Ground Floor Entrance

March, 2012
Daily Journal Raines Feldman

What began as a real estate solo practice capitalized on a growing need for restructuring investments and gained a litigation team to become the 20-lawyer Raines Feldman LLP.

BEVERLY HILLS - Andrew Raines didn't intend to launch a small firm when he left real estate transactional boutique Advisors LP in 2006 to go solo.

It wasn't long, though, before he had so much work that he had to hire contract attorneys to help out. Before he knew it, he had the making sof his own boutique practice, which he named Raines Law Group.

"It was a happy accident," he said.

But to continue offering client personalized attend and flexible billing arrangements . his motivation for going solo . he realized from the start he needed to do several things to avoid the problems he'd seen befall other small firms starting out.

He needed someone to run the business side of the firm, leaving the other lawyers free to concentrate on the practice and servicing clients.

"I think any attorney needs to be responsible and careful on business development and service and making sure that they're balanced," he said. "Often, an attorney starting out will go about developing the business, forgetting that without good service behind it, you're doing your client a disservice, and you're also doing your practice a dissservice."

Raines persuaded Robert Pardo, a colleague from his early days at Lillick & McHose, later merged with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, to join as managing partner.

A 20-year veteran in real estate transactions, Pardo, who also operates his own real estate syndication company, said he admired Raines' legal skills and was up for the challenge of co-founding a small firm. As managing partner, he doesn't practice law but oversees the business side of the venture, functioning as office manager, administrator and a member of the firm's management committee.

Raines also set up a unique management structure that allows even some of the most junior associates to have equity in the firm. With lawyers vested and invested in the practice, he said it helps them develop business skills, which in turn helps the firm.

"It's very empowering," he said.

By 2007, signs of a recession were in the air. But at Raines Law Group, Raines said the timing couldn't have been better. While clients were scrambling to keep costs down, the said the firm quickly found itself on the ground floor of what's become the next big wave in alternative legal services in business and real estate transactions, helping to restructure investments and handle debt.

Over the following three years, he said the firm grew steadily, but he marks 2010 as a new time when the firm "really took off." That's when Los Angeles business and entertainment trial lawyer Miles Feldman joined, and the firm relaunched as Raines Feldman LLP, adding a litigation arm and bringing in five more litigators.

The firm now numbers 20 lawyers, many with large-firm backgrounds, including Latham & Watkins LLP, Goodwin Proctor LLP, Loeb & Loeb LLP, Strock & Strock & Lavan LLP and Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP.

Feldman, who'd also intended to go solo alter being a partner at a couple of midsize firms, said one of the things that drew him to the Raines firm was the unique structure of awarding equity to new hires and of assigning one person to run the business end of the operation. The two talked for four months and realized their respective practices - Feldman's litigation and Raines' transactions - would complement each other.

"I originally planned on doing a litigation boutique," Feldman said. "Then I met Andrew, and everything came together as a classic westside Los Angeles law firm but with an innovative structure and business approach."

Feldman's clients have included musical artists the Black Eyed Peas and Herbie Hancock and actor Will Smith. He's currently representing director John Landis in a suit against the estate of Michael Jackson over royalties from the 'Thriller' video, which Landis directed.

From a litigation perspective, he said that having transactional lawyers on hand is "like having our own build-in expert witnesses on cases and consultants" to confer on everything from corporate governance to contract drafting.

And when transactional lawyers have questions involving potential liability or contract disputes, they'll bring in the firm's litigators to advise them on avoiding litigation. Or, when litigation can't be avoided, Raines said he couldn't think of a better lawyer to refer a client to than Feldman.

Raines' cases include real estate deals and investments on behalf of Canyon Capital Advisors LLC, Galaxy Theatres and Green Dot Corp., among others.

Although the firm represents scores of California companies, it has begun doing business nationally and internationally. To service its expanding client base, the partners have created a homemade, carefully crafted international alliance with firms in Asia, Europe and South America.

As the firm has grown, it's also expanded its space. Starting out in a sublease from a client when Raines opened, the firm now occupies two floors of a nine-story office building in the heart of Beverly Hills - Raines also represents the landlord - and plans to soon take over a third floor.

The firm gets its work through referrals from other lawyers, clients, other professionals, such as business managers and agents on the entertainment side, and some investment companies. The lawyers also partner with other law firms and refer out matters that require specialized attention, such as complex tax issues, Raines said, so lawyers don't get bogged down in extraneous work outside their areas of expertise.

"The great advantage to being our size," Raines said, "is we're large enough and diverse enough to handle a full range of transaction and litigation matters, but we're lean enough that we can consult and cocounsel with outside firms and other experts in fields which may be of particular need for the client, and we don't have to utilize our firm if those resources wouldn't be appropriate."

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