Eisen Joins Downey Brand as the Firm Looks to Build Out Appellate Practice

December 5, 2017

Sacramento Business Journal

By Scott Rodd for Sacramento Business Journal

Veteran appellate attorney Jay-Allen Eisen has joined Downey Brand LLP to work with the firm on federal and state appeals cases as outside counsel.

Eisen will also maintain the private practice firm he started in 1982, Jay-Allen Eisen Law Corp., but Eisen and Downey Brand will pool resources to cover appellate caseloads. Eisen has traditionally handled appellate cases at the state level but says he expects to take on more cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, since Downey Brand handles mostly federal cases.

Downey Brand is the largest law firm in the Sacramento area, with 76 local attorneys as of early 2017. 

The arrangement between Eisen and Downey Brand is somewhat unusual, according to Janlynn R. Fleener, chair of the firm’s litigation practice.

“There’s a lot of flexibility in the arrangement,” she said.

According to Eisen, unwinding his private firm to join Downey Brand would have been a complicated and time-consuming undertaking. Eisen also may have enjoyed some leverage due to the scarcity of attorneys who specialize in appellate law. He estimates that only 300 attorneys statewide are certified appellate attorneys, nine of whom are in Sacramento County.  

Eisen has moved into Downey Brand’s office on Capitol Mall and his firm’s website redirects to a bio page on Downey Brand’s site.

Eisen has been practicing law since 1969. He spent the early years of his career serving indigent clients as an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. Over the years, he developed an interest and expertise in appellate law.  

California is one of a handful of states that offer specialty certification for appellate attorneys, and in the mid-1990s, Eisen was part of the state bar association’s commission that drafted the test and requirements for appellate specialty certification.

The opportunity to join Downey Brand, according to Eisen, came unexpectedly over lunch at Il Fornaio with Bill Warne, chairman of Downey Brand. Eisen had been looking to move his firm into a smaller downtown office and asked if Downey Brand would be open to subletting him office space.

“’Why would you want to be a tenant?’” Eisen recalls Warne asking. “'Why wouldn’t you want to be part of the firm?’”

Downey Brand’s offer to Eisen comes as the firm looks to build out its appellate practice in the coming years, according to Fleener.

“We see expansion in the future,” she said.

Appellate law can be daunting for younger attorneys, she said. Bringing Eisen on board, she added, will help associates at Downey Brand learn how to navigate the appellate system.

“I believe he will serve as a mentor for younger attorneys at Downey Brand to pursue appellate specialization,” she said.