Nelson Mullins Enters West Coast Legal Market
With Five Attorneys Based in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (March 20, 2017)–Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP has entered the West Coast legal market with the opening of a Los Angeles-area office and the addition of five local attorneys experienced in franchise and distribution law and litigation in the motor vehicle industry.   

"Nelson Mullins for some time has evaluated the need to expand our footprint westward to better serve our national clients, including those in the automotive industry,” said James K. Lehman, Nelson Mullins managing partner. "We look forward to growing our 17th office and enhancing all our legal services, starting with the addition of our new team of experienced California-based attorneys, all of whom we feel fortunate to have joining Nelson Mullins."

Richard H. “Rich” Otera will serve as managing partner of the new office. He has worked in the automotive and electronics industries for more than 16 years. From 2001 to 2015, Mr. Otera worked at the U.S. headquarters of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. as the primary in-house lawyer responsible for dealer franchise and other commercial legal issues for the Honda and Acura auto divisions nationwide. In 2015, he was hired to establish the first-ever U.S.-based legal department for Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd., a Fortune Global 500 manufacturer of electrical components and other related products in core areas including automotive.  As General Counsel of the Americas, he established and led a full-service legal department providing comprehensive legal support to 46 Sumitomo subsidiary companies throughout North and South America.     

Other attorneys joining the office are:

  • Maurice “Mo” Sanchez, who practices distribution and franchise litigation and commercial litigation. Mr. Sanchez has represented motor vehicle manufacturers and distributors in litigation and transactional matters for more than 30 years, focusing on market representation and dealer disputes. At his previous firm, Mr. Sanchez served as the national leader of the distribution and franchise team.  Mr. Sanchez spent part of his career as in-house counsel for Hyundai Motor America and Mazda Motor of America. During his career, he has handled various types of cases, including a matter that resulted in a published appellate decision that clarified the California New Motor Vehicle Board’s jurisdiction regarding which manufacturer/dealer disputes are addressed by the Board and which should go to court. He has also drafted and implemented numerous dealer agreements for major motor vehicle companies that are now in use across the country. He joins as a partner.
  • Kevin Colton, who practices primarily in the area of motor vehicle franchise and distribution. His experience is concentrated in counseling motor vehicle manufacturers and distributors on issues relating to all aspects of the infrastructure of their nationwide sales and distribution networks and in litigating issues that arise from the distributor/dealer relationship. During his career he has drafted new dealer agreements and network policies and advised new manufacturers on the establishment  of alternative retail distribution models. He has more than 20 years of experience as in-house counsel with Nissan North America and 10 years of experience as outside counsel. He joins as a partner.
  • Lisa M. Gibson, who has worked in the automotive industry for more than 30 years in financial and legal capacities, representing motor vehicle manufacturers and distributors in litigation, counseling, and transactional matters, as well as providing them guidance on advertising review and promotional program  structuring. She has prior experience as in-house counsel for domestic and international automobile manufacturers and distributors at Renault, Nissan North America, and Chrysler. Prior to joining Nelson Mullins, she practiced at a national law firm.  She joins as a partner.
  • Jessica M. Higashiyama, who focuses her  practice on complex commercial litigation and franchise and distribution litigation. She represents and counsels automotive manufacturers and distributors on matters in the area of automobile franchise litigation arising from add points, relocations, terminations, warranty and incentive payments, and other aspects of the manufacturer-dealer relationship.  She has represented automotive distributors in state and federal court, with an emphasis on the defense of consumer class action lawsuits involving claims of unfair competition, false and deceptive advertising, product misrepresentation, and breach of express and implied warranties. She joins as an associate.

While the founding team in Los Angeles has a very strong background in the motor vehicle industry, the firm intends to strategically grow the office to provide full-service legal support to a broad base of clients of all types, both domestic and international.  “We are starting with a team of lawyers who have decades of experience in the motor vehicle industry–but that will not be our sole focus. Our plan for the Los Angeles office is to grow strategically to extend to clients in all industries the broad and comprehensive range of legal services that has always been a Nelson Mullins hallmark,” Mr. Otera said.

With more than 500 attorneys and other professionals, Nelson Mullins is the nation’s 103rd largest law firm, according to the American Lawyer. The Firm has more than 100 diversified practices in 16 additional offices and has expanded into New York and Denver in the past two years. Other offices are located in the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

The five new Los Angeles attorneys join more than 25 attorneys in the franchise and distribution law and litigation group who represent regional, national, and international franchisors, distributors, and multi-unit franchisees. The Firm’s franchise and distribution clients range from start-up companies to large, established franchisors and cover a variety of industries including restaurants and food service, hotel and hospitality, vehicle manufacturers and distributors, real estate brokerage, tax preparation services, retail stores, commercial office cleaning, health-related services, amateur and professional sports leagues, and other commercial and consumer-based services. Click here for more information on the firm.

The new office is temporarily located at 879 W. 190th St., Suite 400, Gardena, and soon will relocate to more permanent space. The attorneys can be reached at 424.221.7400.

For additional information, contact Jan Easterling, Nelson Mullins Communications Coordinator, at 800.237.2000, ext. 9794.

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