And then there were three.
Law firm Gindin Wolson Simmonds Roitenberg, whose namesakes are among the city’s most recognized and headline-grabbing criminal lawyers, is hanging up its shingle, effective Aug. 1.
In its place, say hello to three new firms: Gindin Segal Law, Wolson, Roitenberg, Robinson, Wolson, Minuk, and Simmonds and Associates.
"It’s an exciting new step in the way we are going to practice," Saul Simmonds said Friday as he packed up boxes in his longtime firm’s Broadway office. "It’s bittersweet, but it will pay dividends for everyone."
Jeff Gindin, Richard Wolson, and Simmonds started the firm in 1995, with Evan Roitenberg coming on board in 2003. During its 26-year history, the firm’s four principals have been at the centre of some of the province’s — and Canada’s — most high-profile criminal cases, including: the Phoenix Sinclair and Karlheinz Schreiber inquiries, the defences of Mark Grant, tried two times and ultimately acquitted in the 1984 killing of teen Candace Derksen, disgraced hockey coach and sexual predator Graham James, and Derek Harvey-Zenk, the former Winnipeg Police Service constable, whose arrest for a 2005 highway crash that killed Crystal Taman led to an inquiry and allegations of a police cover-up.
Between them, Gindin, Wolson, Simmonds and Roitenberg have roughly 170 years of experience.
"When I think about what we’ve done, it does give you pause as you take things apart," Roitenberg said. "It’s never been dull."
The decision to dissolve Gindin Wolson Simmonds Roitenberg and reconstitute the staff into three new firms came at a time when the partners were deciding whether they wanted to commit to a new five-year lease.
"The lease ending made people think: where do you want to be in five years? Do you want to sign another one?" said Gindin, 74. "Some people wanted to have more freedom to decide how things go along the way rather than committing to five years. Different people had different ideas what they wanted to do. Of course, Saul is 10 years younger than Richard and I, so he was quite happy to sign longer leases, whereas we were a little more hesitant."
On a more pressing level the firm had arguably become a victim of its own success. With a dozen lawyers on staff, the firm had become one of the largest exclusively criminal law practices in the country. But with increased size came a problem: the firm was constantly having to turn away cases due to conflicts of interest within its own ranks.
"In a criminal law firm, to have 11 or 12 lawyers you are going to have conflicts galore," Gindin said. "I would get a murder case, for example, and the star witness would have been one of Evan’s old clients and I couldn’t do the case."
Reduce the number of lawyers in a firm, and you reduce the potential for conflicts, Gindin said.
Members of a firm "are all considered one person, so that anybody in your firm who may have represented any witness for the Crown, it’s the same as if you did, because we are all one firm."
Simmonds and Associates will remain, after some renovations, in a smaller version of its current office on the 12th floor of 363 Broadway, while Wolson, Roitenberg and partners will move a floor below. Gindin, meanwhile is moving directly across the street.
While they will no longer be under the same roof, the former partners will continue to work together.
"The idea is to be able to refer clients back and forth, so if two guys come to me on a case I can pick up the phone and call Jeff or Saul and say I’d like to send one your way," Roitenberg said. "The idea is to be able to refer cases knowing they will be handled the GWSR way."
Gindin and Wolson, both of whom have been practising law for roughly five decades, described their new ventures as a reinvigorating shot in the arm.
"It’s exciting for us to be going small," Wolson said, noting the three new firms still kept all their original staff, while adding new lawyers to the fold.
"We do it because we love to do it, not because we have to do it — it’s in our DNA," Wolson said. "It’s part of who we are, so we go on, and we go on with excitement."
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.