Newport Beach law firm Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth has furthered its involvement in the life-science industry by opening an office in Westlake Village, which lately has been taking on more lawyers to meet demand from a growing biotech scene in Conejo Valley.
The firm, which has expertise in life sciences but also serves a range of other industries, secured the office space last summer. However, it wasn’t until October that it felt the office was fully fledged and prepped for an open house that hosted the local business community.
The office is home to six lawyers and recently took on two intellectual property lawyers to bolster its services. According to Brent Reinke, a shareholder in Stradling’s corporate and securities practice group, the additions bring the office’s star power closer to that of the firm’s longer-established offices.
“We’re trying to build things in this region (and are) looking at the capabilities not only in Westlake, but also through our seven lawyers up in Santa Barbara,” Reinke said. “Between the two offices there are about 12 or 13 lawyers, and we see both offices continuing to entrench (themselves) in the business community and get word out to more companies and executives that we’re here.”
Between the two intellectual property lawyers, Jill Heybl and Jaye Heybl, the firm gained talent in the trademark and copyright litigation spaces. According to Reinke, both lawyers have lived in the region for most of their lives and bring local business connections to the firm as well.
Reinke joined Stradling last year after departing from the law firm Musick Peeler. The fit into Stradling was supported by his founding of BioScience Alliance, a nonprofit focused on promoting local life science firms in the Conejo Valley. He now has areas of focus in mergers and acquisitions, private equity, venture capital and corporate and securities matters.
“I was able to show (Stradling) what I thought we could do out here through various organizations like BioScience Alliance, Gold Coast Executive Forum and my network.” Reinke said. Gold Coast is a regular gathering of C-level executives.
Stradling’s cemented presence in the Westlake Village area comes at a time when remote work and digital networking have become a new normal in business. However, according to Reinke, now is perhaps the most important time to bring face-to-face value to clients with a brick-and-mortar presence.
He noted that large law firms represent a variety of companies in the region but do not have a physical presence within it.“We wanted to show this community and the region as a whole that we’re not just a law firm that’s going to come in and do some work for companies in the area,” Reinke said. “We wanted to show an actual vested interest in the community and a commitment to the community to physically be here.”
In terms of the local life science industry, Stradling’s Westlake Village office has its work cut out for it, with the region’s large companies sustaining growth and young companies progressing at a fast pace.
For instance, the publicly traded Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. broke ground on a 15,000-square-foot, $126 million manufacturing facility in Thousand Oaks last year and completed renovation of an existing 14,000-square-foot manufacturing space.
Companies such as Acelyrin are developing fast, with significant funding to boot. Within the last year, the biopharmaceutical company secured series A and series B funding collectively worth $550 million. The series B was announced in September and will primarily be allocated to phase three development of izokibep, the company’s inflammatory disease treatment. Dr. Shao-Lee Lin, Acelyrin’s co-founder, said in a statement that the funding would also help Acelyrin acquire and commercialize other treatments similar to izokibep.
“For years you didn’t see (growth), and then we kind of finally turned the corner six, seven, eight years ago,” Reinke said. “When (it comes to) the inhibiting factors of venture capital not wanting to invest in the area, or lack of wet lab space or concerns about the industry as a whole, I think a lot of that’s been overcome. That’s why you’re seeing acceleration of the life science biotech communities in this region.”
Wet lab space for companies to conduct clinical work had been in short supply, but the situation has improved. This year, Agoura Hills Business Park was sold for $29.7 million to a joint venture between Harbor Associates and Gemdale USA. A portion of the property has been converted into lab space.
Reinke added that the quality of life in the Valley region has also been a positive factor for the biotech cluster in that it can draw employees and companies to the area. The region boasts other positive elements, including an increasing number of life science companies, a strong venture capital presence, and now, a law firm with relevant industry expertise.
“We represent a broad base of industries, but we have a lot of experience in doing licensing deals, international distribution deals and dealing with clinical trial issues,” Reinke said. “We’re dealing with multiple clinical trial-related agreements right now for a client, and so we have this experience that we can bring to those companies. I don’t think there is any other law firm that brings that kind of expertise that has a local presence in this region.”
Setting up shop in Westlake Village has been a boon for Stradling when it comes to talent acquisition. The office fills a gap for employees and potential employees who want to be settled in the Westlake Village area without having to commute to Stradling’s other spaces in Santa Barbara, Century City, or Downtown Los Angeles.
One of the main challenges for Stradling at this point is growing at a consistent pace and marketing their new space.
“That’s always kind of an ongoing process — just making sure people know that we’re here, and we’re doing that through a variety of marketing mechanisms in the region,” Reinke said.
At its current rate, Stradling will likely run out of space for attorney offices at its Westlake Village office, so it is already hoping to find additional space by next year.