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Los Angeles-Merger talks broke down earlier this month between Minneapolis-based Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi and Santa Monica, Calif.’s Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan. A deal between the two firms would have created a powerful litigation firm with nearly 350 lawyers in six offices. More than one-third would have been in the Los Angeles area, which is home to about 30 Robins Kaplan lawyers and all of Alschuler Grossman’s 90 attorneys. Bruce Friedman, managing partner of Alschuler Grossman, stopped short of saying that merger discussions had ended entirely with Robins Kaplan. But he said talks halted as the firm’s key partners battle over its future. “There is not universal opinion about that,” he said, noting that he and some of the other partners would like to merge with a larger firm to achieve a national platform. “But some of our partners would like to expand ourselves,” Friedman said. Steven Schumeister, managing partner of Robins Kaplan, referred calls to Michael Ciresi, chairman of the firm’s executive board, who did not return calls seeking comment. Roman Silberfeld, managing partner of the firm’s Los Angeles office, did not return calls. Litigation powerhouses Robins Kaplan’s litigation work has historically focused on medical malpractice and antitrust litigation, most notably a $6.6 billion settlement obtained in 1998 for the state of Minnesota and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota in a case against the country’s largest cigarette manufacturers. A merger with Alschuler would add entertainment and media litigation, which makes up a large portion of the California firm’s income. “People who are attracted to us are attracted to our litigation practice,” Friedman said, and “people like our entertainment practice because it has pizzazz.” But the entertainment and media group also represents a challenge for Alschuler because most large firms represent, or want to represent, movie studios or television networks, said Stanton “Larry” Stein, name partner of Alschuler Grossman and chairman of the entertainment and media department. Representing those companies would create too many conflicts with his clients, who include Paris Hilton and child stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. With Robins Kaplan, he said, “that wasn’t there. That immediately makes them more interesting than some that I couldn’t talk to.”

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