The honeymoon is over for Breit Cantor.
The regional personal injury law firm, which was created in 2019 with the marriage of Richmond-based Cantor Stoneburner Ford Grana & Buckner and Breit Drescher Imprevento of Virginia Beach, has been split back in two.
It’s a breakup, no doubt, but both sides say it’s about as clean and amicable as it gets.
“I know people say breakups are never mutual, but this really was one,” said Kevin Biniazan, now managing partner of Breit Biniazan, the new incarnation of the Virginia Beach faction.
Elliott Buckner, partner at what’s now called Cantor Grana Buckner Bucci, said the same from the Richmond side.
“Folks always like a good gossipy breakup story, but there just isn’t one here,” Buckner said. “I don’t want to use the popular term of ‘conscious uncoupling,’ but that’s really what it was.”
The April 2019 merger first came about when veteran attorneys and longtime friends Irv Cantor and Jeffrey Breit, the most notable of the namesakes of their respective firms, thought it made good business sense to take the relationship to the next level.
The logic — beyond the thought that they were good pals — was that connecting the two firms between Hampton Roads and Richmond would make a more formidable competitor with 14 attorneys across the two markets.
But the initial thrill of shacking up wore off as the day-to-day of running a law firm wore on.
“Jeffrey and Irv are the best of friends and that really brought everyone together. Everyone got along really well but we were two different firms,” Biniazan said.
One of the main differences that proved to be irreconcilable was how to grow the firm in the future.
Biniazan said he and Breit have a desire to take on cases further afield than just Virginia.
“We have ambition and a target to not only be a top notch trial firm in Virginia but also believe that Jeffrey has had a great career nationwide and our ambition is to be a firm that’s sought to represent individuals who have been injured throughout the country,” he said. “We have ambition to really be a national practice.”
The Cantor group, however, likes what it has going here in the commonwealth.
“We have always had a very strong desire to just be the best firm in Virginia and that’s still our goal,” Buckner said.
So, they set about to unwind the tie-up, a process that took only a couple of months and went into effect earlier this month. The result includes some shuffling of offices and a few new names on the flag of each firm.
The name Breit Biniazan resulted in part due to the retirement of two of the previous namesakes and from Biniazan being hoisted into the managing partner role. The William & Mary grad was hired by Breit right out of law school in 2017 and has been with the firm since.
The firm has five lawyers in its Virginia Beach office and three in Richmond. It expects to open an office in downtown Richmond in the spring, Biniazan said. It also has a Portsmouth office in the works coinciding with the addition of Don Scott, an attorney and Virginia delegate in the General Assembly.
Cantor Grana Buckner Bucci will remain headquartered in Richmond’s West End and has seven attorneys.
Its new name is the result of the retirement of Lewis Stoneburner and Aubrey Ford, and gives partner Scott Bucci a spot on the masthead.
In the end, both sides are adamant that there’s no bad blood. Biniazan and Buckner said sides now see clearly that they should have just stayed friends.
“It’s almost like the relationship was perfect like it was and you tried to take the extra step and it didn’t go as expected,” Biniazan said.
Buckner added that the divorce hasn’t killed the friendship.
“We were friends when we got together and we’re still friends,” he said.