Hanna and Morton ~ Firm Description
Hanna and Morton
Firm Description
History ~ Then and Now

Originally known as Fredericks and Hanna, the firm was founded in 1915 by John D. Fredericks, formerly the District Attorney of Los Angeles County, and Byron C. Hanna, at one time Frederick's chief trial deputy.  The firm was well known for its expertise in trial and appellate work. As District Attorney, John Fredericks had been lead prosecution counsel against the McNamara brothers who were convicted of having bombed the Los Angeles Times building in 1910. The McNamaras were defended by Clarence Darrow. Later, in 1912, Fredericks prosecuted Darrow in two jury bribing cases arising out of the McNamara case. Both trials ended in hung juries.  In 1928, Harold C. Morton became a partner of the firm which then was known as Fredericks, Hanna and Morton. In 1932, the firm took its present name of Hanna and Morton.  With the arrival of Harold Morton, the firm continued to maintain its reputation as a trial and appellate firm and also began building a reputation as one of California’s premier oil and gas law firms. Byron Hanna died in 1951 and Harold Morton, in 1978. In recent years, while still known for its trial and appellate skills and its oil and gas expertise, the firm has developed expertise in environmental law, energy regulation and general business law.

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Practice Areas
  • Business Transactions and Advice – represent individuals, partnerships and corporations in real estate matters, business formations,  acquisitions, mergers and entity restructurings,  and general business  matters.
Environment and Energy
  • Petroleum and Natural Gas – provide services to majors,  independents and mineral owners in the petroleum and natural gas industry.  This  includes upstream, midstream and downstream transactions, litigation, administrative proceedings and counseling.
  • Energy – represent producers of electric power in transactions, regulatory proceedings, litigation and counseling.
  • Environmental – represent businesses and individuals in environmental matters, particularly those involving oil and gas and energy.
  • Consulting with Other Firms – We work with other law firms, particularly in the oil and gas and energy areas, who have clients with oil and gas or energy concerns but lack expertise in oil and gas or energy matters.
  • Water Law – represent landowners in connection with water rights
Foundations and Trusts
  • Fiduciaries – represent fiduciaries, largely defending trusts and handling other fiduciary litigation.
  • Probate – represent  estates in probate proceedings.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution – represent clients in the mediation and arbitration of cases as a cost-effective solution.
  • Appellate – represent clients in  appellate matters, both state and federal, including matters tried by other firms.
  • Civil Trials – represent clients in both state and federal courts.  Serve as local counsel for out of state law firms with cases in California..
  • Settlement Counsel – represent clients as special settlement counsel in cases being tried by other lawyers.

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Firm Philosophy

We combine long-established traditions with new ideas. On the one hand, we adhere to traditional values of professionalism, honesty and loyalty to our clients’ interests. On the other, we seek new ways of going about our work so as to solve our clients' legal problems more quickly and cost effectively. Our approach is based on seven principles:

Principle No. 1  Reward results, not hours.  Pay for hours, you will get hours. Pay for results, you will be more apt to get results. The key here is that not only must lawyers and clients be able to define good results but both must be willing to take risks. That is, clients must be willing to pay something extra for good results  and lawyers must be willing to take a hit for poor results.  We welcome creative alternative pricing arrangements that are not tied to billable hours.

Principle No. 2:  Capitalize on experience.  An experienced lawyer generally will do a better job in less time than an inexperienced lawyer. Moreover, an experienced lawyer will generally produce a better outcome. Clients should not think that experienced lawyers are prohibitively more expensive. Considering the efficiency with which the experienced lawyer works and the high cost of adverse outcomes, the experienced lawyer will generally be much more cost effective in the long run.

Principle No. 3:   Shorten the cycle.  Not only is legal work time intensive and therefore expensive but so too are the often overlooked internal costs associated with legal problems. Based on discussions with lawyers in a number of corporate legal departments, we estimate that for every dollar a client pays a lawyer to handle a problem, it costs another dollar in lost profits because of lost time, internal distractions and loss of focus. The solution? If the goal is to reduce legal costs, find a way to solve problems more quickly. In other words, shorten the cycle.

