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Los Angeles�Since civil rights lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr. died last year, nowhere has his departure been more noticeable than in Los Angeles. Cochran opened his law offices here decades ago, establishing political ties with the city’s mayors, police chiefs and leaders of the African-American community. Today, Cochran’s desk in Los Angeles remains untouched. “We just miss him,” said Brian Dunn, who joined The Cochran Firm in 1993 in the midst of Cochran’s famed representation of O.J. Simpson. “He was a huge presence and he had a lot of institutional wisdom with regard to how things worked in the city and the law and in life, in general. And that’s what we miss. It’s like losing your grandfather.” The six lawyers in Los Angeles still field calls from friends and clients of Cochran’s, but the future of the office’s revenue stream remains unclear. This month, the Los Angeles office plans to begin a local advertising campaign as it aims to move away from traditional police brutality cases and emphasize more work involving personal injury and products liability�an area that has garnered much success in the firm’s East Coast offices. Roots not forgotten Still, the Los Angeles office hasn’t forgotten Cochran’s community work. Dunn spends seven days a week seeking political support and financing behind a proposed ballot initiative he is co-authoring that aims to lessen the severity of California’s controversial “three strikes” law. Under the 1994 law, a three-time felon gets sentenced to 25 years to life in prison if he or she has been convicted of two prior violent or serious felonies, or “strikes.” Dunn said the third strike that puts someone in prison often involves a nonviolent crime such as drug possession. If it gets on the ballot, Dunn’s proposed initiative would be the second attempt in recent years to reduce the harshness of the three-strikes law. In November 2004, voters narrowly rejected Proposition 66, which would have changed the definitions of several strikes under the law. Of Cochran, he notes that “I can say without the slightest bit of reservation that this is something that he would want us to be doing. It’s just a natural fit.” Since Cochran was first diagnosed with a brain tumor, the Los Angeles lawyers in his office began slowly taking on more of his caseload, said Randy McMurray, managing partner of the firm’s L.A. office. After his death, The Cochran Firm waited several months before re-launching its national ads last fall. The Los Angeles office, which traditionally has spent little on advertising, expects to begin a local marketing campaign this month. McMurray said. He noted that the Los Angeles office faces the added challenge of reducing its dependence on police brutality cases, the hallmark of Cochran’s practice. In emphasizing more personal injury cases, which are less labor-intensive than police brutality cases, the firm’s Los Angeles lawyers would mimic offices on the East Coast, where the firm has successfully obtained big wins in some of the nation’s most high-profile personal and premises liability cases. “The practical business side is that when Johnnie died, we had a lull in case intake,” said McMurray, noting that most of the declines in recent months came from cases not associated with police brutality. “Johnnie had name recognition, but the big picture for the firm was to change the focus from criminal defense and just police cases to a full range of civil litigation,” he said. To that end, The Cochran Firm announced plans in April 2005, just before Cochran died, to open offices in San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego through a unique partnership with two Southern California law firms. As part of the arrangement, nine partners at Greene, Broillet & Wheeler of Santa Monica and three partners at Panish, Shea & Boyle of Los Angeles, both specializing in personal injury cases, would split the costs and future profits of cases they handled for The Cochran Firm.

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