Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton is the latest Am Law 200 firm to expand into Los Angeles, announcing Monday that it has acquired Beverly Hills-based intellectual property boutique Keats McFarland & Wilson.
Reuters first reported on Kilpatrick’s intention to open in Los Angeles last week after noticing that the firm’s website listed a new base in the city whose address was the same as an office building occupied by Keats McFarland & Wilson.
The boutique being acquired — which handles trademark and copyright work for clients in the entertainment, fashion and technology industries — was founded in 1999 by a group of former IP partners that previously functioned as the Los Angeles office of Baker & Hostetler.
Joining Kilpatrick as partners are Keats McFarland & Wilson name partners Lawrence McFarland and Dennis Wilson, as well as David Caplan, all of whom are Baker & Hostetler alums. The other lawyers coming aboard are counsel Emil Herich and associates Caroline Bussin, Tara Rose and Christopher Varas.
Not making the move is Anthony "Tony" Keats, a former head of the national IP group at Baker & Hostetler, which he joined in 1990.
"Tony wants to pursue other options, including a pro bono education venture," said McFarland, who has known Keats for 20 years. Keats, who confirmed he would not join Kilpatrick but didn’t elaborate further, will continue to practice from an office at the same Beverly Hills location as Kilpatrick’s new outpost in Southern California.
Kilpatrick, itself the product of a late-2010 tie-up between Atlanta-based Kilpatrick Stockton and San Francisco-based Townsend & Townsend & Crew, already has offices in San Diego, Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Walnut Creek. The firm, which last fall announced plans to open a Shanghai office to bolster its IP practice in Asia, has been eyeing a move into the Los Angeles market for some time.
"Opening in L.A. has been a goal of ours since the merger in 2011," said Maureen Sheehy, a former Townsend partner who now serves as a Kilpatrick’s managing partner in San Francisco. (Paul Aguggia, a Washington, D.C.-based financial institutions partner elected chair of Kilpatrick last year, had jury duty Monday and not immediately available for comment.)
Kilpatrick had gross revenues of $362 million for its first year postmerger in 2011, according to the most recent Am Law 100 financial data for the firm, while profits per partner were $630,000. (The Daily Report, a Recorder sibling publication, will be reporting in the near future on the firm’s financial performance in 2012.) Sheehy says that Kilpatrick’s desire to build a nationwide trademark and copyright practice required it to establish a physical presence in Los Angeles.
McFarland, meanwhile, says many of the cases he and his colleagues have traditionally handled have taken them beyond their Los Angeles base to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Cutting down on travel time and improving the ability of Keats McFarland & Wilson to serve its clients were two of the main reasons that McFarland says his boutique began seriously considering a merger in mid-2012.
"We’ve been approached a lot of times over the past several years by large firms," said McFarland, noting that there are "advantages and disadvantages" to being at an Am Law 100 firm. "But we’ve known the [trademark and copyright] folks at Kilpatrick in Atlanta for years and years."
Keats McFarland & Wilson never had a patent prosecution or litigation practice of its own, adds McFarland, so the ability to join forces with Kilpatrick’s 90-lawyer patent group convinced the firm that forsaking its independence after 13 years would allow it to provide its clients with better service.
McFarland, who will serve as the managing partner of Kilpatrick’s new L.A. office, says those clients include Hasbro, LiveNation, Yahoo Inc. and Zynga Inc., the social media game developer that raised $1 billion through an initial public offering in 2011.
Yahoo turned to Keats McFarland & Wilson several years for counsel in litigation over pop-up software, according to a report at the time by sibling publication The National Law Journal, and Kilpatrick’s press release announcing its merger with the boutique touts Dennis Wilson’s work on behalf of Summit Entertainment, an independent movie studio sold for $412.5 million last year to rival Lions Gate Entertainment.
Peter Ocko and Glenn Tannous, managing directors in Los Angeles with legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa (a unit of staffing company the Allegris Group, owned in part by billionaire Stephen Bisciotti of the Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens), worked with Kilpatrick in finding the right match in the City of Angels, according to Sheehy. Kilpatrick is known for its trademark and copyright group, and the firm added its patent prosecution and litigation expertise through its merger with Townsend two years ago.
Most large firms that have opened offices in the Los Angeles area in recent years by scooping up smaller shops — including Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi; McKool Smith; Kelley Drye & Warren; Fox Rothschild; and the now-defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf — usually take space downtown, in Century City, or in nearby Santa Monica.
With its new Beverly Hills base, Kilpatrick will be one of the few large firms operating out of the affluent enclave, which is generally home to entertainment boutiques.
Sheehy says that Kilpatrick continues to be approached about opportunities in Los Angeles, but that it’s hard to predict future expansion efforts. McFarland adds that he and his colleagues will focus on integrating into Kilpatrick and have no plans to move.
"There are worse places in America to be than Beverly Hills," he says jokingly. "So right now we are staying here."
Brian Baxter is a senior reporter with The Am Law Daily, a Recorder affiliate.