Holland & Knight Loses 10 in L.A. to Luce Forward

In 1 on January 21, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Kellie Schmitt
The Recorder

Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps has snagged 10 attorneys from Holland & Knight's Los Angeles office, including its executive partner, Bruce Ross, and four other trust and estate partners.

"It ended up being an opportunity too good not to pursue," Ross said. Luce Forward is "headquartered in California and dedicated to improving the scope and reach of their practice in Los Angeles."

The defections come just three months after the Florida-based firm announced the closure of nine offices nationwide and layoffs for 41 attorneys and 45 staff.

Ross acknowledged he had "some concerns" about the firm's decision to withdraw from Seattle and Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., a community to the north of San Diego.

But Jerome Levine, a Holland & Knight partner tapped Friday to take over the management of the L.A. office, dismissed the closures, saying they were an indicator of the firm's health.

"Everyone in our field was wondering what took us so long to strengthen our firm by reducing some of the offices we had," Levine said. "There is extremely strong support for West Coast offices by our firm."

According to a survey published in The American Lawyer, Holland & Knight was 10th on the "Top Losers" chart of lateral partners in 2005, with the 1,250-lawyer firm seeing 25 departures and 16 arrivals.

"In large firms, it's not unusual for lawyers to join or leave," Levine said.

He said the departures, which are effective March 1, will not affect the firm's private wealth services practice, and that there are plans to continue to grow the Los Angeles office.

The additions are part of Luce Forward's plans to "significantly expand" its Los Angeles office, and fits with the firm's larger goal of creating full-service offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The additions bring the L.A. office to more than 20 lawyers, still well short of managing partner Robert Bell's ideal target of 50.

"We're really focused on California," Bell said. "We're looking for strong growth in the state, and for that, you need a strong presence in Los Angeles and San Francisco."

Headcount at Luce was essentially flat in 2005. The 165-lawyer firm reported an 8 percent increase in revenue, and said average compensation for all partners was $470,000.

Luce Forward had been actively seeking groups of lawyers or small firms to beef up its Los Angeles presence, Bell said. He met Ross more than a year ago when Ross was mediating a case in San Diego.

"I think everyone was eager on both sides — it made a lot of sense to us all," Bell said.

Joining Ross at Luce Forward will be partners John Rogers Jr., Geraldine Wyle, Nelson Handy and Sean Higgins; senior counsel Jeryll Cohen, Shelley Meacham and Linda Rottman; and associates Vivian Lee and Jonathan Park.

Wyle said it was an easy decision to follow Ross because he "inspires loyalty."

Wyle said she was also impressed by the visible presence of female leaders at Luce Forward: "They are aware of women's role in the legal system. It's exciting for me to be with a group that is on the cutting edge."

Posted via email from HKLaw Investigation


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