St. Louis-based Thompson Coburn is joining the Los Angeles expansion trend by scooping up 10-attorney Freedman Weisz.

Thompson Coburn chairman Thomas Minogue said that the firm, which brings to the market competitive rates and low, Midwest-based overhead, will be able to better serve existing clients—including those in the transportation sector—and lure new ones by moving into Los Angeles.

Thompson Coburn is one of several firms that have expanded in the Los Angeles market lately, hoping to grab technology, corporate and real estate work. In May, Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman launched an office in the city. Thompson & Knight, Pepper Hamilton and Cooley opened shops in the area last year, and LeClairRyan, Winston & Strawn and Foley & Mansfield have boosted their Los Angeles offices with additional attorneys within the last 18 months. McKool Smith established a Los Angeles office in 2011.

Thompson Coburn, with about 215 lawyers in St. Louis, has another 30 or so lawyers in Washington. In 2007, it opened a Chicago office with the acquisition of 40-lawyer FagelHaber. The Los Angeles expansion will "replicate" that strategy, Minogue said.

"Our strategic plan in our firm is to look to go into larger money-center markets," he said. The firm has about 350 attorneys in all, he added.

Los Angeles traditionally has not been an easy market to penetrate by firms based in outside the area, said Kent Zimmermann, a consultant at Zeughauser Group. But the city’s large number of mid-cap companies, served in the past by local firms, has become a big draw to out-of-towners, especially those below the top echelon, as they’ve angled for work in a tepid economy, he said.

"There is a perception among many firms outside the AmLaw 50, and some in that group, that the mid-market is where a lot of the action is these days," he said. "Also, many firms that represent technology companies see renewed opportunities in the L.A. market."

Thompson Coburn hopes to boost its maritime, intellectual property and litigation business with the move, Minogue said. Gross revenue in 2012 was $164.5 million, down 2.1 percent compared with 2011, according to The American Lawyer, an affiliate of The National Law Journal. Average revenue per lawyer was flat at $540,000 and profits per partner were $505,000, down 2.9 percent. Overall, gross revenue at the 100 firms that make up the AmLaw 200 list in 2012 was $18.51 billion, up 3.2 percent.

Barry Weisz, at Freedman Weisz, will become managing partner of Thompson Coburn’s Los Angeles office. He said the firm expects to double the number of attorneys there in two years. Freedman Weisz focuses on technology, health care, transportation and real estate transactions. It also has litigators. The merger of the two firms is expected to close on October 1.

Competitive hourly rates and the absence of any debt at Thompson Coburn, founded in 1929, were attractive to Weisz, he said. He also was impressed with its use of technology, including customized software for document management and litigation matters. "They’re an old firm, but they’re very forward thinking," he said.

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