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For its 100-year anniversary, Los Angeles-based Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp got a big present: a shiny New York office staffed with six litigators, four of whom are big-time entertainment lawyers the firm snagged from Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. The four ex-Sonnenschein partners-Christine Lepera, Paul LiCalsi, Jane Stevens, and Howard Weller-count such luminaries as Jay-Z, Kanye West, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and the Beatles among their clients. All of those clients have followed the group to MS&K. “We’ve been together for a really long time and couldn’t see not practicing together,” says New York managing partner Jane Stevens (above) of the Sonnenschein group. In fact, the team dates back to 1978, when Stevens and LiCalsi both worked as associates at New York entertainment litigation boutique Gold, Farrell & Marks, with Lepera joining in 1986 and Weller in the early 1990s. The four litigators then moved over to Rubin Baum Levin Constant & Friedman, which Sonnenschein later acquired. Stevens says the group wasn’t “canvassing the world” for a new job, but when a headhunter approached them about founding MS&K’s New York office, they were inspired by the idea. “It’s exciting to be able to build something,” she says. “To be able to make it your own and watch it grow.” Stevens adds that having the support of a firm with a historically strong entertainment practice was also an attractive selling point. In addition to the four Sonnenschein partners, the New York office has acquired the husband-and-wife team of Lauren Wachtler and Paul Montclare, who have run their own commercial litigation and real estate boutique in New York for the past 14 years. Wachtler says that the two had been approached by other firms to merge before but didn’t want to be swallowed up by a “global monster.” Stevens echoes that sentiment. MS&K has 125 lawyers to Sonnenschein’s 700. MS&K has had New York ambitions for some time; managing partner Thomas Lambert says the firm was waiting for the right group to jump-start the office. He hopes that the New York office eventually matches the West Coast tally of 125 lawyers. But for now, only these six seasoned litigators occupy a space outfitted for 20. Decorating the office is a current concern, but with trophies like gold records from the Beatles and sheet music from Lloyd Webber, there is much to choose from.

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