Principle No. 4:  Build relationships. Retaining a lawyer should involve more than simply hiring a technician – it should involve building relationships. Lawyers and clients need to understand each others’ businesses, know each others' staff and particularly learn each others’ expectations and goals. Solving legal problems requires a creative environment. Good relationships foster creativity; bad relationships destroy creativity.

Principle No. 5:  Use the billing process to build trust. Too often the billing process is a point of friction between lawyers and clients. A lawyer’s bill should not be a relationship breaker. It should be a relationship builder. We don’t charge more than a reasonable fee and our Billing Policies infra give our clients the final word on whether a bill for our services is reasonable. 

Principle No. 6:  Make use of technology, outsourcing and teaming. Before lawyers can move away from pricing services solely on the basis of hours spent and begin pricing on the basis of results, they need business plans which permit profits to be made without leveraging off the time of others. To do this requires that lawyers rely heavily on technology, outsourcing and teaming rather than hiring three or four associates per partner. This permits an experienced lawyer to prepare large cases without a large, full time legal staff and the high fixed costs and dependency on hourly rate billing that go with such a staff.

Principle No. 7:  It is not enough for a lawyer to be technically qualified.   In addition to being highly qualified from a technical standpoint, a lawyer must add value by offering creative, practical solutions that help clients do three things: (a) bring problems to satisfactory conclusions in the shortest possible time; (b) avoid future problems, and (c) discover profitable opportunities. For instance, a lawyer may be the very best of trial lawyers but he does his clients a disservice if he does not find creative ways of solving most disputes without litigation. He also does his client a disservice if he does not periodically suggest ways to avoid problems in the future. An example is “near miss” analysis. From time to time every business has “near misses.” Some are problems thankfully avoided. Others are missed opportunities. Either way they need to be identified and analyzed in an orderly fashion so that in the future the dangerous near misses can be avoided and the opportunities can be seized.

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Billing Policies

Too often the billing process is a point of friction between lawyer and client. We believe that it is an opportunity to build trust between lawyer and client.  We  are flexible and willing either to bill by the hour or establish alternative results-oriented fee arrangements.  We believe that over reliance on so-called “hourly rate billing” oftentimes misses the mark in that it is not sufficiently sensitive to results. It can also lead to inefficiencies. Wherever possible, our preference is to adopt billing methods which align our interests with yours and which reward results rather than reward expenditures of time without regard to results.

We will not charge more than a reasonable fee.  If a dispute arises as to the reasonableness of our fee, the client has the final word. If we conclude that the client's determination of reasonableness is unfair, our remedy is to exercise our right to cease work and withdraw as soon as permitted by the canons of ethics.

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Representative Clients

Businesses. For many years we have represented businesses of all sizes. They have ranged from major corporations with large sophisticated legal departments to small, privately owned businesses without in-house legal staff. We typically work on a project-by-project basis although for some we have served as general counsel, giving advice on a day-to-day basis.  In recent years our business clients have included, among others:

Archdiocese of Los Angeles
Alpha Therapeutic Corporation
B.E. Conway Energy, Inc. (a privately owned oil and gas producer)
Beringer Wine Estates
Burbank, California, City of
Capitol Oil Corporation (a privately owned oil and gas producer)
Clayton Industries (a privately owned manufacturer of industrial equipment)
Freeport McMoRan Oil & Gas (formerly Plains Exploration and Production)
Glendale, California, City of
Modesto Irrigation District
Northern California Power Agency
Northern Trust Bank
Occidental Petroleum Corporation
Old Republic National Title Insurance Company
Pasadena, California, City of
Redding, California, City of
Reliant Resources
Silicon Valley Power
Southern California Public Power Authority
Southern California Utility Power Pool
Strategic Energy LLC
Turlock Irrigation District
The Williams Companies, Inc.
Union Oil Company of California  (now Chevron Corp.)
Union Bank of California
Vaquero Energy, Inc. (a privately owned oil and gas producer)
Warren Resources, Inc. (a publicly traded independent oil and gas producer
W.M. Keck Foundation

Individuals. We also represent individuals with business concerns.

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