Lawlist/LK1st/mark2nd By JENNIFER NETHERBY Staff Reporter San Fernando Valley law firms continued to see modest employment growth in 1998, with 10 of the Valley’s top 15 firms either increasing their litigation staff or holding steady, according to the Business Journal’s list of the biggest firms in the San Fernando Valley. This is the second year in a row that a majority of the top firms have reported increases. Still, the ranking changed little over the past year, though four firms made their debut in the top 15. Glendale-based Knapp, Petersen & Clark held the No. 1 position, despite the fact that it added two new partners and dropped five attorneys. Wasserman, Comden & Casselman held its No. 2 spot, increasing its ranks by two attorneys. “Right now, across the board, there’s been growth in all areas,” said Barry Harlan, managing partner at No. 7-ranked Lewitt, Hackman, Hoefflin, Shapiro, Marshall & Harlan. Harlan said the strongest area has been his firm’s real estate practice, fueled by growth in both residential and commercial development. “It’s the general economy and fact that home sales are so strong,” he said. Encino-based Horvitz & Levy moved up a spot to the third biggest firm, increasing its ranks with two attorneys and one partner. The firm specializes in appellate cases. “We’re seeing bigger and more important and complicated cases,” said Managing Partner Barry Levy. “We’re seeing all kinds of diverse cases. We’re doing more cases in entertainment litigation.” Levy said the firm has been attracting bigger clients, with cases ranging from patent infringement to work for insurance carriers, all on appeal. Most firms on the list handle a broad range of law. The most popular areas were real estate, insurance and civil litigation. Knapp, Petersen & Clarke also saw a strong increase in its corporate real estate practice, the firm’s spokeswoman Debbie Maginn said. She said the other areas of the firm’s practice have held steady. Harlan said he expects growth to continue in 1999. “We predict it will be one of our best years,” he said. Martin Rousso, managing partner at Hemar & Rousso said he believes elder law will become a high-growth area in the coming years, with the aging population. Personal injury law on the other hand is on the wane, he said. Rousso said his firm, which specializes in commercial litigation, has also changed the way it charges clients, to attract more customers. “Flexible fee structures, that’s where the market is going,” he said. “Clients are more value shopping because they can get quality work at value prices.” James Goudge, managing partner at Dennison, Bennett & Press LLP, said his firm has seen an increase in employment litigation and discrimination claims, which he attributes to a heightened awareness by the public. Meanwhile, he said his firm has seen a decrease in auto claims. “It’s just a mixed bag,” he said.