The law firms of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell and Olson Hagel & Fishburn, which merged on January 1, 2020 to become Olson Remcho, grew up together on the California political scene as friendly rivals. The firms often shared clients and referred work to one another – even exchanging kind words in the legal and political press – as their reputations as two of the leading political law firms in California grew over a 40-year span.
Remcho, Johansen & Purcell (“RJP”) was founded in 1983 in San Francisco by Joseph Remcho, Kathleen Purcell and Robin Johansen, who had worked together on the landmark Serrano public education funding cases – lawsuits that attempted to equalize funding among California school districts. The firm’s practice expanded from education finance to other high-profile constitutional issues such as term limits, redistricting and campaign finance. Among early clients of the firm was Assembly Speaker Willie Brown who commented for a news story about the firm, “One of the first things I did when I became speaker was make Joe Remcho my attorney.” Joe Remcho was killed in a helicopter crash in 2003, but the firm was strongly established and Johansen was able to call on next-generation partners James Harrison, Thomas Willis, and Karen Getman – former chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) –to pick up the torch and carry the firm forward.
Olson Hagel & Fishburn (“OHF”) got its start in 1977 when Lance Olson founded the firm in Sacramento with now retired Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly. Bruce Hagel became a partner in 1982 and built the firm’s social security appeals practice—a practice area that was essential to the long-term success of the firm. Lance and Bruce were later joined by partner Diane Fishburn, who in her 25 years as a partner with the firm, was instrumental in developing the firm’s expertise in campaign and political law. Deborah Caplan, who later joined the firm as a partner and top litigator, helped solidify the firm’s elite reputation in the field of litigation and education finance, including numerous United States and California Supreme Court appearances. The firm did well in establishing a second generation of successful partners in Richard Rios and Emily Andrews, who have become leaders in the firm’s areas of expertise – representing legislative leaders and statewide officeholders, drafting state and local ballot measures as well as numerous state campaign finance and election laws and regulations, and advising California’s biggest political players on how to achieve their objectives in political, election, and government law. Over the years, the firm has had a number of its former partners and employees go on to successful careers in government including as judges, legislators, and gubernatorial appointees.