Sanders Roberts Closes Its First Merger

Sanders Roberts Closes Its First Merger

Downtown law firm Sanders Roberts LLP announced its first-ever merger last week, a move it considers a “major step” toward its goal of becoming the nation’s first institutional law firm founded by Black partners.

The firm is merging with Oakland’s Lafayette & Kumagai LLP, a litigation boutique founded in 1993. Founding partner Gary Lafayette and his firm’s four other attorneys are joining Sanders Roberts, along with their support staff, and will continue to work in Oakland.

“This is a major step for the firm that we’re extremely excited about,” said Lawrence Hinkle II, managing partner of Sanders Roberts. “Gary is someone that we’ve all known for a very long time. We’ve been able to see the excellence of his practice and his reputation in the community is amazing.”

Terms of the merger were not disclosed.

Founded in 2008 by name partners Justin Sanders and Reggie Roberts Jr., Sanders Roberts last year hired Hinkle as its leader to execute national expansion goals. While founded and currently owned by Black attorneys, the firm’s leaders seek to position Sanders Roberts as an institutional minority firm – one where, already, there are at least eight difference languages spoken – and produce the mold for what American law firms will eventually look like.

“We give sound, sage advice because we have diversity of perspective. That is the law firm of the future, and we are truly building it,” Roberts said. “Having people like Gary and his team join forces with us to promote this platform is historic, and it feels like we’re truly in a moment of change, where we can build a firm that can carry on beyond me or Justin or Lawrence.”

The addition of a big name like Lafayette to the roster will likely bolster the firm’s legacy. Throughout his career, Lafayette has handled high-profile and sensitive litigation matters for clients including Viacom Inc., the San Francisco Housing Authority and former Gov. Jerry Brown. A dedicated trial lawyer whose cases have resulted in 23 published opinions, Lafayette is frequently hired to take over delicate litigation matters once it becomes clear they’re headed for trial.

Lafayette said response from clients – some of whom already have overlap with Sanders Roberts – has been positive and that he appreciates the impact of small and prominently Black firms showing they can punch in the top weight classes.

“The overall understanding was this was amazing and very highly supported by what I consider to be our mutual clients now,” he said. “They are excited about it and the prospects of having more firepower to handle their work.

“It’s exciting for a whole bunch of people who are looking at this and saying, ‘This is important,’” Lafayette added.

Focused on growing organically and not for its own sake, firm leaders said they expect the immediate growth to be reflected in the amount of work their clients bring them. While there are no formal offices yet, Hinkle noted that the firm has attorneys practicing in Georgia, New York and Michigan and are open to building from those starting points.

“In general, we’re definitely open to that. Our plan is to grow in Atlanta and in New York, and perhaps elsewhere,” Hinkle said, “but it will be organic, so long as we have the right personnel who fit in with the firm, with the right capabilities with the excellence we expect here.”

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