L.A.'s biggest law firm? You might be surprised

lawyers.jpgLewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith grabs the top spot in the Business Journal's annual ranking with 271 attorneys, up from 257 a year ago (61 lawyers have been added in the last five years). Never heard of them? Well, the firm was founded in 1979 by seven lawyers, many of them specializing in medical and legal malpractice, and in recent years it's become known as the place to go when you want to save some money. It's also the place that is frequented by mid-size, mid-market companies that have become the linchpin of the local economy. Meanwhile, the heavy hitters keep cutting back - O'Melveny & Myers, L.A.'s most storied law firm, has cut its attorney roster by 30 percent since 2008. That's 110 lawyers! From the Business Journal:

What the ascendancy of Lewis Brisbois says about the state of the law business in Los Angeles, said Sandy Lechtick, president of Woodland Hills legal search firm Esquire Inc., is that "billing rates and bang for the buck are increasingly more and more important, and that plays to Lewis Brisbois' strengths. They're not trying to have the fanciest offices on Bunker Hill. They watch their costs. The firms that have a reasonable cost structure are attracting a lot of the business that used to go upstream."


The firm's success further signals the shift in the L.A. legal market toward middle-market work, said Peter Zeughauser, a legal consultant in Newport Beach. Firms seeking higher-margin work from large corporations have turned their attention away from Los Angeles. "Right now L.A. is not a hotbed of high-rate work," said Zeughauser. "All those other firms have put an emphasis on growing in higher-rate markets, particularly New York and D.C."

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
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