International report: Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, Los Angeles

Managing partner:

Guy Halgren
Turnover: $232.6m (£131.7m)
Total number of partners: 174
Total number of fee-earners: 621
Main practice areas: Antitrust, corporate and securities; entertainment and media; finance and bankruptcy; government contracts; IP; labour and employment; litigation; real estate/land use; tax/employee benefits/trusts and estates; white collar defence
Key clients: Alcatel, Bank of America, The Boeing Company, Comerica, Exxon Mobil, Georgia-Pacific, Northrop Grumman, Paramount Pictures, Pepsi Bottling Group, TaylorMade-Adidas Golf Company, US Bank, The Walt Disney Company and Wells Fargo
Number of Offices: Nine
Locations: Century City, Del Mar Heights, Los Angeles, New York, Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Washington DC

Los Angeles-based Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton has seen a tenfold growth in its eastern presence in the past year, but that is only stage one of the firm’s expansion strategy.

It plans to more than double the size of its New York practice in the coming year to more than 50 lawyers, it has plans to open its first foreign office in China by mid-2006 and the firm is also targeting a London opening in the next 12 months.

Chairman Guy Halgren told The Lawyer that the firm is ahead of schedule in its expansion plan, after opening in New York in September 2004.

“We’re busier than we’ve ever been and we’re well above budget,” Halgren claims, adding that the firm has seen increases of between 5 and 15 per cent across the board.

“The growth is moderate and steady and to plan,” he says. “There’s nothing dramatic, no storm clouds on the horizon – knock on wood – and everyone’s very happy with the way the firm’s progressing. We’re a national firm on the verge of going international.”

The firm recently established a communications practice out of Washington DC, hiring former Federal Communications Commission media bureau chief Ken Ferree. Indeed, partner hire announcements from Sheppard Mullin are an almost weekly event. “We don’t want a merger with anyone, so it’s not going to be overnight growth for us,” says Halgren.

The firm uses around eight different London firms, with an increasing amount of corporate transactional and entertainment practice work containing a London component.

Halgren considers the firm’s fiercest rivals to include DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary (“because we always had a big rivalry with Gray Cary”), Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Latham & Watkins, Morrison & Foerster, O’Melveny & Myers, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

Finance and bankruptcy is the firm’s specialist area, with a series of the US’s largest financial institutions on its client list, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, US Bank and Comerica.

“We’re organised a little differently to a lot of other firms: we combine finance with bankruptcy, whereas most other firms organise their finance with their corporate practice,” Halgren says.

The firm also has a large Hollywood-based entertainment and media practice and boasts names such as Sony, Disney, Viacom and Fox on its client list.

Indeed, Disney has featured in two of the firm’s biggest litigation cases in the past year, including the widely-publicised split with former Miramax executive Harvey Weinstein and Disney’s case against the author of the book Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which saw Disney prevail.

The firm’s largest deal of the year saw Sheppard Mullin represent the Boeing Company in the sale of its commercial aeroplane operations to Onex Corporation for $900m (£509.4m) in cash, plus the assumption of debt.