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2010 Best Law Firm: Spaulding, McCullough & Tansil LLP

Author: Matt Solis
May, 2010 Issue


For a law firm that admittedly doesn’t do much advertising, Santa Rosa-based Spaulding, McCullough & Tansil (SMT) has made quite an impression with its clients and in its community. “We’re pleasantly surprised!” says partner Greg Spaulding about winning Best Law Firm. “This award indicates our long-term clients appreciate the work we do.”

The origin of SMT dates back to 1996, when Kevin McCullough approached Spaulding about getting an office together; at the time, McCullough was working at another firm and Spaulding had his own office. Colleague Jan Gabrielson Tansil, with whom McCullough had worked a decade earlier, joined in 1996, and the three partners have been practicing law in Sonoma County ever since. “We view ourselves as having two departments—civil litigation and business,” explains McCullough. “We don’t do family law or bankruptcy. Our attorneys have expertise with a broad range of legal issues.” These specialists (16 in all, working in fields like environmental law, civil litigation, mergers and acquisitions, trust and estate planning, wine, real estate and employment law) bring a level of expertise that gives SMT—and its clients—numerous legal options.

The firm is also very active in the community—its lawyers serve on the boards of directors of organizations including The Children’s Village, Community Foundation Sonoma County and SAY (Social Advocates for Youth). “It’s very important for us to support and give back to the community,” says Spaulding. “We have the resources to help, and this support comes back in the form of an enhanced community.”

Tansil agrees: “We’re people-focused; we try to meet the needs of our clients and staff and help others. Rather than just pouring work on our lawyers, we also focus on the humanity of their job and how it works for them. We give our staff members one day off each year to volunteer for a nonprofit organization.”

A strong community presence is obviously important, but for the three partners, SMT’s high level of customer service sets it apart from the numerous other law firms in the North Bay. “We’re very service-oriented in everything we do,” says Spaulding. “We work for our clients, so their interests are our interests. That’s something we really emphasize with our staff, so clients understand the service they’ll be receiving from the start.”

“We really listen,” adds Tansil. “We have the [legal] expertise, but it’s also important for us to listen to clients.”

This devotion to service has translated into a crucial component for any law firm: client loyalty. “We understand these are scary times for our clients,” says Tansil. “That’s why it’s important to stay in contact with them. If I get an email on Friday night and respond by Saturday instead of Monday, that tells the client they’re important and may stop them from worrying about an issue all weekend.”

SMT’s staff is also instrumental in this approach, says McCullough. “Client service is part of the firm culture. If a lawyer misses a call because of a trial or other client matters, they’ll call back as soon as possible so clients aren’t left hanging. It’s important to make every client feel like they’re the only one.”

The economic realities of 2010 aren’t lost on the company, but Spaulding, McCullough and Tansil enjoy focusing their energy on the positive aspects of the law business…like receiving awards. “We’re really excited,” Spaulding reiterates. “This is a real honor. Being an attorney can be really stressful, so it’s a high priority of ours to have fun with what we’re doing.”


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