The growing firm LTL Attorneys LLP is proud of its diverse group of lawyers
LTL Attorneys built a litigation boutique by coupling high-end work and competitive pricing.
By Eli Wolfe
After a four-year battle, LTL Attorneys LLP won a significant case in September when an arbitrator denied a multimillion-dollar unfair competition claim against a client that manufactures flash memory storage devices. The claimant was ordered to pay arbitration expenses in an offset award.
This win was the latest in a string of sizable litigation victories in recent years for LTL, a boutique founded by a trio of former Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP attorneys. The partners say they try to be especially efficient to handle a large number of complex cases each year.
“We just wanted to do straight litigation and we wanted to do high-quality work and that’s what we have now,” said James Lee, a co-founder and the current managing partner. “I’m proud to say that we’re doing a lot of trials for a small firm.”
The recent flash drive arbitration was well within LTL’s wheelhouse of intellectual property and business trial matters. The firm also has a burgeoning employment group, which accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the firm’s work. LTL expanded into employment law following repeated inquiries from companies that were impressed by the young firm’s efficiency at managing overhead costs, Lee said.
Jerry Huang, general counsel for Vizio Inc., said LTL has played an important role over the past seven years helping the company to fight off patent suits.
“We accumulated over 22 litigation victories against patent trolls,” Huang said. “LTL played no small part in achieving that, not only because of their expertise, but also their cost-effectiveness.”
Maintaining attractive rates is very much on the minds of LTL’s partners in the wake of the firm’s recent move to a new office space in downtown Los Angeles this September. The new space is more than double the size of their old one, which will help to accommodate the addition of two new partners — David Ammons and Patricia Kinaga — who joined in August and December, respectively.
“We are in growth mode right now,” Lee said, noting that the firm, which also has offices in San Francisco and Orange County, is up to 35 attorneys. “One of the biggest reasons why we moved into this office is we needed room to grow.”
Balancing growth and costs was one of the principal concerns Lee and his co-founders — managing partner Enoch Liang and former partner Luan Tran — had in mind when they formed LTL in 2003. After taking on several plaintiff-side contingency cases, the partners realized a lot of defense-side work is extremely wasteful. That led them to maximize efficiency by implementing a sophisticated case management system and researching artificial intelligence programs to handle some grunt work.
“The worst thing I hate to see in this office are Post-it notes,” James Lee said. “Because what they really are is just an old way of people handling cases, and it’s wasteful.”
LTL’s streamlined accountability system is complemented by an expectation that attorneys will spend a great deal of time arguing cases in court. Ammons, who joined LTL from the San Francisco city attorney’s office, said LTL stood out from large firms where the opportunity to try cases is rare.
“I think I had taken only one deposition in several years of private practice before I went to the city attorney’s office,” Ammons said.
LTL is one of many litigation boutiques that markets itself as a venue where attorneys have a greater chance of cultivating trial experience. But according to Steven Gonzalez, a partner at LTL who co-chairs the firm’s employment and class action litigation group, LTL’s emphasis on efficiency also allows attorneys to build a book of business far more quickly than they might in a large firm.
“One of the things nice about a firm like this is we can do cutting-edge work, but do it in a way where we’re able to be cost-effective,” Gonzalez said.
According to James Lee, the firm is frequently asked by potential clients to participate in smaller matters to test its litigation abilities. Roughly two years ago, LTL came face to face with attorneys from Quinn Emanuel in a case involving the messaging app Snapchat. John Quinn, founding partner of the firm who was not personally in court for the matter, said that based on the written deposition work he read and the outcome of the trial he thought LTL did a good job.
“I think they’re very well regarded in the business and legal community,” Quinn said. “They’re effective and talented and ambitious young lawyers and they seem to have done a great job with their firm.”
LTL also has the distinction of being one of the relatively few minority-owned litigation law firms in California. According to James Lee, 85 percent of the attorneys at LTL are members of a minority group.
“If 85 percent of our lawyers are diverse and we’re still kicking ass then yes, you can replicate this at big firms,” Lee said. “I think there’s a big difference between people who say they want it and people who say they will do it.” It’s somewhat surprising to Lee that more firms don’t push for more diversity, given how he said many companies seek out firms with a strong track record of hiring attorneys from minority groups.
Leon Bass, a director and managing attorney at Southern California Edison Co., said he has sent numerous matters to LTL involving misappropriated trade secrets, trademark disputes and other IP-related work, partly because the firm is a model “diversity business enterprise.”
“It’s been a pleasure,” Bass said of his experience working with LTL. “It seems like they’re growing by leaps and bounds.”