Sheppard Mullin: McKenna acquisitions boost firm’s real estate, insurance trial work

Ten partners and several other lawyers decamp from McKenna Long

By Alexandra Schwappach
Daily Journal Staff Writer

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP said Monday that a group of McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP lawyers who joined the firm last week will significantly boost the firm’s business and insurance trial practice as well as its capabilities in the real estate space.

Ten partners from McKenna joined Sheppard in downtown San Diego and Los Angeles, Sheppard said Monday. The partners are bringing an unspecified number of other attorneys with them, firm representatives said. Nancy T. Scull and David M. Hymer joined Sheppard’s real estate, land use and environmental practice, while eight partners, including insurance litigation attorney Peter H. Klee, joined the firm’s insurance and business trial practice.

All of the partners joining Sheppard spent their careers at McKenna and were former partners at Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps LLP, the San Diego-based real estate firm that merged with McKenna in March 2012. Scull and Klee are well regarded in the legal community and drive big books of business, legal observers said. Scull represents commercial, industrial, retail and residential developers, and Klee defends insurance companies in bad faith and fraud claims.

Sheppard’s executive chairman, Guy Halgren, said the real estate additions in particular would solidify the firm’s position as “one of the few go-to real estate firms in California.” The addition of Klee and his group will give the firm more business and insurance litigation capabilities in San Diego, Halgren said. Until now, that practice was focused in Los Angeles. Halgren, who clerked at Luce and worked there for two years in the mid-1980s, said it was clear even back then that Scull and Klee were “rising stars.” “Since 2001 they’ve been at the top of my list of folks that I would love to have join our firm,” he said. “The stars finally aligned.”

Domenic C. Drago, a partner and the firmwide group leader for the real estate, land use and environmental practice, said Scull’s expertise in master-planned development and sophisticated commercial real estate was a much-needed addition to the firm’s real estate capabilities.”Nancy is the top in the state for that,” Drago said. “We had our eye on her over the years, and we were very pleased when she decided to move that it was to this firm.” Joining the firm’s San Diego office in Klee’s group are partners Ronald D. Getchey, Charles A. Danaher, John T. Brooks, Nathan S. Arrington, R. Randal Crispen and Marc J. Feldman. Partner Theona Zhordania joins Sheppard’s Los Angeles office.

Legal recruiter Sandy Lechtick said Scull and Klee and their teams likely wanted to move to a firm like Sheppard because of its reasonable rates and focus on California. “Sheppard has done well in sustaining its culture and attracting partners from top-tier firms,” Lechtick said. “I think former Luce partners are attracted to firms like Sheppard with deeper roots.” Sheppard Mullin has 90 attorneys in its San Diego office. In a statement Friday, McKenna said the departures “reflect approximately only a small percent shift in the number of our attorneys in our San Diego region. We continue to have strong marketplace history and diverse strengths in litigation, government contracts, government affairs, real estate, private client services and corporate law.”