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Six partners, including three on the masthead, abruptly quit West Palm Beach, Fla., law firm Lytal Reiter Clark Fountain & Williams, giving one hour’s notice about forming their own firm.

The new firm, Clark Fountain La Vista Prather Keen & Littky-Rubin, is headed by Mark Clark, a former 25-year partner at Lytal Reiter and former president of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers. The other defectors are Don Fountain, a 23-year partner at Lytal Reiter and cousin of partner Lake H. "Trey" Lytal III; Nancy La Vista; David Prather; Hampton Keen; and Julie Littky-Rubin.

The departing lawyers took secretaries and office staff — and vowed to continue to recruit from their old firm. The split leaves Lytal Reiter with 12 lawyers, Lytal said. He said his firm will revert to its former name, Lytal Reiter. The firm was founded in 1985 when a group split off from famed personal injury lawyer Robert Montgomery.

Lytal said he and firm management were caught off guard when the six departing lawyers met with them Tuesday afternoon, presented them with a letter of resignation and produced the names of a lawyer they hired. One hour later, they were gone.

Lytal said the group did not give any reasons for leaving.

"They didn’t want to talk about it," he said. "Their decision was made, and they said they were going to take other people from our firm. I’m at a loss to answer why. Obviously, they were planning this for a while because their website is up and running."

Lytal Reiter calls its site foryourights.com. Clark Fountain is going with forinjuryhelp.com.

Even without an explanation, Lytal suspects the lawyers want a larger share of profits. His firm was top heavy with partners, all wanting equity, he said.

"That’s the issue when you have too many people at the top and finances got involved and money gets involved," he said. "I wish them the best, yet I do remember when there was more loyalty involved."

Clark declined to be specific about why the group left except to say, "We are looking forward to establishing a new firm with a different outlook on law firm management with the latest technology and to continue to provide the best quality legal services to our clients. I’ll just leave it at that."

Both firms specialize in personal injury, product liability and medical malpractice. In recent months, Lytal Reiter has handled oil spill, citrus canker and Toyota recall cases.

The new firm leased space at 1919 N. Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach.

While Clark said he will continue to try to lure other lawyers from his former firm, Lytal said the departing partners unsuccessfully tried to snag the firm’s top associates. He said Clark’s secretary refused to leave.

Still, "things can change due to money," Lytal acknowledged. He noted he informed his staff there would be no layoffs.

Joe Ankus, a longtime legal headhunter with Ankus Consulting of Weston, said it’s likely the breakup was not amicable.

"When you go in and give one hour’s notice that you’re leaving after 25 years, that’s not a good start," he said. "I’m sure both sides have lawyered up."

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