History

firm-history-350-600Throughout our firm’s 25-year history, we have stood undaunted in the face of opponents with far greater institutional resources and power, finding ways to win despite our small size.  All of our lawyers leverage their experience in government service and at large downtown law firms to create a practice dedicated to excellence -- on a scale that ensures personal service and accountability to our clients.

We started in a blue Victorian on Potrero Hill overlooking downtown San Francisco, taking on cases ranging from criminal defense to police misconduct litigation to First Amendment challenges.  In the early days of our firm, we represented some of the pioneers of the adult entertainment industry, including the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theatre, a San Francisco institution that faced government censorship and police crackdowns as San Francisco became a thriving and diverse metropolis where liberal community values sometimes clashed with more entrenched social and governmental forces.

We have represented plaintiffs seeking recovery for violations of their civil rights, while also representing the leaders of large corporations facing the scorching power of governmental investigations and prosecutions.  We have recovered damages against the City and County of San Francisco for engaging in unconstitutional strip searches in the County Jail, and the next year, represented the City when it faced a constitutional challenge to its business tax structure.  We pride ourselves on having honed our trial skills as public defenders representing indigents accused of serious crimes, including prisoners facing life sentences and capital punishment.  Although our client base has changed, our commitment to the vigorous representation of individuals against the awesome power of government has not.

While we have chosen to stay small to preserve our mission and spirit, the firm has been strengthened by the talented associates who have practiced with us and then moved to other parts of the country, often into public defender offices, nonprofit law firms, or academia.  Our civil litigation practice is led by mainstay partner, Kate Dyer, who began her legal career as a summer intern at the firm and made partner in 2001.  A decade later, Clarence & Dyer became Clarence Dyer & Cohen when Josh Cohen joined the firm after a decade of practice in the Federal Defender’s Office and the white-collar group at a large international firm. 

Most of all, we are proud of all the superb lawyers who have come together over the past quarter century to enjoy great camaraderie and esprit de corps as we fight the good fight-- enjoying the practice of law at our small firm in this magical city.