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SOUTHLAND BUSINESS

Major National Law Firm Closing Irvine Office Less Than a Year After Big Expansion Program

November 09, 1986|MARY ANN GALANTE

Just six weeks after moving to larger offices in Irvine and less than a year after substantially increasing its local staff, the Orange County branch of a major national law firm has decided to pull out of the county.

The Nov. 17 closure of the branch of Finley, Kumble, Wagner, Heine, Underberg, Manley, Meyerson & Casey will be the first time in at least two decades that a large Orange County law office has shut its doors, according to one longtime attorney in the county.

Finley, Kumble had 16 full-time attorneys at the Irvine office.

The branch's demise, announced last week, was caused by several factors, including its inability to pull in enough clients to support a 16-attorney staff and its inability to recover the costs of its rapid expansion this year.

Partner Steven Kray--who reopened the branch two years ago after a four-attorney office failed in late 1981--said the office had cash receipts of $2 million to $3 million annually. To meet its 1986 budget, the office would have needed to double its business or collect an additional $1 million in revenue before Jan. 31, the close of its fiscal year, he said.

Besides a shortage of clients, the firm's Irvine office was also plagued by the high costs of its quick expansion. In February, six lawyers were added to the staff, and only last month, Finley, Kumble moved from 14,000 square feet of space in its original Newport Beach quarters into 22,000 square feet of space in Irvine. The Newport Beach office opened with four attorneys in March, 1981, and was closed in October of the same year because of financial difficulties. It was reopened in June, 1984.

New York-based Finley, Kumble, the nation's fifth-largest law firm with about 630 lawyers in 11 cities, specializes in representing major corporate clients who have continuing--and large--needs for legal services. "Orange County is a different type of practice, with entrepreneurs, new ventures and start-up businesses" that are more likely to need one-time service, Kray said.

A spokesman for the firm said that Finley, Kumble has 180 attorneys in offices in San Diego, Los Angeles and Beverly Hills and will use them to service its Orange County clients--including the California Angels and Smith International Inc.

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