After decades of practicing law, Rich Reinis felt something was missing. Being a lawyer was great, he thought, but it didn’t provide much opportunity to leave a successful business to his five children.

So in 1996, Reinis began looking for a new career.

“It’s sort of an American tradition – family businesses,” he said. “Unless you can raise a lawyer, you have no family business to hand off. When your inventory is your hours, and you stop putting them in, you have no business.”

When he heard about Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc., which had just started to gain national attention, Reinis seized the opportunity to invest and became a franchisee.

He and his son-in-law formed Great Circle Family Foods in 1998 and opened their first Krispy Kreme doughnut shop the following year in La Habra. At the time, Reinis was still working at a boutique law firm in downtown Los Angeles.

“I would change my clothes while driving, put on my Krispy Kreme hat and my shirt and I would do the only thing a lawyer could do in a doughnut shop: I would pack doughnuts into boxes,” he said. “I had only the simplest of tasks to do, but it was the equivalent of winning a verdict in a huge jury trial.”

Before long, business exploded. By the end of its first year, Great Circle opened four stores, hired 500 employees and had $12 million in sales. That’s when Reinis retired from the legal industry and became the chief executive of what appeared to be a doughnut empire.

Then in 2004, as Great Circle had 31 stores in Southern California and 1,400 employees, Krispy Kreme’s brand started to crumble. The company had just announced to Wall Street it was going to fall short of earning projections.

The bad news trickled down to Reinis, eventually leading him to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2007. He hired two bankruptcy attorneys – one corporate, the other personal. By that time, he already resumed his legal practice, joining law firm Steptoe & Johnson at its office in downtown Los Angeles.

Today, his daughter and son-in-law run Great Circle with 11 stores and Reinis, with a new perspective, is back doing what he does best.

“I was learning a lot about business that lawyers never experience,” he said. “And I became a client, and understood what clients go through when they hire lawyers.”

Last month, Reinis switched firms again, this time joining the Century City office of Thompson Coburn as equity partner.

Looking Ahead

The U.S. legal industry benefited this year from a boost in demand, and a recent report suggests 2015 will bring even stronger growth, particularly at larger law firms.

Revenue at firms nationwide jumped 4 percent this year, a modest but stable increase. Next year, analysts expect revenue will climb 6 percent and profits per partner will follow with a 5 percent hike, according to a report released this month by Citi Private Bank and Hildebrandt Consulting.

Despite the upbeat outlook, experts predict growth at small and midsize firms will fall short of the gains at megafirms with well-known brand names.

During the first nine months of this year, for example, workload grew about 2.4 percent at the 50 largest firms in the country, compared with a half percent at firms 101 to 200 ranked by size, the report said.

At O’Melveny & Myers – the third-largest law firm in Los Angeles and among the 50 largest nationwide – lawyers often enjoy the perks associated with the group’s recognizable name, said Mark Samuels, O’Melveny’s vice chair.

“Our brand is strong and it serves us well when we pitch a client, but it’s more than brand,” Samuels said. “It’s the client relationships you deepen that generate success as we measure it.”

Indeed, the report anticipates expenses are likely to increase next year, as law firms look to diversify their value propositions. Heavy investments in new technology are projected to be large contributors to higher expenses.

More Moves

The attorneys at Barbakow & Ribet in Beverly Hills plan to split after the new year. Claudia Ribet will join Karen Silver to form Ribet & Silver in Century City, while Dan Barbakow plans to join West L.A. law firm Trope & DeCarolis. … Kansas City, Mo., law firm Polsinelli this month hired merger and acquisition attorney Marc B. Leh in its Century City office. … Consumer class-action litigators Michael Mallow and Mark Campbell this month joined the downtown law office of Sidley Austin as partners. … Culver City film and TV production company OddLot Entertainment hired Kevin Garrett Monroe this month as executive vice president of business and legal affairs.

Staff reporter Cale Ottens can be reached at cottens@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 221.

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