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Taking another significant step in its national expansion, law firm Venable LLP has entered the California market by having the lawyers from two Los Angeles-area firms with strengths in litigation, media and advertisement, entertainment, real estate and corporate matters join with Venable to establish a California office.

Washington-based Venable announced that the lawyers from the firms of Gorry Meyer & Rudd L.L.P. ("GM&R") of Century City and Whitwell Jacoby Emhoff LLP ("WJE") of Beverly Hills have agreed to join Venable.  The two Los Angeles firms bring 20 additional attorneys – including their six name partners – to Venable, which will now have nearly 500 lawyers in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York City and Los Angeles.  The 105-year-old firm entered the New York market last year with the integration of New York litigation boutique Heard & O’Toole.

Venable’s new office will be located in the space currently occupied by GM&R at 2049 Century Park East, and will open on August 1. 

Both GM&R and WJE are 10-attorney firms whose name partners all maintain active practices; a number of lawyers at both firms are alumni of large national firms.  Both firms handle substantial commercial litigation matters and have solid core practice areas and national clients.  By coincidence, attorneys of both firms have known each other for more than 15 years, though had only come to consider joining forces when Venable chairman James Shea proposed the concept. 

Led by Tim Gorry, David Meyer and Chris Rudd, GM&R handles litigation and business transactions in a number of areas including entertainment and sports, false advertising, class-action defense, employment, health care, banking and finance, intellectual property, technology and real estate matters.  Mr. Gorry and Mr. Meyer established the firm in 1993.

WJE was established in 2000. Name partners Doug Emhoff, Aaron Jacoby and Ben Whitwell concentrate their practice on complex litigation and general business matters, much like GM&R.  The firm represents many leading firms in major Southern California industries, including the film industry’s leading commercial production and post-production companies, advertising and media firms, hedge funds and investment partnerships and real estate developers.  Mr. Jacoby has developed a dominant automotive practice group, providing business and litigation counsel to many of the largest automotive dealer groups regionally and nationally. Mr. Jacoby’s practice will fit in well with Venable’s strength in representing numerous business trade associations.  

With a growing number of clients and matters in California, Venable has actively sought to establish a West Coast base in the past year.  The firm’s real estate, advertising/marketing, intellectual property, technology and especially its state and federal regulatory and legislative practices have long drawn on relationships throughout California, creating a perfect union among the three firms.  Venable has also counted several prominent Californians among its partners, including a former California Attorney General and several federally elected officials.

“Although we have capably handled West Coast matters for clients with our existing structure, our increasing size and national practice made this a logical time to establish a permanent California address – our lawyers have long worked in the state; now they’ll have the support of a full-service office in this important market,” said Mr. Shea, who became Venable’s firm-wide chairman this past May after an 11-year run as managing partner.

As was the case a year ago when Venable expanded into New York, Mr. Shea noted that the firm sought to enter California by combining with a successful entrepreneurial firm interested in providing greater resources and depth to its clients and in gaining a larger national practice base for further growth.  As it happened, two candidates presented themselves with very similar profiles.

“Two of our longstanding clients separately identified both firms as having talented lawyers who understand the importance of delivering exceptional client service.  We listened to our clients and after meeting the lawyers of both firms, we were impressed with their talents, the successes that they had achieved for their clients and their range of experience," explained Venable’s managing partner Karl Racine, who along with Mr. Shea and partner Jeffrey Knowles, a prominent lawyer in the media and advertising industries, helped direct the search effort. 

Although neither GM&R nor WJE was actively pursuing a merger strategy – indeed, both have historically been cool to overtures from other firms over the years – “it became evident from our conversations that there was considerable chemistry with both firms, in terms of culture, working styles and our respective clients and practices,” Mr. Shea said.  “As discussions advanced, we focused our energies on establishing a Los Angeles office with the lawyers from both firms.  We’re extremely pleased to be raising our flag in California with the benefit of attorneys from both of these fine firms.”

Mr. Gorry acknowledged that he and his partners had consistently resisted earlier invitations to join other national firms seeking to crack the LA market.  “All of us had come from large firms, so sheer size and horizontal practices weren’t necessarily an attraction,” he said, noting that Venable had great appeal for other reasons. 

“Venable is exceptionally strong in litigation, media and advertising, real estate and other areas, but we were especially struck by the firm’s eminence in regulatory work and government affairs, which presents numerous opportunities for our existing and future clients,” Mr. Gorry said.  “Venable also has a sound financial and governance structure, and as we learned, a solid client base and a long, established history in California.  Just as important, Venable has an energized management team and an entrepreneurial perspective – a mindset that embraces change.  All of these made for a very different equation than any other merger scenario we had looked at.”

Mr. Emhoff, who had his own initial concerns about what a combination might do to his firm’s sense of autonomy and selectivity, said that his partners’ view of joining Venable brightened upon learning more about Venable’s work in California and in nationally recognized practice areas.  The prospect of establishing Venable’s Los Angeles office with GM&R lawyers also intrigued Mr. Emhoff and his partners. 

“It was almost like looking at a mirror image of ourselves,” he said, noting that besides sharing equal size and similar histories and practice focus, “I felt our two firms also shared similar ambitions of wanting to maintain top-tier work and independence, even as we both sought a larger platform for our respective practices.  Tim and I go back a long way and several attorneys at both firms have overlapping social and professional networks, which clearly makes integrating our California offices much easier.  It was comforting to see that in looking for a California presence, Venable chose a firm so much like our own – it confirmed to us that there was a high likelihood of compatibility all around.”  

The name partners joining Venable include, from Gorry Meyer & Rudd: Tim Gorry, David Meyer and Chris Rudd; and from Whitwell Jacoby Emhoff:  Doug Emhoff, Aaron Jacoby and Ben Whitwell.  Let us know if you would like background on any of the lawyers individually.

One of the American Lawyer’s top 100 law firms, Venable LLP has attorneys practicing in all areas of corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property and government affairs. Venable serves corporate, institutional, governmental, nonprofit and individual clients throughout the U.S. and around the world from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and offices in California, Maryland, New York and Virginia.