DLA Piper announced Thursday that it is merging with the Los Angeles-based boutique, Liner LLP.
Liner lists approximately 70 attorneys on its website and two offices in Los Angeles, one downtown and one on the Westside, and a third office in New York. DLA Piper lists approximately 60 lawyers split between downtown and Century City, but overall has several thousand lawyers around the world linked to the firm directly, through swiss verein style partner firms or through affiliated firms.
Roger Meltzer, global co-chairman of DLA Piper and co-chairman of the Americas, said he had been struggling to grow the firm’s presence in Los Angeles, and looking for a merger partner since around 2011.
“Los Angeles is the fourth or fifth largest legal market in the country, and probably the second most lucrative other than New York,” said Meltzer.
He said the firm discussed a potential merger with a dozen other firms throughout the years. But as the economy shifted in recent years — a small technology sector rose up, the number of private equity and investment funds increased while real estate and entertainment continue along their own cycles — it made it difficult to find a partner whose ability to service local clientele meshed well with DLA Piper’s strengths, Meltzer said.
The merger does not take effect until October, and it was not yet clear as of Thursday if all of the Liner’s attorneys would be making the move. A press release said roughly 60 lawyers would join DLA Piper in Los Angeles, which would represent the bulk of its attorneys.
Liner has been managed by its name partner Stuart Liner since its founding in 1996, and is known to have both defense and plaintiff-oriented lawyers. Liner’s bio describes him as a “consigliere” who has won several eight-figure settlements in contingent fee cases.
Other prominent lawyers at the firm include entertainment lawyer Stanton “Larry” Stein, whose clients have included Drake and LeAnn Rimes; Kirk Pasich, an insurance policy lawyer and Rocky Delgadillo, the former city attorney in Los Angeles.
In an interview, Liner said that joining a larger firm will allow him to complement his firm’s existing strengths and fill out its weaknesses in the transactional space.
“If you’re looking for a high level M&A [practice] ... you don’t see many boutique firms under 100 lawyers that have them,” said Liner. “We have focused on the things we could successfully recruit on, real estate and litigation.”
He added, “When you look at the third leg to the table, we were having a difficult time with that.”
In May, the Liner firm hired the legal consultant Peter Zeughauser who suggested a meeting with Meltzer, which ulimately lead to the meger, Liner said.
His firm’s largest office had been in Westwood, and Liner said the lease expires at the end of the year, so it will be able to move into DLA Piper’s office in Century City, while its lawyers downtown will also join DLA, which will take out more space.
Meltzer said Liner himself will have a leadership role at DLA although he did not say as yet what his title will be. They said there would be no layoffs of either staff or lawyers. As to conflicts, they said things always come up and some lawyers may always elect to leave, but declined to comment on any specifics.
He said the lawyers from Liner will do well at DLA because the firm has a laissez-faire attitude when it comes to letting lawyers design their own practices.
“Let the players play,” said Meltzer, about his management philosophy. “Sure you need to protect against inappropriate intake, and conflicts, things that can create reputational damage. But you let the players play.”
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