Fritz Stradling, one of the founders of Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth in Newport Beach, died in his sleep at age 96 last month.
The firm that bears his name is heading toward its 50th anniversary in 2025, as it holds steady at the No. 8 slot on the Business Journal’s list of largest local law firms with 75 OC lawyers and 112 firmwide (see list, page 36).
Brian Forbath is a lawyer and shareholder in the firm, where he specializes in bonds, disclosures and land-secured financing.
The Business Journal asked Forbath to discuss the state of Orange County’s legal world in 2023.
His responses follow in question-and-answer format:
OCBJ: Is everyone back at work in the office?
FORBATH: Most people are back at the office on a regular basis. The firm does not have a mandatory policy but most people have returned of their own volition. Being in the office creates a more collegial and better learning environment, especially for our associates and younger partners. We were actually in the midst of a full remodel of our Newport Beach office when COVID hit. Our redesigned space boasts stunning Pacific Ocean and coastal views—in addition to offering great collaboration and event spaces, we think it is a place where people want to come to work. Additionally, we have in-person practice group meetings, Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) events and social events, including monthly happy hours that gather lawyers and staff together to create a welcoming and engaging environment.
OCBJ: What are the brightest spots on the horizon for OC law firms?
FORBATH: We think the future is bright for OC law firms, but especially mid-size firms like Stradling. Our size, structure, and culture provide big-firm counsel with small-firm flexibility and responsiveness to serve the public and private companies based here. The Orange County business community continues to grow and, over the past few years, we have seen Northern California companies move their headquarters here. The technology community continues to thrive. As a result, we see continued need for legal services in our local market. Additionally, our Public Finance group continues to increase its market share throughout California and the western United States.
OCBJ: What are the biggest challenges for OC law firms?
FORBATH: We think the challenges faced by OC law firms likely mirror the challenges firms face in large secondary markets across the country. They include larger law firms opening offices. Of course, firm leaders across the country are also wondering at some level how a possible recession will impact their firms over the next six to 12 months. Stradling will mark its 50th anniversary in 2025—we have survived and thrived in difficult economic conditions since the firm was founded. We are bullish on the Orange County market and also confident that our talented lawyers and staff, our lean approach to matter staffing, and our reasonable rate structure create a competitive advantage for us to flourish in any