“It can raise eyebrows when you have the managing partner get up and leave,” said Sandy Lechtick, a recruiter at Esquire Legal Search…

Arent Fox bouncing back from double partner loss
By Eli Wolfe
Daily Journal Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES — Arent Fox is planning to add 25 new attorneys to each of its West Coast offices, raising headcount to approximately 100 in Los Angeles and 50 in San Francisco.

“That’s a pretty large number. It’s almost doubling the size of the office in San Francisco,” said Aaron Jacoby, who took over as managing partner in LA in January.

This expansion will occur steadily but slowly, stretching out over three to five years.

According to Jacoby, the days of rapid, opportunistic expansion for the firm are over, at least for now. Instead, Arent Fox is selectively enhancing the capabilities of different practices so each office is strong across the board.

As an example, Jacoby noted that the West Coast offices lag behind the East Coast in terms of headcount in real estate and corporate practices, so the firm has been hiring in both to make up the difference.

Over the past nine months, the firm has bolstered several of its national industry groups, including in its corporate, white-collar, health care, real estate and automotive industry practices, he said.

When Robert O’Brien and Stephen Larson left Arent Fox’s Los Angeles office in January to start their own boutique, the loss was felt throughout the firm, Jacoby acknowledged, but said the setback proved temporary.

“It can raise eyebrows when you have the managing partner get up and leave,” said Sandy Lechtick, a recruiter at Esquire Legal Search. “O’Brien was a very able leader, and firms don’t like to lose leaders, but I think they haven’t really lost their beat.”

Jacoby, who said his management style is “180 degrees” different than O’Brien’s, noted that as the firm moves away from a traditional law firm structure and closer to a practice-group driven model, collaboration and consensus decision-making have become increasingly valued by partners.

Aram Ordubegian, a partner who helped build Arent Fox’s bankruptcy and financial restructuring group on the West Coast, said partners in different practice groups frequently collaborate on complex matters. He also noted that under Jacoby, the LA office has better incorporated younger attorneys in the firm by including them in networking lunches and meetings.

“I’m actually seeing it pay off,” Ordubegian said. “I’m already seeing a better energy and vibe among the associates.”

As the firm prepares plans for the years to come, many of its partners have their eyes glued on a more immediate issue: next month’s presidential election. According to several partners, the regulatory landscape is expected to change dramatically after Nov. 8, regardless of who occupies the White House, especially in white collar, consumer protection, trade and health care areas in which the firm specializes.

“We’re looking at the Affordable Care Act all the time,” said Lowell Brown, a partner and the national leader of the firm’s health care group. “Whoever gets elected, there’s going to be changes in that law in a big way.”

Mary Andrues, a partner and the leader of the white collar and investigations group, said she expects the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement could be affected by new trade regulations under either a Clinton or a Trump administration. She has also been keeping several of her clients apprised of potential changes in national security regulations that could impact their business.

“I have a lot of clients in the Department of Defense and we need to make sure all of these regulatory systems are in place to ensure the greatest expertise in hacking and cybersecurity,” Andrues said.

Partners in the firm are also waiting to see who the new president appoints to head various federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, which regulate many of the industries Arent Fox covers.

eli_wolfe@dailyjournal.com

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