Alston & Bird LLP made a strong play in California this week by opening a San Francisco office and expanding the headcount in its Los Angeles branch…

Alston & Bird open SF office, add lawyers in LA

By Eli Wolfe
Daily Journal Staff Writer

Alston & Bird LLP made a strong play in California this week by opening a San Francisco office and expanding the headcount in its Los Angeles branch.

The San Francisco office is led by Teresa Bonder, who is head of the firm’s antitrust team. Joining Bonder is Jeffrey Tsai, head of the firm’s state attorneys general team, and Jocelyn Thompson, a partner with the environment, land use and natural resources group, according to a press release on Wednesday.

The firm also added partner Robert Phillips, who was co-leader of Reed Smith LLP’s class action team, and Michael Agoglia, who was former managing partner of Morrison & Foerster LLP’s San Francisco office and co-chair of its financial services litigation practice group. Several other attorneys from Reed Smith joined the firm in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Sandy Lechtick, a legal recruiter and president of Esquire Inc. who brokered the deal, said the crux of the move was Phillips, who in addition to being a strong rainmaker brought over several attorneys to build up the firm’s LA office. He added that the firm has been considering an San Francisco office for some time but held off until conditions were favorable.

Larry Watanabe, a legal recruiter with Watanabe & Nason LLC, noted that the firm has had active litigation engagements in the Silicon Valley region since it opened an office there in 2008. He noted there is a significant business case for the firm to be in San Francisco.

“We have always been cautious about new office openings — we don’t do it lightly,” explained managing partner Richard Hays. “Whenever we do, we are confident it’s going to do well.”

According to Hays, this is a sensible time for the firm to expand, given its strong performance in recent years. Alston & Bird raised profits per equity partner from $1,545,000 in 2015 to $1,745,000 in 2016, and increased the average compensation of all partners from $940,000 to $1,025,000 during the same period.

Hays said the new office will expand the firm’s service for a number of clients in northern California, especially in the technology and financial services fields.

None of the partners joining the San Francisco office were available for comment.

According to Lyndon Parker, a legal recruiter with JD Search Advisors LLC, Alston & Bird has grown steadily in California since it first entered the market in 2008 with the acquisition of Weston Benshoof Rochefort Rubalcava & MacCuish LLP in LA.

“There comes a point where you want to expand your horizons in California and San Francisco is probably somewhat easier to enter than Silicon Valley,” Parker commented, noting that competition for talent in places like Palo Alto and Mountain View can make it difficult for firms to expand.

Parker added that the explosion of financial services institutions, including hedge funds and private equity funds, has created greater incentives for firms to maintain offices in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, especially because there’s no guarantee that business will follow with the opening of a new office.
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