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A comfortable transition for 8 who join Lerch Early

The eight lawyers who joined Bethesda-based law firm Lerch, Early & Brewer Chtd. on Monday did not have much of a change in their commute.

“We only had to move five floors down, so it was half a move,” said Bob Harris, a land use attorney who joined regional firm Lerch Early from the national firm Holland & Knight LLP along with seven others from the latter’s Bethesda office.

What also helped in the move was that the attorneys have known one another and worked together for a long time. So, while there are new procedures to learn and new customs to pick up, the transition has been comfortable, although “hectic,” he said.

“We benefit from the fact that we previously knew people in this firm and have for many years, so they’re kind of half family already,” Harris said.

All but one of the attorneys at the Bethesda office of Holland & Knight made the move to Lerch Early. The attorney who chose to stay with Holland & Knight has started working in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office.

This is not the first time that Harris has moved firms. Ten years ago he left Wilkes Artis Chtd. in Washington, D.C. to start up Holland & Knight’s Bethesda office and then assembled the team around him.

Then, as now, the shift was to a much different atmosphere. He went from Wilkes Artis, which had about 60 attorneys, to Holland & Knight, which had about 1,200 attorneys.

“Going from a firm of 60 to 1,200 was a major change,” he said. “Now we’re going from 1,200 to 60, so it’s sort of a homecoming.”

Arthur Lafionatis, chairman of Lerch Early, said the move made sense for both his firm and the new crop of employees.

“They’re top-quality lawyers and top-quality people,” he said. “The opportunity to bring in that caliber of attorneys was attractive.

“We are one of the largest land use firms in Montgomery County,” Lafionatis said. “With this group we believe we’ve solidified our position there and also as a regional real estate firm.”

Harris said the move for him and his group was an “opportunity to have more control over our practice, to have a higher level of integration with other attorneys whose practices complement ours.”

Along with Harris, Lerch Early added principals William “Bill” Kominers, Patricia A. Harris, Sharon Nelson Craig and Stacy Plotkin Silber to its team, along with Susan M. Reutershan and Cynthia M. Bar, both of counsel, and Christopher M. Ruhlen, an associate.