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John Briscoe and two other Stoel Rives partners are leaving the firm to start their own shop. Briscoe, Ivester & Bazel will focus on land use and environmental law. Briscoe was a name partner at 34-lawyer Washburn, Briscoe & McCarthy, which merged in 2001 with Portland, Ore.-based Stoel Rives. Lawrence Bazel and David Ivester, the two other departing partners, were also from the legacy Washburn firm. Two associates, including one previously from Washburn, will join the new firm. The three partners said they wanted to be part of a smaller firm again. “Larry Bazel and David Ivester and I, we found ourselves yearning for that small environment where you are just more nimble,” Briscoe said. “We are in our mid-50s. We love the practice of law. . . . We are very client directed. . . . I’d rather be having lunch with a client than having a committee [meeting] to see what color we will paint the hallway.” Briscoe says the departing partners all found the small-firm environment they had at Washburn “very, very comforting.” Stoel has more than 360 lawyers, including 31 in Northern California. Last month, another name partner from the Washburn firm, Edgar “Ned” Washburn, defected to Morrison & Foerster, taking with him two other legacy Washburn partners. They chose a much bigger platform; MoFo has more than 1,000 attorneys. Briscoe emphasized that the Washburn partners were not leaving over dissatisfaction with Stoel Rives. Indeed, the defecting partners and Stoel Rives issued a joint press release, stating they will maintain a strategic alliance. Briscoe said clients — among them the cities of Stockton and Vallejo and real estate developers the Grupe Co. and AG Spanos Cos. — are following the trio. But Briscoe said his firm likely will work on some client matters with Stoel Rives, which has a strong practice in natural resources and real estate and complex litigation. Sandi Nichols, the legacy Washburn partner who manages Stoel’s California offices, said her firm would be in a position to provide broader services to clients of Briscoe’s firm, which will be more narrowly focused on permitting issues. “We have a very solid foundation from which to continue to grow the Stoel Rives California offices,” she said. Also joining the new firm as associates are Stoel Rives’ Christian Marsh, who previously was at Washburn, and an attorney from Washington, D.C., Anne Arnold, who once worked as a Stoel Rives paralegal. Stoel Rives’ Northern California presence still includes about a dozen Stoel Rives partners that came from the original Washburn group.

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