Eleven Lawyers Depart Arent Fox to Open Boutique


Eleven lawyers have jumped ship from Arent Fox to start a litigation boutique in Los Angeles, the firm is set to announce on Tuesday.

Called Larson O’Brien LLP, the firm will focus on high-stakes matters, including commercial litigation, internal investigations, appellate work, and international arbitration, according to co-managing partner Robert C. O’Brien.

It marks the latest group of lawyers who have parted ways with a big law firm to pursue business opportunities in a smaller firm setting, in which there are fewer possibilities of client conflicts and more flexibility to offer alternative fee arrangements. In January last year, more than 30 lawyers decamped Irell & Manella to form Hueston Hennigan, and throughout the years there have been countless examples of others who have made similar moves, including David Boies who left Cravath, Swaine & Moore to form what is now Boies Schiller & Flexner.

The departing Arent Fox group includes O’Brien, the former California managing partner for Arent Fox, as well as fellow co-managing partner Stephen G. Larson, a former federal judge, and Hugh Hewitt, who moderated all three of CNN’s GOP presidential debates this election cycle.

No stranger to law firm management, O’Brien expanded the firm’s California presence from 10 lawyers in Los Angeles to more than 100 throughout the state, including a new 20-lawyer San Francisco office. O’Brien, who spoke with Big Law Business on Saturday, described his group’s departure from Arent Fox as “amicable” and noted that client conflicts along with the desire to offer alternative fee arrangements influenced his decision.

“We’re convinced that there is a strong future for a litigation boutique with a very strong brand that handles high-stakes matters,” said O’Brien. “We think it’s a different niche than an AmLaw 200 general services firm.”

Arent Fox, with 350 lawyers, brought in $276.5 million in revenue in 2014, according to The American Lawyer. Its profits per partner were nearly $1 million.

At the new boutique, O’Brien said that he is looking to hire another five to eight junior associates from federal clerkships or coming off the top five to ten most highly rated law schools. Walt Disney Company, the City of Irvine, and F. Korbel & Brothers are among a handful of marquee clients the group is taking with them, O’Brien said.

“We’ve been very fortunate that all of the clients with whom we worked with are coming with us,” said O’Brien.

An Arent Fox spokesman pointed to a firm media release that said Arent Fox partner Aaron Jacoby has been appointed to be Los Angeles managing partner in place of O’Brien. Jacoby leads the firm’s automotive group. The Daily Journal in Los Angeles earlier reported the move.

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.


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