Esteemed law firm celebrates 75 years in business
The law firm of Andre, Morris & Buttery is turning 75 this year and has a storied and celebrated history to match.
What started as a family firm serving farmers, dairymen and cattlemen has since grown into a top-tier business law firm with a prominent presence on the Central Coast.
In 1948 in San Luis Obispo, brothers Peter and George Andre established the Andre & Andre law partnership. The firm, situated above an apartment in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo, helped ranchers and other blue-collar workers with general law disputes. The pair connected well with their client base, as can be seen by Peter topping his suits with a Stetson cowboy hat, a fashion choice that earned him the nickname “the lawyer in the Stetson hat.”
“Back in the earliest days, Pete Andre was very involved in agriculture, so his clients come from that place. And of those folks that started with him in the early days, we’re now representing their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren,” Michael Morris, senior principal and chairman of the board told the Business Times.
Over the decades, Andre, Morris & Buttery has evolved with the times. In the 1970s and 1980s, they started to move away from general practice, criminal cases and divorces to business law such as real estate transactions and litigation, while continuing their tradition of estate and trust practices.
“Basically, we’re a law firm that provides services to businesses and what every business generally needs. Somebody to help with personnel matters, somebody to help with leases, real estate property issues, contracts, mergers and then estate planning for the owners. So, we try to cover everything that a business owner is going to need,” said Kathy Eppright, a lawyer with the firm who specializes in employment litigation, counseling and workplace investigations.
As the business landscape changed, so did the firm, with new lawyers adding expertise in complex employment law, environmental matters, and mergers and acquisitions, among others.
“Sometimes it’s easier to say what we don’t do,” said Morris. “We don’t do family law, criminal law or personal injury. So those are all three very different but they’re kind of for people who maybe have the need for a lawyer on a one-time basis… Our clients tend to be people that use lawyers all the time.”
On top of their regular work, a sampling of which consists of personnel litigation and real estate litigation, the firm also provides the community with pro bono work. This spirit of generosity is taken from the Andre brothers’ father, Jose Andre, who opened a grocery store in 1902 and kept many families afloat during the Great Depression by taking on an air of compassion and loan forgiveness.
One of Morris’s favorite cases to cite as an example of a job well done is when he represented the San Luis Obispo Sportsmen’s Association in a suit regarding protected lands being converted into a reservoir. He fought against such diverse groups as the city of San Luis Obispo, The California Men’s Colony and Cal Poly University in this case and took it all the way to the Supreme Court, winning at every level.
“Obviously we hope that our clients are happy and appreciate our work. And lots of times, particularly if you win a case or close a deal, they’ll express their happiness,” said Morris.
Following the closure of one complex transaction, Morris’s client was so appreciative they made out a gift of $1,000 to the charity of the firm’s choice. “And that was classy,” said Morris.
Eppright laments that when her clients come knocking, they are generally not happy to see her, because that means they’re dealing with a stressful situation.
“So, I find that most of my clients will say thank you for all the help and hope that they don’t have to call me again,” said Eppright. “I tell them the best thing they can do is call me early so that I can help them before the problem starts.”
Going forward the firm is hopeful.
In recent years, they’ve grown despite the pandemic and continue to attract a really solid stable of lawyers all working alongside their clients to build a better community overall.
Today, the firm is composed of 13 lawyers working out of two offices along the Central Coast, one in San Luis Obispo and the other in Santa Maria.
They represent individuals, families, businesses, corporate giants and nonprofit organizations. Their practice groups include business and real estate transactions, civil litigation, employment law, environmental and land use, estate planning, trusts and probate, hospitality and wine and agribusiness.