After 25 years litigating together at a top-tier, full-service law firm, three prominent Arizona attorneys – Randy Papetti, Bruce Samuels and Jon Weiss – recently made the bold decision to open their own firm. Located in the prestigious Scottsdale Quarter, Papetti Samuels Weiss LLP is Arizona’s newest boutique litigation firm. Drawing upon decades of experience, this team will provide the same sophisticated counsel clients have come to expect.
“The pandemic gave us all time to reflect and wonder whether there’s a new chapter in our careers and if so, what that new chapter should look like,” offers Samuels, the new firm’s managing partner.
“It’s an opportunity to further explore things that are important to all of us, like providing more meaningful opportunities for talented young lawyers and contributing to causes we’re all committed to,” adds Papetti. “We believe that can be better achieved in a new, smaller firm. Client service will always be the firm’s top priority, but practicing law is about more than representing clients.”
As Weiss explains, “It’s also about having a positive impact on the community, contributing to social justice, and bringing along the next generation of lawyers.
“Having the opportunity to do that with two of my closest friends for the last 25 years, who are also two of the best lawyers I’ve ever seen,” he adds, “was just too extraordinary to pass up.”
A Solid Core
The firm’s namesakes have similar pedigrees in many respects, graduating from top-tier law schools, clerking for respected judges, and practicing law at the highest levels, but each also brings to the firm their own unique perspective that contributes to a vibrant firm energy.
Papetti is an elite trial lawyer who other lawyers often call on to try a case when the stakes are high. As the former practice group leader of one of the Western United States’ premier litigation sections Papetti has been recognized by nearly every ranking publication and service as one of Arizona’s top litigators. Papetti’s background in finance and diverse experience in an unusually wide variety of industries is what makes him so valuable to his clients. Whether they need to negotiate an inter-company dispute, pursue trademark infringement, or even defend against criminal charges, Papetti will go above and beyond to help them.
Samuels has become one of Arizona’s go-to lawyers for time-sensitive and high-value legal emergencies, such as when clients need to stop the misappropriation of trade secrets or prevent an employee from violating post-employment agreements. Samuels’ clients have come to value his pragmatic and creative strategies, his careful ear, and his instinct for assessing strengths and vulnerabilities. Others have noticed. Samuels has been recognized as one of the Best Lawyers in America in six different areas and is consistently recognized by Benchmark Litigation as a Local Litigation Star in intellectual property.
Weiss is what some would call a lawyer’s lawyer – not just because of his reputation as one of the top professional liability lawyers in Arizona, but also because he practices law the way a lawyer should, with humility, respect and integrity. Weiss is an exceptional writer, with a courtroom style that reflects his decades of trial experience. He can handle nearly any type of commercial dispute, but his particular focus is in the areas of professional liability, lawyer discipline, and high stakes appeals.
Building the Team
Although the founding members are enthusiastic about their joint venture, one aspect they all are particularly excited about is the opportunity to hand-select and bring on board some of the brightest legal minds available. The first two young attorneys they recruited are Jennifer Lee-Cota and Jared Sutton.
“Finding the right people to start a new venture with is hard,” says Samuels. “In a small firm like this, you will work very closely with one another, and everyone needs to be on the same page. That’s why we were so excited when Jenny and Jared decided to join us. They are both fabulous lawyers and we know they are wonderful people from the years we worked with them at Lewis Roca. They are the kind of people we want to fill the firm with.”
In addition to Lee-Cota and Sutton, the firm brought in Pamela Ramsey, a paralegal with more than 40 years of experience working on complex civil cases. “Pamela has worked with all of us our entire careers and in fact, pre-dated Randy, Jon, and me at our prior firm,” says Samuels. “She’s incredibly talented and proficient and we’re very excited to have her as part of our team.”
With a master’s degree in higher education, Lee-Cota is already an accomplished litigator in her own right who works with a diverse range of clients. Having worked in the nonprofit sector before law school, Lee-Cota has a solid understanding of the unique challenges organizations face, while taking into account the perspectives of various stakeholders in a dispute. When she started at Lewis Roca in 2016, after clerking on the Arizona Court of Appeals, Weiss was Lee-Cota’s supervising partner and she also worked frequently with Papetti and Samuels.
