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Lawyer Wars Heat Up Between Two Entertainment Law Firms

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Entertainment attorney Barry Hirsch has bolted from the Los Angeles based Armstrong Hirsch Jackoway Tyerman & Wertheimer entertainment law firm that he helped found 24 years ago, and filed a lawsuit alleging he was being forced into early retirement. Hirsch has since formed Hirsch, Wallerstein, Matlof & Fishman with former lawyers at the firm. It too, is based in Los Angeles. His former firm, now named Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum & Morris, is suing Hirsch et al as well, in what is turning out to be a messy situation.

According to The New York Times, Hirsch's old firm offered the barrister, whose clients include Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Michelle Pfeiffer and Francis and Sofia Coppola, a generous retirement package by the younger shareholders in Armstrong Hirsch Jackoway Tyerman & Wertheimer. Hirsch, 70, was not ready to be sent out to pasture. Hirsch, who was also the chairman of his former firm, was not being forced into retirement, said his fellow board members, many of whom he had recruited into the firm," the paper reported. But if he chose to stay on, they said, "his multimillion-dollar annual salary would be reduced, he would have to share much more power in the realigned organization, and his personal expenses would be reined in."

Hirsch's former firm's lawsuit alleges that Hirsch and his colleagues, Robert S. Wallerstein, Howard A. Fishman and David J. Matlof, collected their bi-weekly paychecks on Friday, August 13, and, after the close of business, bolted, downloaded files from their office computers and removed miscellaneous office furniture and boxes filled with hard-copy client files. They opened for business on August 16 under their new shingle.

In his lawsuit against his former firm, Hirsch also alleges that he had "effectively been pushed out the door by a scheme that would have improperly diverted revenue and concentrated power in the hands of the defendants by converting the firm from a corporation into a limited liability partnership on September 1," said the paper. -Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen