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Arent Fox expanded westward on Tuesday with its takeover of Los Angeles-based, nine-lawyer litigation boutique O’Brien Abeles. The merger will take effect Jan. 1. “We don’t see this as the first step to becoming a 1,000-lawyer firm, but it is a very major step to having a significant California presence,” says Marc Fleischaker, chairman of Arent Fox. The move represents a rebound of sorts. The Washington stalwart was rocked by a wave of lawyer defections in 2003 after a series of merger talks failed. This is the first expansion since Arent Fox closed four regional offices starting in 1993, keeping only its Washington headquarters and New York office. Fleischaker says firm clients like Walt Disney Co. and Sony Corp. fueled the desire to move west. Beyond O’Brien Abeles’ lawyers, the firm is adding Pierre-Richard Prosper, former U.S. ambassador-at-large, and litigator Steven Bledsoe, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis in Los Angeles. Arent Fox is also relocating Washington-based Wayne Matelski, co-chairman of the firm’s regulatory department, and New York-based intellectual property partner Michael Cryan to the California office to help smooth the transition. “This is an attempt to make sure that we integrate the offices properly,” says Fleischaker. “L.A. is not around the corner. This will help them determine who are the right people to deal with on legal and administrative matters.” Robert O’Brien, founding partner of O’Brien Abeles, will be the Los Angeles office managing partner. Arent Fox expects to double its Los Angeles presence to 30 in one year and may add an office in Northern California. Fleischaker says the firm’s offerings in Los Angeles will reach beyond litigation to include life sciences, real estate, and transaction capabilities. In 2002, Arent Fox dropped off the D.C. 20, Legal Times‘ survey of the top-grossing law firms in the D.C. area. According to the 2006 AmLaw 200, Arent Fox’s revenue was up 7.7 percent last year, grossing $153 million in revenue with 260 lawyers. The firm’s profit per partner was $650,000 with revenue per lawyer at $590,000 in 2005, according to the survey. But Fleischaker hopes to grow Arent Fox’s numbers further. He says the firm’s strategic plan will expand its capabilities to 500 to 600 lawyers, with half in the District, a quarter in New York, and a quarter in California by 2011.
Anna Palmer can be contacted at [email protected].

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