Attorney Spotlight: Verlan Y. Kwan
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Verlan Y. Kwan was interviewing for a job with Shawn Kerendian when he asked her whether she would be interested in a career in probate and trust litigation. Because her primary areas of focus to that point had been wage and hour class-action matters and antitrust litigation, Verlan wasn’t sure how she felt about the practice areas Shawn was proposing. Despite her doubts, she accepted the job, aspiring to excel at it.
That was in 2010, when Verlan joined Shawn at their prior firm. Just three years later, Keystone Law Group was founded. As of 2022, Verlan is now a top attorney in Los Angeles who manages more than 100 cases at any given time, some of which have upwards of $50 million in assets at stake. Verlan is held in high esteem by her colleagues and clients alike.
“I have earned the respect of my fellow attorneys,” says Verlan. “I have a quiet confidence without having an ego.”
While Verlan has been working with Shawn for far longer than Keystone has been open, she recently celebrated her eight-year anniversary with the firm. In eight short years, Verlan ascended the ranks at Keystone to be named a Partner and one of a few members of the firm’s Executive Committee, which is responsible for strategic firm decisions, business development and management of the firm’s 35+ employees. While Verlan is proud of her remarkable trajectory, she hasn’t forgotten how it all started.
“The highlight of my time at Keystone is seeing how far the firm has come from its humble beginnings of three attorneys and two staff members,” she says. “I am essentially Keystone’s first employee.”
As one of Keystone’s most experienced attorneys, Verlan has been assigned many high-profile cases over the course of her career. She is particularly pleased with her work on a recent trust matter in which she recovered for her elderly client the massive sums of money her son had either lost through improper management of assets or misappropriated from her through egregious acts of elder abuse. Verlan successfully argued for the trustee to be removed and the trust to be invalidated on account of the misconduct perpetrated by the trustee.
In another noteworthy case that Verlan handled, Keystone represented the surviving spouse of a decedent who had been the largest timeshare developer on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. The client was seeking help because, as the decedent’s spouse, she was entitled to one-half of their community property assets, which she had not received.
The decedent had a trust that failed to take into account the community property character of the assets in question. Verlan not only managed to have the trustee removed but they also recovered the client’s community property interest, which was worth tens of millions of dollars, and over $10 million in excessive estate taxes paid by the prior trustee was reimbursed by the IRS. Verlan now represents the second successor trustee in all aspects of trust administration.
It is easy to see why Verlan has experienced so much success in her career: She is relentless, passionate, and highly knowledgeable about the law. But there is also something else about her strategy that sets her apart.
“It is common in probate for clients to have recently lost a loved one or to be dealing with emotionally taxing issues with their family,” she says. “I take a compassionate approach to legal matters, knowing family relationships remain delicate in litigation.”
Owing to Verlan’s impressive track record and unique strategy, she has received numerous accolades from some from the state’s and country’s top legal publications. She was named as a “Rising Star” in 2016 by Super Lawyers and consistently as a Super Lawyer from 2017 to 2022 and a “Top Woman Attorney of Southern California” by Los Angeles Magazine in 2018.
Outside of the office, Verlan has enjoyed sharing her probate expertise by speaking at professional events, mentoring law students, and writing materials and content for legal events and publications. If Verlan could have anyone on the planet over for dinner, it would be Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer with whom she shares a high school alma mater, Lowell High School in San Francisco.
“One of my favorite law school classes was constitutional law, and if I had the time, I would go back to school to get an LLM in it,” Verlan says. “It’s just an area of law that fascinates me being a minority. I would like to sit down and just pick his brain on certain cases and how the court arrives at those decisions.”
Keystone is honored to have such an exceptional attorney on its team and looks forward to Verlan’s continued success at the firm.