Ballard adds San Diego defense team

Posted: November 14, 2010

Ballard Spahr L.L.P. has opened an office in San Diego with the addition of a white-collar defense team, yet another sign of how litigation and trial work have emerged as an important staple for law firms in a down legal market.

The addition of five lawyers from the San Diego firm of La Bella & McNamara L.L.P. will bring the number of lawyers in Ballard Spahr's litigation practice to 200.

Thomas W. McNamara, who will become the managing partner of the new Ballard Spahr office, spent more than a decade as a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California.

His partner until recently was Charles La Bella, a former senior prosecutor with the Justice Department who headed the criminal probe of Democratic fund-raising activities in the 1996 election. La Bella is returning to the Justice Department as deputy chief of the fraud section in San Diego.

"We think that Tom McNamara and his team provide a perfect opportunity for the firm to greatly enhance its national litigation practice generally and its white-collar practice specifically," said Ballard Spahr chairman Arthur Makadon.

Ballard, like many larger firms, has had to make wrenching adjustments in the last two years as clients pulled back and work disappeared. The 500-lawyer firm, based in Center City, trimmed staff and cut associate salaries, a common response throughout the industry.

The downturn that began in 2008 came just as Ballard's plans for expansion in the West were gathering steam. It opened a large office in Phoenix in 2006 with some prominent breakaway partners of a regional firm, Fennemore Craig P.C., then followed that move with new offices in Century City Los Angeles and Atlanta.

But even as the legal market as a whole declined, litigation increased at a steady pace, said Ron Sarachan, chairman of Ballard's white-collar defense practice group.

"Litigation is doing well, so the firm is doing well in that regard," Sarachan said.

The addition of McNamara and four other lawyers from La Bella & McNamara will allow Ballard Spahr to offer white-collar defense and other litigation services to clients served by the firm's other western offices, as well as to clients based in the East but with legal matters in Southern California.

"They have cases all over the country," Sarachan said of the new lawyers joining the firm. "But it is also a very nice match for us because we have offices in Las Vegas and Salt Lake and Denver and L.A. It will make us more competitive on matters out there."

Many firms are betting that white-collar defense will remain an important staple in the absence of the robust deal-making a few years ago that fueled so much law-firm expansion.

On Nov. 1, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney P.C. announced that it had hired Tom Bergstrom for its white-collar defense and investigations practice group.

Bergstrom has defended hundreds of businesses, professionals, and individuals in state and federal enforcement proceedings. He is well-regarded in the white-collar defense bar.

Ballard said that McNamara, its new San Diego managing partner, has represented officers, directors, and executives in investigations by grand juries, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other entities. He also conducts internal corporate investigations.

Contact staff writer Chris Mondics at 215-854-5957 or

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