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Divorce Lawyers Team to Buy Westside Office

Divorce attorneys spend their days dividing up assets, but two Woodland Hills lawyers are assembling assets as they just purchased their newest property to better position their practice. Peter Walzer and Christopher Melcher recently bought a building in Santa Monica to better serve their Westside clients, save on rent and make a little money on the backend via tenants and property appreciation. The partners at Walzer Melcher, which represented Katie Holmes in her highly publicized divorce from Tom Cruise, bought the building at 1820 14th St. in September and started occupancy in March. The firm also maintains its Woodland Hills office, which the partners purchased in 2013 as the first property in their portfolio. “We had a dream about purchasing our own building but felt it would be out of reach,” Melcher said. “But the Small Business Administration has a program for small businesses to acquire real estate at 10 percent down at low interest rates. It’s fairly easy to qualify as long as you have been in business and can show you can pay the mortgage.” At 5941 Variel Ave., the firm has one tenant and leases the remainder of the space to their practice. In Santa Monica, the majority of the building is leased back to the seller until August, and at that time, the firm will determine its space and tenant needs. Walzer Melcher had its sights on the Westside because many of its high net-worth divorcees are located in Beverly Hills and adjacent areas. In addition, with Snap Inc., operator of ShapChat, and other tech companies taking over Venice, the partners wanted to be a little closer to the action. “It’s sort of a mini Silicon Valley,” Walzer explained. “We see that as an opportunity. Our specialty is family law, but we do complex cases where we address unusual assets, such as stock options and division of hedge funds. It’s probably more common among people involved in the technology business, and we wanted to ride that wave.” Appellate Win Alpert Barr & Grant of Encino recently won a case in the California Court of Appeal, where the firm defended its client – a loan servicer – against a family in disarray. In Kent v. Celink, Bonnie Kent sued several loan-related businesses she believed helped her now-deceased husband obtain a reverse mortgage on their Yorba Linda home without her consent. However, Celink of Lansing, Mich., is a subservicer of reverse mortgages, meaning it only collects payments and has nothing to do with the loan origination. “When we first got the complaint, a big red flag for us and our client was they (Celink) weren’t even in the picture at that time,” said Alex Kasendorf, a lead attorney on the case. In 2012, James Kyle Kent Jr., Bonnie Kent’s late husband, obtained the reverse mortgage loan by forging Bonnie’s name on several documents. When this was discovered, Bonnie Kent sued the original lender, the beneficiary of the loan, the trustee and Celink. During litigation, the property was sold, and the loan was paid off. The trial court granted Celink a motion to collect its attorney fees from that amount, which the appellate court upheld. “Despite in our view that there was no case, it ended up costing the parties a lot of money for the plaintiffs to pursue the case,” said Gary Barr, a partner in the practice and a co-lead in the proceedings. No one can control who gets sued or not, but Kasendorf said there are some steps companies in the lending services industry can take to better protect themselves. “It’s important to constantly review contractual documents and ensure they comply with the everchanging rules and regulations, so you are protected in situations that arise,” he said. New Calabasas Firm Attorneys from Goshgarian & Marshall in Calabasas have formed another firm called Marshall & Associates. The practice focuses on professional liability, general liability and business litigation. Marshall & Associates has leased an executive suite at 26565 W. Agoura Road, which currently houses a legal assistant and its two attorneys – John Marshall and Mark Reusch. “It’s essentially been a seamless transition,” Marshall said. “Most of my clients have been my clients for an extended period of time. The cases I was working on in the old firm transitioned into this firm.” The central location is ideal, he added, as most of his clients are in Orange and Ventura counties. The firm also plans to add another lawyer and potentially a legal assistant sometime next year. Staff Reporter Stephanie Henkel can be reached at (818) 316-3130 or shenkel@sfvbj.com.

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