myers climbed one spot to No. 4 by adding 17 lawyers to its local office for a total of 242 attorneys, though it lost three partners.
Latham & Watkins added eight attorneys to its downtown L.A. office to boost its local numbers to 240 attorneys, but still slipped to No. 5, and also lost a partner, dropping to 66 in 2017. The firm was busy, nevertheless.
“Corporate, finance, litigation, tax, environmental – all of our major practice groups had banner years last year,” said Jeffrey Greenberg, managing partner of Latham’s L.A. office.
The firm’s lawyers advised the Short Hills, N.J.-based private equity firm Energy Capital Partners in its $17 billion acquisition of Houston-based energy company Calpine Corp. last year. Another client is Madison Square Garden Co., owner of the Forum, which is suing the City of Inglewood over what it alleges was a secret land deal with the Los Angeles Clippers so the team can build a new arena 1.5 miles south of the Forum.
DLA Piper, with 4,000-plus lawyers worldwide, employs 93 locally at No. 22nd on the list. Its merger last year with Liner boosted its total attorney numbers from 2016’s 54 lawyers, and causing it to leapfrog 32 spots year over year.
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