Meet Your Merhcant | Law firm grows while integrating work, play
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Despite the growth and increase in staff over the years, Jim Porter and Jim Simon chose to keep the name of their law firm simple. The firm started in 1969 with the dynamic duo of Jim and Jim and now is made up of sevenequity partners and has a total of 10 lawyers at the office in Truckee.
“The only reason the name is two names is because of convenience,” Simon said. “We really don’t identify ourselves in terms of the longevity with the firm.”
Pete Cuttitta, Kelley Carrol, Steve Gross, Brian Hanley, Steve Lieberman, Lou Basile, Catherine Blaber and Ravn Whitington make up the team at Porter Simon. Although partners have come and staff has grown over the years, the feeling of closeness that began with Jim and Jim nearly five decades ago remains.
“Many of the staff members have been here a long time, some as many as 30 years,” said Simon. “We’ve all sort of grown up together and we think of ourselves as somewhat of a family because we have all worked together for a long period of time, which is somewhat unique in the industry we’re in.”
Although in pressed shirts and pants and sometimes ties, each lawyer is constantly joking. The friendly teasing at Porter Simon helps maintain a relaxed environment.
“We have a rather unique attitude, we spend probably as much time needling each other as we do anything else,” said partner Pete Cuttitta. “But you should be able to tell, I hope, that we’re pretty serious about what we do.”
Pete joined the firm in 1985, the year, he jokes, that his coworker Ravn Whitington was born.
Kelley Carroll, a partner since 1991, said that a professional attitude at the office and a passion for play outside of it is the standard protocol for everyone at the office.
“We want to make sure that we have lots of release so that when we’re here we can focus and do what our clients need us to do … All work and no play makes Ravn a dull boy,” Kelley teased.
Each lawyer has a passion for his or her own type of play, “their own unique curricular activity,” said Simon.
Pete’s life outside of the office is hard to disguise while he’s at work — his handlebar mustache and cowboy boots give away his passion for horses and ranching.
Partner Steve Gross is the firm’s fly fisherman, Steve Leiberman loves to whitewater raft and Brian Hanley is an avid skier.
“We could all be attorneys down in the big city, but we’ve all chosen to be up here for unique reasons,” said Brian. “That’s one thing that makes this firm unique, it’s a bigger firm for the area but all of the attorneys are still grounded in that balance between doing a good job at the office but also having fun.”
Ravn Whitington is the newest member of the team and believes each lawyers’ hobbies lead them to not only be less stressed, but to being better lawyers.
“Being involved in different activities that are offered around here — whether it’s Nordic skiing, rock climbing, wakeboarding or riding horses — puts you in contact with the community,” he said. “You’re able to not only relate to your clients in the aspect that we all live here in Truckee but that we do the same sort of things. And when we’re sitting here in the room advising them regarding legal aspects, I think there is more of a genuine relationship between the lawyer and client.”
TALK TO THE SPECIALISTS
The large staff allows the firm to have specialists in all areas of law. Pete, Kelley, Ravn, Steve, Lou, Catherine and Steve Gross are not “jacks of all trades,” Porter said, but each a skilled lawyer in his/her chosen area.
“We have a blend where the lawyers have all gravitated to areas of the law that they like,” said Porter, who specializes in civil law. “Within the firm each lawyer does something that they like and becomes somewhat of a specialty.”
What is shared between lawyers at Porter Simon is a passion for law and for helping people. Despite the lawyer jokes from others, connecting with people and helping their clients is the reward and benefit from their work.
“You’re dealing with real people and real problems and you get the opportunity — if you’re lucky and skillful and good — to actually make a difference in people’s lives,” said Pete.
Ravn added that client trust is another aspect that adds a responsibility and connection with clients.
The motivation and drive to come to work each day, Simon said, comes from that satisfaction of helping others.
“Working in a law firm is challenging a lot of times because you’re dealing with peoples’ conflict … there’s a certain sense of satisfaction in doing that,” Simon said. “You’re helping people in a small community and I think there is an attraction to keep working in that sense, for all of us, the professional staff as well as the lawyers.”
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.