Stearns Kim & Stearns is the legacy of one the South Bay’s most renowned law firms. The firm finds its origins in the law firm of Barrett Stearns Collins Gleason & Kinney, which firm achieved national prominence in the 70’s and early-mid 80’s for its representation of real estate developers, notably Ernest W. Hahn who is considered the pioneer of the shopping mall in Southern California, developing Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego, La Cumbre Plaza in Santa Barbara, and Del Amo Mall in Torrance.
Where we began
Jim Barrett headed the transactional side of the practice and Jack Stearns headed litigation. The firm transitioned when Jim Barrett decided to give up the practice of law to pursue a dream–winemaking. Jim’s pursuit became a reality, as he went on to acquire, develop and propel to international distinction Chateau Montelena Winery of Calistoga, California, which winery placed first in the legendary Paris Tasting of 1976 for its chardonnay and became the basis for the movie “Bottle Shock.”
As for the remaining lawyers of Barrett Stearns Collins Gleason & Kinney, they elected to branch off into separate firms, with each going on to prestigious careers. Jack Stearns elected to remain where had been practicing for the last 40 years, the South Bay, forming the law firm of Stearns & Kim with Harry Kim also of the Barrett/Stearns firm. Harry brought to the partnership an expansive transactional savvy and acumen, allowing his and Jack’s firm to offer to the client services in the areas of real estate, business, and estate transactions.
Jack Stearns sadly passed away in 1991, being revered one of the most fierce, driven, and colorful litigators the South Bay had ever known. The void, which Jack left behind, was soon filled by his son, Ryan Stearns. After enjoying an athletic career playing rugby which saw Ryan win 2 national championships with his teammates for U.C. Berkeley in 1985 and 1986 and then tour various parts of the world playing competitive rugby, Ryan took his competitive drive and placed it in law.
In 1994, Ryan and Harry began practicing law together, and wanting to venerate the memory of Jack as part of their practice, they later formed today’s firm of Stearns Kim & Stearns. Today, the firm continues to practice in the areas of real estate, business, and estate matters, but, with the addition of others talented individuals to the firm, the firm has also expanded into the areas of family law, medical malpractice, and complex business litigation.
Stearns Kim & Stearns embraces the traditions established by Jim Barrett and Jack Stearns, practicing law with passion, ardently advocating for its clients, and talking straight and candidly with clients. This approach to the practice of law has resulted in clients of Stearns Kim & Stearns remaining with the firm for decades—however, some critics surmise that clients choose to remain with Stearns Kim & Stearns not so much because of their cunning as lawyers, but, rather, in hope that they will be invited to partake in a vintage bottle of Chateau Montelena that Harry and Ryan keep in their private wine cellars.
Stearns Kim & Stearns enjoys the good fortune of representing high level business executives, athletes, real estate developers, and Fortune 500 companies. However, Stearns Kim & Stearns remains true to the maxim that the role of the lawyer is to represent a client in need. For that reason, Stearns Kim & Stearns’ doors are open to all individuals and businesses that are in need of counsel—and if the client remains with the firm long enough, that client just might get that glass of Chateau Montelena.
What we practice
Who we are now