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Better Together

By Shane Nelson | Nov. 27, 2023

Nov. 27, 2023

Better Together

Compatible litigation philosophies helped launch Annigian Ryan LLP.

Jason Annigian, Jim Ryan. Photo: Justin L. Stewart / Special to the Daily Journal

Jason D. Annigian and James T. Ryan met in 2007 on a business litigation matter involving a partnership dispute at an electric car company based in San Diego, where the two men spent a great deal of time together working on the case.

"As time went on, we ended up trying other cases together -- both as individual solos," Ryan said, noting the two quickly became friends.

"And I soon came to realize Jason had a really similar perspective on how to litigate cases," Ryan continued. "I kept finding that every time a critical decision had to be made in the case, we had the same opinion about how something should be handled. So It became very easy for us to work together because there really wasn't a tension about the direction of the case strategy or putting in hard work, and we ended up doing that for many years."

As sole practitioners, the two attorneys worked frequently together on business litigation cases for more than a decade before seriously considering the idea of teaming up to launch a law firm. But in July 2020 -- at the height of the COVID-19 crisis -- the duo decided to take the leap.

"The most opportune time ever," Annigian said with a laugh.

"Honestly, I never really planned on having a law partner," Annigian continued. "I just always saw myself doing my own thing. But Jim is an excellent attorney. He's very technical. He's very cerebral. He thinks outside the box and knows how to handle complex issues."

Based in Claremont, Annigian Ryan LLP is now home to five attorneys, and the firm focuses on complex business litigation involving issues such as partnership disputes, fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. They also handle some entertainment disputes featuring copyright infringement, trade secrets or defamation. Ryan's practice is 100% litigation, while Annigian tackles litigation as well as some transactional work.

"There are things Jim does far better than I do -- a lot of them in fact," Annigian said. "And I think there are some things I do better than Jim does. You put that together, and we tend to cover a lot of ground."

Describing the firm's clients as "mostly sophisticated business people, entrepreneurs, small to medium-sized businesses," Ryan said the Claremont location has a noteworthy impact on work coming through the door.

"We're in this unique area because we're on the very far edge of L.A. County," Ryan explained. "So that means we're close to Riverside County, San Bernardino, Orange County. There's a lot of industry out in those areas, but there's not a lot of people doing complex business litigation in this area in terms of being local. Obviously, firms from L.A. will come out this way, but we're in a unique position being a small firm and being able to handle complex business cases in our geographical area."

The firm purchased an office building in Claremont this year, but Annigian first moved into the community in 2006 and has been building a client base there ever since.

"One of the things Jason did early on that I think was very smart was he started connecting with many businesses that were local," Ryan said. "Then as those businesses had needs in the future, they would call on Jason -- if it was a litigation need or an employment dispute or whatever. So a lot of those clients would come back even if it was five, 10 years later. That's one way we've been able to develop our practice."

Referrals are also key, of course, and several of those have come from Newport Beach business litigator Dimitri P. Gross, who said he's known Annigian and Ryan for 20 years.

"I feel very comfortable referring to them things if I don't have the bandwidth or if I have a conflict because I feel like they take care of the client the way I would take care of the client," Gross explained.

"They're very diligent, always on top of it and effective. ... And I know they're not only going to do a great job with the case mechanically, but they'll also be reasonable with the way they go about their billing."

Gross also said Annigian Ryan LLP isn't afraid of the courtroom.

"There are a lot of people who just litigate and don't want to try cases," Gross explained. "I just think that's a weird way of doing it. It's not economical to the client. Why would you refer a client to somebody who'll litigate it but isn't going to try it. Then there's all this coming up to speed that the trial lawyer needs to do on the eve of. So those guys 100% will take the case from beginning to end and try the case if needed."

A 2000 Pepperdine University School of Law graduate, Ryan grew up in Ohio but knew he wanted to relocate to California when he was in high school. Annigian, on the other hand, grew up in Upland, in San Bernardino County, but completed his legal degree in 2000 at Southern Methodist University's Dedman School of Law in Dallas. Both men knew relatively early on that they wanted to be attorneys, but neither gave a great deal of thought to building a multi-attorney firm until a few years ago.

"It came to a point where we got so busy as individuals that we realized we really needed to think about partnering together so we could hire an associate," Ryan said. "Once we partnered together, we hired one associate and then ended up hiring two more. So it just built from there, and I think it took both of us to take that leap, to take our practice to the next level so we could build something together."

He and Annigian hope to continue to grow their firm.


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