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Lawyers for a changing region

January 30, 2006|By By Dave Brooks

Rutan and Tucker, a law firm that grew up with Orange County, celebrates its 100th birthday.Tom Crane doesn't have to look far to see his firm's progress.

From the window of his 14th-floor office at the Comerica building just off Anton Boulevard, Crane enjoys dazzling views of the new Orange County Performing Arts Center, South Coast Plaza and several office developments on old lima bean farms.

"We've been involved in nearly all of this," said Crane, the managing partner of Rutan and Tucker LLP, Orange County's largest law firm.

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From its agricultural days to the real estate and development boom, the firm that was started in 1906 by 25-year-old attorney Alexander Wallace "A.W." Rutan and later joined by judge James B. Tucker has represented dozens of the municipal governments and private developers that have had a hand in shaping the region.

"The firm grew up with the county itself," Rutan and Tucker attorney Kim Thompson said.

With 145 attorneys on staff, the firm is preparing for its 100th anniversary with a major marketing campaign.

Bruce Allen, chief marketing officer, was mum on the details but said the effort would focus on the firm's longevity and reach throughout the state. Last year the firm brought in more than $80 million, an 11% jump from 2004. It counts among its major clients Northrop Grumman Corp. and Union Bank of California.

"They are one of the leaders in the legal community," Dean Zipser, past president of the Orange County Bar Assn., said.

The firm also boasts more than 50 municipal clients, among them Newport Beach, Irvine and San Clemente. The firm is representing Anaheim in its ongoing dispute with Angel's owner Arte Moreno over the name of the baseball team.

"Their role has been to identify the municipal client as a worthy client," Newport Beach City Atty. Robin Clauson said, explaining that many firms are wary of getting into municipal law because of its complexity and client demands.

"They showed how it could be done, and that is very unique," Clauson said. "Now there are many firms trying to do the same thing."

Founder A.W. Rutan was a county pioneer of the municipal law specialization, working on behalf of the local farm bureau to draft the state's first water recharge bill to ensure an ample supply for Southern California farmers. He would later draft the Orange County Water District Act, which would become a model for water legislation around the state.

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