“Having seen the quality of their work and, more importantly, knowing the kind of people they are,” Lee-Cota says, “accepting the offer to join them was difficult to pass up. I’m both honored and excited to start this new adventure with them and to continue being mentored by some of the best lawyers in Arizona.”
Sutton is a business litigator who, like the founders, brings a wide range of experiences to the firm across multiple industries. He’s managed to resist the trend to specialize and instead prides himself on being a generalist who can dive in and handle any matter, regardless of the industry or the complexity. He has developed a strong reputation as a young litigator in Phoenix, recognized as a Southwest Super Lawyers Rising Star every year since 2016 and was recently named to the Best Lawyers in America for commercial litigation.
“I’ve been working with Randy, Bruce and Jon for almost nine years,” says Sutton, “and, putting aside their exceptional legal skills, they’re just great people. For good reason, they all have outstanding reputations in the community, and as soon as you put their names on the wall, the firm becomes one of the premier litigation boutiques in the state. To be given the chance to be part of that and continue to learn from them was something I just had to jump at.
Everyone’s right-hand, Ramsey is the firm’s senior paralegal and one of the most accomplished in Arizona. Prior to becoming part of this team, Ramsey spent decades working on some of the largest and most impactful civil litigation cases in the state. Ramsey is particularly skilled at handling large, complex and document intensive cases, including cases involving sizeable amounts of electronically stored information.
“Pamela has been hugely helpful to all of us throughout our careers, and we look forward to her helping us navigate this new firm,” says Samuels.
All for One and One for All
Samuels referred to launching this new firm as a new chapter for everyone involved and that fresh fervor is almost palpable. As Papetti explains, “There’s been this renewed sense of energy and excitement that we all have.” Their combined years of experience have helped them to avoid most of the growing pains new firms face, due in no small part to the genuine affection and mutual respect they all have for each other after working together for years.
“We’ve divvied up the various responsibilities in forming this new firm,” offers Samuels. “There’s never been any hesitation. One of us is always willing to volunteer and take on whatever needs to be tackled. We have complementary skillsets.”
Samuels may be too modest. To hear it from Papetti, “in many ways, Bruce has been the architect of this venture. Bruce had the idea and Jon and I are trying to be able wingmen.”
Looking to the Future
Merging the substantial and significant experience each of these litigators has brought to the practice of law virtually guarantees success for this new firm. Papetti’s work on wrongful convictions led him to write a leading book on a forensic science issue and is internationally recognized; Samuels has spent more than two decades as a member (and chair) of the board of directors of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest; Weiss served a decade as a judge pro tempore of the Arizona Superior Court and is part of a nationwide network of lawyers who help college student Dreamers.
It’s against this backdrop that these partners founded a firm focused on high-stakes, Arizona-based litigation. Their mission statement commits to creating a modern, flexible environment to attract, empower and retain the most talented young lawyers and to create a space where each might continue contributing to various and personal pro bono and community causes.
“One of the things that was most exciting for all of us, was the opportunity to rethink everything,” says Papetti. “We carefully considered the hierarchy we wanted within the firm, what sort of space we want, how we’re going to work. I think a lot of clients are rethinking how they expect to interact with their lawyers in different more creative ways and we want to be nimble and flexible enough for that change. We really do want the firm to speak our values, not simply recite verbiage but to really be a diverse place where lawyers can grow. A place where we meaningfully contribute to the causes in which we believe.
“Finally, but just as importantly,” he adds, “we want to make sure we’re having fun. That’s not just a punctuation point, it’s intended to a guiding principle.”
Don’t let the smaller footprint fool you though. These are all serious litigators who have spent their entire careers working in one of the most respected big firms in the area. In Sutton’s eyes, “It’s important for the community to understand that when there is a high-stakes business-related dispute, this is the firm to go to. It might not be a big firm, but we all have that big-firm, national experience. And we are intent on making sure we provide very personalized service.”
The firm will not always remain a five-lawyer shop, but growth will only happen with the right people. “We intend to grow,” notes Samuels, “we don’t have a specific number in mind but remain receptive to bringing on new colleagues who share the same values and dedication.”
“We were very selective when we asked Jenny and Jared to join us,” adds Weiss, “and I think we have the luxury to continue to be selective as we grow. We want to grow with outstanding lawyers; outstanding lawyers who fit in the culture we’re creating here.”