A little more than a year after absorbing Los Angeles-based Liner, DLA Piper has continued to expand its office in the City of Angels by bringing on a pair of former Greenberg Traurig partners to co-chair its entertainment finance practice.
Thomas Ara and Robert Sherman, both of whom joined Greenberg Traurig in 2014 from Reed Smith, specialize in advising clients in the media, entertainment and finance industries. Both partners will be based in DLA Piper’s office in Century City, California, where Ara will also lead his new firm’s entertainment transactions practice.
“We saw a great opportunity to build on a terrific existing platform and entertainment finance transitional practice, and to do so with a very different perspective than a lot of our peers in the industry are doing it,” said Ara, a veteran film finance specialist.
Ara also cited DLA Piper’s commitment to “establishing a foothold in the entertainment and media” space since its combination last year with Liner last year as further incentivizing him and Sherman to make the move to the legal giant, which has been on an acquisition spree in 2018.
Since completing its merger with 60-lawyer Liner a year ago this month, the roughly 3,600-lawyer DLA Piper has sought to grow its California operations via lateral hires. Los Angeles has been a particular focus of DLA Piper’s expansion efforts.
The firm recently welcomed aboard labor and employment litigation partner Holly Lake in the city from the Miller Law Group, a move that came on the heels of DLA Piper hiring Barnes & Thornburg partners Levi Heath and Matthew Gruenberg and recruiting former McDermott Will & Emery trade secrets head Eric Hagen. In March, DLA Piper added ex-Alston & Bird partner Jeff Tsai to bolster its litigation, arbitration and investigations group in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“Our goal is to create an integrated strategy for recruitment and business development, which we are right in the middle of, and I think the market has responded very positively, as evidenced by the laterals that we’re talking to,” said Stuart Liner, co-managing partner of DLA Piper’s offices in Century City and downtown Los Angeles. Liner anticipates his firm’s California lateral hiring surge to continue into 2019.
With the addition of Ara and Sherman, DLA Piper has brought on 12 partners in Los Angeles during the past year. According to the firm, DLA Piper currently has about 90 lawyers in Los Angeles, including 61 in Century City and 28 in its downtown office.
“It is not too difficult to see what’s happening in the convergence of technology and entertainment, it is an area in which a lot of the firms are focusing on, so that is something we are going to continue to focus and coordinate between our Silicon Valley and L.A. offices,” said Liner about DLA Piper’s growth strategy in the Golden State.
Liner noted his firm is seeing opportunities in labor and employment and real estate, practice areas that in recent years he said have not been viewed as desirable by large firms. DLA Piper is also looking to further enhance its corporate, private equity and venture capital capabilities, which can supplement the firm’s entertainment expertise, he said. Ara seconded Liner’s observations about the changing face of the entertainment sector.
“I think the biggest thing is technology,” Ara said. “Technology has impacted every aspect of entertainment, including entertainment finance.”
Companies such Amazon.com Inc., Hulu LLC and Netflix Inc. have “radically” disrupted the marketplace for television, as well as the way it is financed, added Sherman, who like Ara previously was a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips until both lawyers left that firm for Reed Smith in 2011. Three years later, the duo moved to Greenberg Traurig.
Sherman centers his practice on domestic and cross-border deals and financings, while Ara’s practice focuses on entertainment and media industry transactions. Both lawyers have extensive experience handling international deals. Ara primarily represents clients in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Sherman has worked with parties and assets in Asia, Europe and Latin America. Within the past few years, Sherman said cross-border deals have become more complex than they used to be.
“Now we see a lot more co-financing transactions with different industry and non-industry players from multiple jurisdictions, which makes it more complex from the structuring perspective at every level,” Sherman said.