Reed Smith Adds Insurance Experts

Maya Meinert

Daily Journal

December 18, 2007

LOS ANGELES - Attorneys David M. Halbreich and Douglas C. Rawles have joined Reed Smith's Los Angeles office, further expanding the firm's insurance recovery practice in California.

Halbreich and Rawles moved to Reed Smith from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius as partners.

Halbreich, who was co-chair of Morgan Lewis' insurance recovery practice, and Rawles represent policy holders in securities fraud, errors and omissions, toxic tort and product liability claims in industries ranging from oil and gas to financial services.

Peter J. Kennedy, managing partner of Reed Smith's Los Angeles office, said the addition of Halbreich and Rawles further strengthens the firm's insurance recovery practice on the West Coast.

"We have lawyers dedicated to representing policy holders in offices throughout the country, and this is a great way for us to add to our Los Angeles office," Kennedy said. "We had strength in this area on the East Coast, and the firm was looking to expand the practice out here."

Reed Smith's Los Angeles office has grown from 50 to 80 lawyers in the past five years and recently completed a build-out of a third floor in its office building.

"We were bursting at the seams, but now we can accommodate further growth," he said.

Halbreich, 49, said he plans to build the Los Angeles insurance recovery practice by working with attorneys from Chicago's Sachnoff & Weaver, which Reed Smith acquired earlier this year. Both Halbreich's and Rawles' practices are national in scope.

"With the Sachnoff firm, Reed Smith acquired a policy-holder-based practice, an area I want to grow and expand, and I saw an opportunity here for me to do that," Halbreich said.

Halbreich, who graduated from George Washington University National Law Center in 1983, said he plans to focus on the insurance recovery areas of errors and omissions, fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis, and directors and officers liability.

Rawles, 44, also cited the opportunity to expand Reed Smith's insurance recovery practice as part of the reason for his move, but he said business decisions made by Morgan Lewis also affected his ability to build a policy-holder practice.

"Morgan Lewis is always very careful and makes decisions that it thinks is in the best interest of the firm overall. We decided things would be better over here [at Reed Smith] after those decisions were made," he said. "It's unfortunate, but that's the way business goes."

Rawles, who received his law degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1991, described Morgan Lewis' business decision as a "philosophical change - a way of looking at how they wanted to build certain practice groups."

"Because of that philosophical change, we felt we couldn't grow our particular practice there," he said.

Both Halbreich and Rawles declined to name any clients they would be taking with them. However, as an example of their work, Rawles described a $2.2 billion settlement both attorneys had obtained for policy holder MacArthur Co., a construction supply company, in an asbestos-related case while working for Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. Both joined Morgan Lewis after Brobeck's breakup in 2003.

David Schrader, managing partner of Morgan Lewis' Los Angeles office, attributed Halbreich's and Rawles' departures to a client-driven matter.

"They left to pursue a specific client that Morgan Lewis did not wish to continue representing," Schrader said. "They left for business reasons, but they left on good terms, and we remain friendly.

"While we'll miss them as friends and colleagues, their departure won't affect the Los Angeles office or the firm's insurance recovery practice. The firm continues to do policy-holder work."

However, other Morgan Lewis insurance-recovery attorneys who represent policy holders may follow Halbreich and Rawles to Reed Smith soon, according to a source knowledgeable about the deal.

Representatives from Reed Smith would not confirm any future lateral moves. "I can't talk about it, but the aspiration is to continue to grow the practice," Kennedy said.

Alan Miles of legal search firm Alan Miles & Associates brokered the moves.

Return to News Index