A chance meeting and subsquent chat over sandwiches at the Delizie Italian Bistro on Dewdney Trunk Road has spawned a cohabitation of two Maple Ridge law firms.
It began last November, when Bart Findlay of the Findlay Gunnell Sandor law firm made a passing comment about cramped quarters to Brian Marshall, a partner with Vernon & Thompson Law Group.
“It was really, truly just a chance meeting,” Findlay explained.
That encounter sparked lengthy discussions, eventually negotiations, and this week’s announcement that the two law firms – currently situated less than a half block away from each other on 119th Avenue in downtown Maple Ridge – are coming together in the coming months to practise under one roof.
It’s not a merger, but rather an association, explained Laurence Anderson, a partner with Vernon & Thompson who described it as a new symbiotic relationship of two complementary firms. The move should be realized by early 2013.
While Vernon & Thompson’s roots in this community go back to the late 1930s, Findlay Gunnell Sandors is much newer only having established in Maple Ridge in 1998. The new mix will see seven lawyers and 15 staff working together in the existing Vernon & Thompson location at the corner of 223rd Street.
• More online at www.mrtimes.com
Findlay Gunnell Sandor specializes in personal injury and ICBC claims, as well as criminal law with Findlay focused on personal injury, some criminal, and some appealant work.
His partner Martha Sandor focuses on personal injury law and estate litigation, while Rob Gunnell devotes all his attentions to criminal law, both as a defence lawyer and sometimes as an adhoc Crown prosecutor.
“As young lawyers, new to this fast growing community, we recognized that Vernon & Thompson had set the bar very high, and that the model that it set for service to the community, both professionally and in volunteerism, was a model that we wanted to emulate” said Findlay, who noted that he and Gunnell first hung out their shingles together in Maple Ridge almost 15 years ago.
“Our practice has grown significantly with our volume of work more than tripling – as a result we have been bursting at the seams in our present location on 119th Avenue,” he elaborated.
“We began to look for new office space a couple of years ago to expand our footprint. A few months ago we learned that Vernon & Thompson’s building had excess capacity, and after meeting with our colleagues at Vernon & Thompson we decided that co-location of our two law firms would be a good fit, both from the practical business aspects and for the people of Maple Ridge who are looking for top-notch legal services,” Findlay added.
“It was really fortuitous,” he said, noting that the 2,000-square-foot offices he and his partners had occupied for more than a decade were definitely insufficient for the seven-member team (three lawyers and four staff).
And admittedly, the 7,000-square-foot Vernon & Thompson building on 119th Avenue had always been a little large – ever since the law firm moved in during 1975. But the excess space became overly apparent a few years ago when some of the lawyers retired and the team size was reduced to the current 15 people (four lawyers and 11 staff), Anderson explained.
Partner Alan Thompson’s area of expertise is real estate and develpment law, while Anderson concentrates his efforts on estate planning and probation. Marshall’s talents are focused on estate litigation, as well as personal injury and ICBC case, and David Riddell deals primarily with corporate, commercial, and reat estate law.
His firm is well known for its “strong expertise” in wills, estate planning, probate land development, real estate, corporate law and personal injury litigation, but Anderson said the partners have since been “wanting to bring more depth in the firm.”
“Our two law firms share key values in offering our clients the highest quality legal services. We also share the importance of giving back to the community that we serve,” Anderson elaborated.
“There has always been a strong professional relationship between our firms and we have referred clients back and forth over the years to ensure that people get the expertise that they need to resolve their legal matters,” Anderson added.
“I am very pleased that the combined resources of Findlay Gunnell Sandor and Vernon & Thompson will be under one roof and available to the people and businesses of this fast growing region.”