Donelson Ciancio Splits Into Three

By David Forster, LAW WEEK COLORADO

A full-service law firm in Broomfield is going niche, splitting itself into three firms that will share the same office space but build their own brand identities.

As of this week, Donelson Ciancio & Grant is no more. In its place are Ciancio Ciancio Brown, a boutique litigation firm; Donelson & Stross, a business and transactional firm; and the law firm of Daniel T. Goodwin, a civil litigation and mediation firm.

Named partner Cameron Grant split four months ago to rejoin a Longmont firm co-founded by his father.

The post-recession realities of the legal market have driven many firms to join forces in order to expand practices areas and create more one-stop shopping for clients.

But the shareholders at Donelson Ciancio settled on the opposite.

The lawyers in the firm’s practice areas serve different clients and realized they had different needs, especially when it came to marketing and brand building, said Ciancio Ciancio Brown founder Cynthia Ciancio.

Her practice focuses on family law, and she and the other litigators in the office wanted to do more targeted marketing, with a focus on the Internet and social media, to reach potential clients and build their brand.

“We want to narrow our brand and our focus,” Ciancio said. “It’s really challenging to try to do that with transactional lawyers. A certain branding style for transactional doesn’t necessarily fit the litigation folks.”

“We felt it was getting harder and harder to market the niche that we are.”

Stephen Donelson, a transactional attorney, agreed. When he started practicing law, there was little advertising; maybe an ad in the Yellow Pages. But now, the Internet has made branding an essential part of reaching new clients. “We’re really all advertising,” he said. “What these (websites) are at a minimum is an electronic billboard.”

Also, he expects it’s going to get harder for smaller full-service firms to compete against the big firms with a national footprint.

By splitting up, the lawyers have the autonomy to make decisions tailored to their practice areas, but by remaining in the same office they can still draw on each other when their clients’ needs spill over into other areas.

Ciancio’s new firm will include her father, Gene Ciancio, as well as Bradley Varmo, Jamie Rutten, Kate Lewis, Kyle Kreischer, Leslee Balten, Loren Brown, Nathan Bucar and Wes Wollenweber.

Other than named partner Greg Stross, the names of the other attorneys in Donelson’s new firm were not released as of press time.

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