One of Modesto's oldest and most prominent law firms, Curtis & Arata, has split.
George Arata left Curtis & Arata in September to form his own firm, Arata, Swingle, Sodhi & Van Egmond.
His former partner, Ralph Curtis, is now chief executive officer of Curtis Legal Group, which is in the same 1300 K St. office where Curtis & Arata did business.
The firm appeared to reach out for a broader client base in the past year, running attention-grabbing television ads that sought plaintiffs for personal injury cases. A recent ad touted the firm as having "heavy hitters."
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Arata said he started his own firm because he wanted to focus on "more traditional clients" such as local businesses, cities and insurance companies.
"We had a difference in philosophy as to how we wanted to practice law," Arata said.
Curtis described the split similarly. "(Arata) had some ideas about how he wanted to practice law and they were a little different than what we were doing, so it seemed like an appropriate time for him to give (starting his own firm) a try," Curtis said.
Arata, Swingle, Sodhi & Van Egmond focuses on civil litigation for local businesses and insurance companies, criminal defense work, agricultural law, business litigation and personal injury work.
It employs six attorneys, all of whom came from Curtis & Arata, Arata said.
Curtis Legal Group will keep the core practice areas of Curtis & Arata: business, litigation, estate planning, family law, real estate and employment law, Curtis said.
Curtis & Arata was founded in 1953 by Tony Cardozo. Back then it had three attorneys. It grew to 34 attorneys, making it the largest firm in Stanislaus County.
"They were known as a reputable firm and the largest firm," said Roberta Burge, executive director of the Stanislaus County Bar Association. "I guess basically these two gentlemen are going their separate ways, and I wish them the best."
Curtis Legal Group employs 19 attorneys and expects to add another in the next few weeks, Curtis said. That will make it the biggest firm in Modesto.
Second largest is Damrell, Nelson, Schrimp, Pallios, Pacher & Silva, with 19 lawyers, Burge said.
Curtis & Arata once maintained branch offices in Groveland, Escalon and Oakdale. Those locations are closed.
Curtis Legal Group has offices in Patterson, Stockton and Sacramento.
Arata, Swingle, Sodhi & Van Egmond's offices are at 912 11th St.
Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2378. Follow her at Twitter.com/BeeReporter.