Law firm gives “board meetings” a whole new meaning

ENCINITAS — Attorneys with the Coast Law Group, or CLG, may swim with the sharks in the courtroom, but when they return to their office it’s all aloha.
Last summer CLG transformed the building at 1140 S. Coast Highway 101 that previously housed Encinitas TV to a sanctuary that reflects their love of the ocean and surfing.
The firm began a little more than 15 years ago when the original partners — Gary Sirota, Rory Wicks and Marco Gonzalez — met through the Surfrider Foundation.
Initially the group handled environmental law and land use cases exclusively. Today, they have expanded to include specializations such as humanitarian issues, nonprofit corporations, governmental relations, election law, intellectual property, homeowners associations, real estate, business litigation, general civil litigation, insurance, personal injury and action sports.
“Clients in action sports grew out of our environmental work,” explained partner Seyamack Kouretchian.
Another key area is cyberspace and computer law, which Kouretchian pioneered in the 1990s.
A team of 12 attorneys, who are all surfers, as well as a staff of seven, collaborated in the design of the new office.
“The flow of the layout was important,” Kouretchian said. “We didn’t want it to feel compartmentalized. We wanted to be able to bump into each other.”
White & Co. built the structure which includes 18 offices, a reception area, a conference room, separate men’s and women’s restrooms, a shower, a copyroom/kitchen and a computer server room. There is also a designated wetsuit drying area and a “board” room for surfboards. Ceilings throughout the building are 11 feet high so that surfboards can stand upright in individual offices.
To preserve forests, all rooms are framed in metal. The wall behind the reception area, the reception desk itself and a window are reclaimed materials.
The staff also worked together in the development of the color scheme: dark ocean blue, sea foam green and coral white.
Walls are adorned with surfscapes by local artists including Wade Koniakowsky, Andy Davis and Susan Wickstrand. Kouretchian’s mother, Parvaneh Hakimpour, and office assistant Monika Whisenhunt are also accomplished artists in their own right whose work is represented throughout the interiors.
With a touch of whimsy, diplomas earned by partners and associates hang in the men’s bathroom.
“There’s a little piece of everyone in this space,” Kouretchian said. “Marco sanded and stained the walnut desk in the reception area with a friend last Father’s Day.”
Natural light is maximized with the strategic placement of Solatubes made in Carlsbad.
Prior to moving last July, the property was blessed with a sage burning and hanging of the Mezuzah, a Jewish prayer scroll.
In the high-stress world of litigation, the attorneys make time to slow things down with a surfing session in the middle of the day.
“We have our board meetings at Swamis,” said senior associate Brian Dirkmaat with a smile.
Recently Swami’s from the Self Realization Fellowship in the next block were invited to lead meditation trainings for the firm’s monthly “Paddle Deep” in-house trainings. Upcoming speakers include a nutritionist and pro surfer.
Kouretchian explained that lucrative business work subsidizes pro bono environmental cases.
“We make a conscious decision to forego profit if there happens to be a matter of community importance,” he said.
Kouretchian adds that CLG was the first firm in San Diego to become members of the organization One Percent for the Planet. Beyond their pro bono work, CLG donates 1 percent of their gross revenue to charities.
Despite the recession, business has never been better.
“At a time when law firms are laying off, we hired three lawyers last year,” reported Dirkmaat. The firm has also handed out raises.
Blending hard work and a social conscience with a laid-back lifestyle seems to work for the attorneys.
“I’ll wear a suit and tie for a judge, but that’s all,” Kouretchian said.


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