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LOS ANGELES — Bingham McCutchen is building a life science practice on the West Coast, anchored by Robert Funsten, a partner hired this week from Orange County’s Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth. Funsten is one of a series of recent hires in the firm’s Orange County office, which has climbed from five attorneys in 2005 to 24 today. “Bingham is a firm with real momentum in California and the Pacific Rim — look at the recent expansion of the Tokyo office and the addition of the Alschuler firm,” Funsten said. “My life science clients, particularly the ones with mature operations, really require the resources of a major law firm.” Though Bingham has life science specialists in Boston, Funsten will be the first to focus on that practice on the West Coast. Funsten said he’s bringing the majority of his clients with him, a list that includes Corona-based Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Irvine’s Edwards Lifesciences, which creates products to treat advanced cardiovascular disease. “I think this will give Bingham a huge leg up on life sciences in California,” said Southern California recruiter Larry Watanabe of Watanabe Nason Schwartz & Lippman, who did not work on the deal. “Life science lawyers — especially people with his skill set in licensing collaboration — are in high demand.” At 100-lawyer Stradling, Funsten was one of four partners in the firm’s life science practice, said partner Michael Flynn. While the loss will be noticeable, Flynn stressed that the firm has a deep life science bench: “It’s always disappointing when a partner leaves, and we have to react to that.” Bingham branched into Orange County in 2003 when it acquired L.A.’s Riordan & McKinzie, a private equity shop. Todd Gordinier joined last year with six other lawyers from Stradling, and this year the office brought in partner Geoffrey Willis and four other land use attorneys from Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold. The office has traditionally focused on more transactional corporate work, with private equity and M&A expertise, said office leader James Loss. The addition of a life science practice is especially important in Orange County, with its strong healthcare services and medical device clusters. “To have someone who plays in that space is a great addition for us,” Loss said. “The hope is that he will be the beginning of the growth of that practice in California, starting in Orange County.”

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