Cathie Anderson: From penthouse, Nossaman law firm sees room to grow

Published: Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

P ity the staff of 34 at the Nossaman law firm. They've just moved into the penthouse of Sacramento's U.S. Bank Tower at 621 Capitol Mall and welcomed clients Tuesday evening to an open house.

Up there, visitors have a bird's-eye view of the neoclassical state Capitol, peeking out from a sea of green trees, and the gleaming Tower Bridge and its grittier I Street cousin straddling the Sacramento River.

These glamour shots can make it difficult to focus on work, such as interviewing Mary Powers Antoine, Nossaman's managing partner in Sacramento, about the growth that prompted a move from 915 L St. where Nossaman had been for 26 years.

"We have created a Sacramento growth task force because we've been here for a very long time, and people know us in the realm of health care law and our public policy advisers – you know, our lobbyists – but we wanted to grow," said Antoine, a registered nurse who went on to McGeorge School of Law to expand her horizons. Nossaman has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere, but Antoine is content in the capital.

The firm recently hired real estate power couple Tony and Sylvia Arostegui, Antoine said, and is looking to add attorneys in business litigation, water law and other strategic areas.

Don't worry, new hires, there are still choice views in space that will be finished as the firm expands. Don't expect to get as lucky as longtime lobbyist and Davis school board member Richard Harris.

"If you look out that window, right there where the twin towers are, that was the first place I lived when I came home from the hospital, a little apartment building on Eighth and P streets," he told me.

Look out the window? Oh no, let's focus on work.

E-books

The Sacramento Public Library is leading the way on bringing electronic books to its patrons, as my colleague Allen Pierleoni reported Sunday in The Bee's A&E section, but their success hasn't come easily.

"A lot of the major publishers like Macmillan and Simon & Schuster … are concerned about the potential of lost sales," said electronic resources librarian Amy Calhoun. "They think e-books are too easy. They want there to be more … friction, which is difficulty obtaining the books.

"… Even though there's lots of evidence that shows that library readers actually buy more books than people who don't use libraries because they read more, they (publishers) are very scared because this is all new territory."

Research by the Library Journal found that roughly half of all library patrons bought books by authors they discovered at the public library. And the Sacramento Public Library is now linking to some merchants.

Find the link by going to www.saclibrary.org, clicking on the link to e-books and clicking the link at the bottom of the left-hand column. When patrons use this route, a percentage of each sale made – whether it's books, CDs or even shoes – goes to the library.

Banking on prudence

After I wrote that Merchants National Bank had been named one of the 359 safest banks in the nation by Money.MSN.com, a couple of readers wrote to say that it's easy to be safe if you don't give out any loans.

I called up James Pons, the bank's senior credit administrator, to share the comments.

His reply: "We have certain niches within commercial lending. We do small development projects for owner-occupied clients. … All of our development projects are going to be owner-occupied.

"When that's the case, you have a securer situation. … When I got here in '91, we had $10 million in loans. Now we have nearly $80 (million)."

Earlier this year, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency gave the bank satisfactory marks for its investment in low- and moderate-income areas, singling out its loans to small businesses and a $1.3 million loan to a nonprofit organization that aids the homeless.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Cathie Anderson





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