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After years of struggling with a pro bono image that partners say didn’t match reality � and a large number of disparate practice areas � Minami Tamaki will enter the new year significantly trimmer and much more focused on business litigation. The San Francisco boutique is down to 14 lawyers, from 22 in 2004. Best known for its high-profile civil rights cases, Minami will now channel resources into complementary employment, civil and business litigation practice areas. Earlier this month, the firm revamped its Web site and announced its new name (formerly Minami Lew Tamaki) to reflect the changes. “In order to be profitable, we needed to be efficient,” Managing Partner Brad Yamauchi said. “Everyone re-evaluated their practice and asked, ‘Is it viable as part of the firm?’” Minami has recently dropped its criminal defense and family law groups, two practice areas the partnership said were too specialized to be supportable by the rest of the firm. In March, white-collar criminal defense attorney and name partner Garrick Lew went solo after 32 years. This month, family law specialist Florence Phillips, a senior counsel, announced her departure after 10 years with the firm. She will be joining Luscutoff, Lendormy & Associates, a small litigation firm in San Francisco, effective Jan. 1. That came after the departure last month of family law associate Ai Mori. “Minami as of the end of this year no longer wants family law,” Phillips said. “I totally understand because family law and criminal law are pretty specialized.” “We were building a practice there,” Yamauchi added, “but after Ai Mori left, we decided that we didn’t want to invest in trying to find a bilingual, bicultural lawyer with an interest in family law to replace her.” Yamauchi said that in 2004, employment and personal injury litigation made up 50 percent of the firm’s revenues. Family and criminal brought in a combined 15 percent, according to Yamauchi. Today, immigration is the area growing at the fastest clip, accounting for 35 percent of revenue in hourly and flat fees. Partner Minette Kwok represents Silicon Valley companies like Google in their H-1 visa hiring needs. However, the firm did lose immigration associate Penny Reyes Bonhagen, who tendered her resignation this week. She could not be reached for comment. Employment, civil and consumer rights make up another 30 percent of the firm’s revenue, Yamauchi said, with an even split between hourly and contingency work. About 10 percent is personal injury litigation and the remaining 25 percent is business litigation. In addition to the criminal and family law departures, longtime corporate partner Roy Ikeda will be retiring in January. Name partner Donald Tamaki and new associate Anna Yee, hired in November, will take over his clients, which include Japanese corporations and government. Employment law associate Sonia Merida also left a week ago. She could not be reached for comment. Unlike large firms that shed certain practice areas because they command low billing rates, profitability wasn’t at issue here, according to Yamauchi. “Billing rates were comparable across groups,” he said. “It’s not that family law was not profitable.” Phillips was billing in the range of $250 to $375 per hour, compared with the business litigation rates of between $225 and $450, he said. But at their size, Minami Tamaki didn’t have the manpower to share the responsibility in those areas being jettisoned, Yamauchi said. The firm is hoping now to grow its business practice through collaboration with larger firms and small specialty shops. Last year, Minami Tamaki partnered with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe to handle bond work for the city of San Francisco, Yamauchi said.

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