Richard Jones, partner in the Los Angeles office, was named head of Nixon Peabody's public finance group.

LOS ANGELES — Nixon Peabody LLP has promoted Richard Jones to head the firm's public finance practice.

Jones, co-founder of the national law firm's Los Angeles office, will oversee a team of more than 40 attorneys.

That number includes attorneys in the Chicago office who joined as a result of the Feb. 1 merger with Ungaretti & Harris LLP.

Jones succeeds Mitchell Rapaport, a partner in the law firm's Washington D.C. office since 1995, as head of the practice.

Rapaport, a tax attorney who worked for the Internal Revenue Service and Department of the Treasury early in his career, assisted in drafting regulations governing private activity bonds and the use of bond-financed facilities.

"They will be big shoes to fill," said Jones. "He is a nationally-recognized tax specialist. I'm a bond lawyer in California."

Jones joked that Rapaport's reason for stepping down is that heading a practice group involves a lot of administrative work, and lawyers prefer to be practicing law.

Nixon Peabody's national public finance practice involves financings on a wide range of municipal and infrastructure projects — from mass transit to baseball stadiums, student loans, public power and housing. The practice group has attorneys working in New York City, Washington D.C., Rochester, N.Y., Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Nixon Peabody employs more than 600 lawyers, including more than 20 partners in its public finance group across the country. The firm operates internationally with offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and London.

The Ungaretti & Harris firm, which adopted the Nixon Peabody name, comprised 100 lawyers in the areas of corporate law, healthcare, real estate, litigation, government relations and public finance. Ungaretti & Harris had four partners who practiced public finance out of its sole Chicago office.

Nixon Peabody ranked 11th last year nationally among bond counsel, working on 60 deals valued at $7.2 billion.

As head of public finance, Jones said what he hopes to do is to support "this group of talented, energetic and able lawyers" in doing the things they need to do.

"I don't expect to tell anyone they need to change how they do business, because we have a very well-established and successful group," he said.

The law firm plans to target healthcare financing as a growth area with the expertise added in that area through the Ungaretti & Harris merger.

Nixon Peabody already had a significant healthcare regulatory practice and some attorneys in East Coast offices who worked in healthcare finance pre-merger, he said.

Jones came to Nixon Peabody in 2005. He and Travis Gibbs, a public finance attorney specializing in tax law, moved over from O'Melveny & Myers to launch a Los Angeles office for Nixon Peabody.

"In 10 years we have gone from two to a 50-member office," Jones said. "It was a great opportunity and we did it, but it was scary as all get out when we started."

During the eight years Jones ran the Los Angeles office, it has grown and thrived, said Stephen Zubiago, leader of Nixon Peabody's business and finance department.

Zubiago called Jones an experienced leader and mentor to many of the firm's attorneys.

"We are thrilled to have Rick lead our national public finance practice, one of the largest and most active practices in the country," Zubiago said.

Jones has represented governmental agencies, educational institutions, nonprofit entities, underwriters and technology companies in structuring and executing financings. He also works with corporate issuers, for whom he does equity and debt financings. He has worked on billions of dollars in tax-exempt and taxable financing, according to the law firm.

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