Guzman Law Group, PC
Above: L to R: Attorneys Alisha R. Swain-Fall, Carol T. Contes, Drew C. Hallett, Edward Powell, Denise M. Guzman, Charles Shelton, Marcus Chang, Maaha Khan, Jane S. Lee
Manhattan Beach-based legal firm Guzman Law Group has been advocating for the South Bay community for more than 30 years. Their clients represent the diverse industries that define the vibrancy and innovation of the South Bay. The firm provides high-caliber legal services in business and finance transactions, trust and civil litigation, estate planning and trust administration. With their proximity to Hollywood, Guzman Law Group also focuses on entertainment law and celebrity estates.
Founder Denise M. Guzman is a noted business, estate planning and trust attorney who earned her bachelor’s degree from USC and her law degree from UCLA. The firm is certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Marcus Chang, Business and Estate Planning Attorney: My inspiration comes from my desire to please my clients, whether it is providing information to help them better understand their situation or acting as their advocate—or shield—when necessary. I apply as much passion and care to our clients’ matters as I would to my own personal matters, and I believe our clients see that.
How is your firm unique?
Drew Hallett, Business and Litigation Attorney: Our firm’s litigation department has a unique skill set for handling both civil and trust litigation matters. Our focus is on individuals and companies facing general and complex business issues, as well as individuals dealing with family conflict concerning the division of assets of a trust or an estate. We also provide counsel and strategic advice to family-owned businesses experiencing a dispute within the company. Our litigation department understands the nuances of both the civil and probate divisions of the court and can expertly guide our clients through matters like these.
Jane S. Lee, Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Attorney: Our firm can help family businesses with both their business and estate planning needs, providing peace of mind surrounding their succession planning. As Drew mentioned, if any conflict arises during the trust administration process, we are also in the unique position to be able to assist with trust litigation.
What’s the #1 way you earn the trust and confidence of clients?
Edward Powell, Corporate, Securities, & Finance Attorney: We earn the trust and confidence of clients by being available and honest. Our clients know that when they have issues, we will address them competently and professionally and in a timely manner. Clients also need to hear bad news in a straightforward manner that avoids unnecessary legal work and stress.
Marcus Chang: We are honest with our clients and educate them so they can make an informed decision based on the situation. One of my primary goals in the attorney-client relationship is to make sure that the client understands why certain actions are taken during the process versus just taking my word that the action needs to be taken.
What fulfills you most about your career?
Carol T. Contes, Entertainment, Copyright & Trademark Attorney: I enjoy being of service to clients who are trying to bring their projects to fruition.
What do you wish all clients would do on a regular basis?
Edward Powell: Clients are well-served by communicating with us regularly—well in advance of making big decisions for their businesses. We can save the client time and money by helping organize their strategic planning before the term sheet or letter of intent stage, or before undertaking involved and expensive steps that might not be the most efficient or advisable way to structure a deal. Our extensive experience can help avoid issues before they arise and circumvent costly renegotiations.
What is the key to building and growing client relationships?
Drew Hallett: The key is how much we care about our clients. We always want the best for them. We listen to what they want and ask questions about their circumstances that may affect the situation at hand, providing tailored, practical advice that best serves their needs and goals. We are diligent about putting our clients in the best position possible. They recognize the level of care and commitment we provide, and that leads to strong client relationships.
In what ways do you make our community a better place?
Denise M. Guzman: It has always been part of my nature to give back to the community. It started in high school when I was on student council. As I grew in my career, I realized I could make a greater impact in the community and give my time where I saw need.
In the early ’90s there was an absence of networking organizations for businesswomen. So in 1993 I started the South Bay chapter of the American Business Women’s Association—founded on the premise of giving back to the community and bringing businesswomen together to network. We raised funds to provide college scholarships for young women. I served on the board for 12 years before turning to the next generation to lead the chapter, which continued for another 17 years.
Throughout my career I have served on several boards. I concentrate my time and effort on causes that are near and dear to my heart, such as Palos Verdes Art Center, Joy2Learn Foundation and the P.S. I Love You Foundation. I feel a sense of duty to share my knowledge, time and support with organizations where I can make a difference.
Photographed by Marisa Guzmán-Aloia