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Don’t call Ballard Spahr an Eastern firm anymore. In August, Philadelphia-based Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll became the latest Eastern U.S. firm to open an office in Los Angeles, snagging four partners in recent months from Baker Hostetler, including David Sampson, its former managing partner in Los Angeles. Ballard Spahr has grand plans in Los Angeles. Lawyers at the firm, which historically specialized in real estate and public finance, expect to recruit in relatively new practice areas, such as intellectual property and high-stakes employment litigation. They also plan to expand the office to 50 lawyers. The move comes one year after Ballard Spahr opened offices in Las Vegas and Phoenix. And the firm isn’t finished yet. “We have almost 600 lawyers, and a quarter of them are in the West,” said Arthur Makadon, Ballard Spahr’s chairman. “We’re no longer an Eastern firm. The hope is that within a few years, half our lawyers will be in the West.” Ballard Spahr’s lawyers practice in public finance and real estate, primarily affordable housing and development. The firm, founded in 1886, also has strong practices in commercial litigation, white collar criminal defense and business and finance. Two years ago, Ballard Spahr’s lawyers hailed primarily in the East, with offices in Philadelphia; Baltimore; Washington; Wilmington, Del.; and Voorhees, N.J., with Western outposts in Denver and Salt Lake City. Clients have included Johns Hopkins University, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. But the firm’s lawyers had begun looking West in 2000, Makadon said. “We were looking at parts of the country that are rich, that are growing and seemed to have booming economies that fit with our practice,” he said. In July 2006, Ballard Spahr opened a Las Vegas office, bringing in the name partners of Curran & Parry. One month later, the firm opened an office in Phoenix with two senior partners from Phoenix-based Fennemore Craig, with which Ballard Spahr had failed to merge in 2005. Ballard Spahr continued its expansion with a small outpost opening in September 2006 in Bethesda, Md. The firm’s lawyers are considering additional offices in Northern California, the Northwest and into Latin America and the Pacific Rim. “Our practice, quite frankly, will take us overseas,” Makadon said. MUCH COMPETITION Latin America is a prime market among several of Ballard Spahr’s nine Los Angeles lawyers. That expertise is immeasurable, said Jorge de la Osa, corporate counsel at Sol Meli� Vacation Club, the resort division of Sol Meli�, a hotel chain based in Spain. Since 2004, he has worked with Letvia Arza-Goderich and Scott Preston, both former Baker Hostetler lawyers who joined Ballard Spahr. “There are few major U.S. firms that have the ability and the contacts throughout the Caribbean to get us up and running,” de la Osa said. Sampson said he is looking to expand in Los Angeles with small acquisitions in employment and commercial litigation. He also said the firm is focusing on intellectual property litigation, particularly involving patents and biotech companies. But Ballard Spahr faces immense competition in Los Angeles. “The hardest problem with growing in Los Angeles is the fact that there is so much competition from so many good firms,” said Sampson, who left Baker Hostetler after 23 years. “Unless they come in and start with a good California base, it’s going to be very difficult for them to go anywhere.” In the past few years, about half a dozen firms, most from the East Coast, have expanded or opened in this sprawling metropolis, hoping to cash in on the growth of middle-market companies. Those firms include Washington’s Steptoe & Johnson and Venable; Philadelphia’s Duane Morris; and Richmond, Va.’s Hunton & Williams and McGuire Woods. Those competitors have higher profits than Ballard Spahr, where each partner averaged $515,000 last year. But Makadon downplayed concerns, saying that the firm’s profits this year have seen “healthy growth.” “We have managed, so far, to compete, and I’m confident we’ll be able to compete.” This article originally appeared in theNational Law Journal, a publication of ALM.

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