Latham partner to boost LA-area startup practice

By Andrew McIntyre
Daily Journal Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES – Seeking to stake a bigger claim in Southern California’s burgeoning startup scene, Latham & Watkins LLP Monday hired a lateral partner to head the firm’s emerging companies practice group in Los Angeles.

Daniel C. Burnham, whose clients include Los Angeles-based data storage company ElephantDrive Inc. and Santa Monica venture capital firm Clearstone Venture Partners, moved from Los Angeles corporate boutique Strategic Law Partners LLP.

While Los Angeles has for decades been home to entrepreneurs in a range of industries, Burnham said what’s emerged in the region over the past few years is a “full-on ecosystem” supporting the startup community, known as “Silicon Beach.” “People start to support each other. … In some ways, it’s cool to be an entrepreneur and have a startup in L.A. That’s a change,” Burnham said. “I’m tremendously excited to be joining Latham and working with them to expand the emerging companies practice.” Part of that support system are the incubators or accelerators that have popped up across Southern California. In addition to Pasadena’s Idealab, which has helped develop almost 100 companies since 1996, the California Institute of Technology and the Art Center College of Design are preparing to launch a design and technology accelerator this summer.

Los Angeles managing partner James P. Beaubien called Latham’s 100-plus attorney emerging company practice “one of the leading emerging company practices in the country,” saying Latham is “the only firm with real scale in the four major markets for this: Boston, New York, Northern California and Southern California.” Latham opened an office in Boston in 2011.

But the move to bolster its Southern California emerging companies practice also suggests the firm hasn’t focused on startups as much as it should have, legal recruiters say. “I think that it’s an area where they probably haven’t paid quite enough attention to until recently,” said Lyndon J. Parker, managing director at legal placement firm Mestel & Co. “Latham is a world-class firm and is trying to buttress its position in the Silicon Beach marketplace, and they certainly have the capacity to do it and do it well.” Sandy Lechtick, president and founder of legal search firm Esquire Inc. said “it has not escaped [Latham’s] attention” that various firms have been opening up offices and expanding their emerging company practice groups.

Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth PC opened a Santa Monica office in late 2011 and Cooley LLP and Stubbs Alderton & Markiles LLP followed suit shortly after. Prominent corporate lawyer David M. Hernand, who left Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP to help found Cooley’s Santa Monica office, had practiced for many years at Latham.

While Latham doesn’t have bricks and mortar in Santa Monica, the firm’s market share in the entrepreneurial zone is “high,” Beaubien said.

“From 2000 to 2012, Latham is the nation’s leading IPO law firm: 281 IPOs totaling more than $54 billion,” Beaubien said. “You don’t get to be No. 1 in IPOs by neglecting the startup space. We have been very focused on that community in Los Angeles.” Among the IPOs Latham has guided are those of Demand Media Inc. and online advertiser Reachlocal Inc., which is also a client of Burnham’s.

Beaubien said Burnham’s hiring is a coup for Latham.

“Dan’s a huge win for us,” Beaubien said. “He focuses almost exclusively on startup emerging companies. He’s got a very compelling roster of startup clients.” While at six-partner Strategic Law, Burnham’s venture capital, mergers and acquisition, financing and licensing work included eSolar Inc. and the Rubicon Project Inc., an advertising company which Burnham calls one of L.A.’s premier emerging companies.

“Latham has always been a player in the market. … Latham is one of the top firms that gets it,” said Burnham, referring to the firm’s ability to work with emerging growth companies. “Practice in the emerging companies market is unique. Entrepreneurs have a different mindset.”