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When entertainment lawyer Barry Hirsch was riding at his highest in the 1980s — sharing the likes of client Robert Redford with pal Michael Ovitz and the Creative Artists Agency — the industry fretted over his blurring of the roles of attorney and agent. There were titters in the 1990s when Hirsch, an ordained minister and licensed psychotherapist, officiated at his client Jennifer Lopez’s marriages. But there’s one role Tinseltown just can’t accept for the hardball lawyer. “Hirsch as victim? Puh-lease,” sneered a society column recently, reporting Hirsch’s nasty exit from his firm of 24 years. But that’s how Hirsch portrays himself and the three below-the-masthead partners who joined him in leaving the former Hirsch Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austin Mandelbaum & Morris, a 20-lawyer boutique with a star roster. According to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court last month, the 70-year-old Hirsch was negotiating a retirement package in good faith when the management of the firm pulled an end-run: reorganizing what had been a corporate structure as a limited liability partnership, allegedly to deprive Hirsch’s faction of the value of their shares of the firm, and shutting them out of any meaningful say in how the firm is run. The suit asks the court to name a receiver to take over Jackoway Tyerman. Hirsch v. Hirsch Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austin Mandelbaum & Morris, No. BC 320128. Andrew M. White of Century City’s White O’Connor Curry & Avanzado, who represents the plaintiffs, said last week that the case was going into mediation. The defense, led by Rita Haeusler of the Los Angeles office of New York’s Hughes Hubbard & Reed, didn’t return phone calls seeking comment. This being Hollywood, there are also dueling publicists: Baker, Winokur, Ryder representing Hirsch’s side, and Bragman Nyman Cafarelli for the firm. The idea of converting to a limited liability partnership as a tool to achieve a coup d’etat, whether valid here or not, is innovative. Experts in the field agree that the conversions have been popular and strife-free since California began allowing them in 1995. “There are no seminal cases I’m aware of,” said Paul “Chip” Lion of Morrison & Foerster, one of the firms that has quietly restructured. “Disputes in breakups typically entail where the clients go. But one of the appeals of L.P.s is that they allow for flexibility in management, so we can’t rule out what’s alleged if there’s a majority vote behind it.” In a recent press release, Hirsch said reports of his retirement had been exaggerated and that clients would be coming with him to a smaller operation that offers more “intimacy” — Hirsch Wallerstein Matlof & Fishman, in Century City offices. Defendant Jim Jackoway, the old firm’s president, broke his silence to reply that it was inaccurate “to say everyone they represented is going.” Gail Cox is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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