“We’ve hit an iceberg, Captain Smith.” I can only imagine how he felt as he went down with the Titanic.

By the time you are reading this president’s message, Nordman Cormany Hair & Compton will also have faded into Ventura County history. Its demise occurred on the exact 13th anniversary of my joining NCHC.  Fortunately, unlike many of the passengers on the Titanic, it appears that all of our survivors will have landed reasonably well. At least that is my wish.

NCHC was one of Ventura County’s oldest and, for quite some time, largest law firms. It was founded in 1939 by Ben Nordman, using a Port Hueneme house that he rented for $1 a month as his office. I never knew  Ben, but by all accounts he was a special human being. He established a tradition that permeated NCHC’s entire 74-year existence – a tradition of community service, volunteerism, and excellent legal professionalism.

But, let’s clear one thing up before we go any further. The “Nordman Award” is not named after NCHC. It is named after Ben Nordman, who established and funded the award. By all accounts, he very well deserved that honor. So, regardless of the fortunes of NCHC, that award must always remain in his name.

Making my decision to move from the Old Country to Ventura County took some thought and investigation. The Old Country’s attorney community service award was named in the honor of one of the founding partners of my very first law firm. When I discovered that the same award in Ventura County was named after the founder of NCHC, the decision to join NCHC became so much easier.

Following Ben’s leadership, NCHC was a long-time leader in Ventura County. It provided excellent legal service to a wide range of clients, and it supported all the Ventura County communities with its civic involvement. It represented corporations, families, leading individuals and local governmental entities. It helped bring the water that was vital to the County’s growth and prosperity. It was a leader in the founding of the United Way of Ventura County, the Ventura County Community Foundation and Cal State Channel Islands. For my entire 13 years at NCHC, it always was a source of great personal pride that I was associated with such a fine law firm.

Everyone has a theory about why NCHC came to its end, but one thing is clear. Its tradition for excellence was its blessing and its curse. Because of its strengths, NCHC tutored many fine attorneys over the years, a great number of them becoming sitting judges. On the other hand, because it produced so many excellent lawyers over the years, too many were able to seek their fame and fortune elsewhere. In the end, NCHC contributed so much talent to so many other law firms and institutions that NCHC was no longer viable as an economic entity.

The sad part for me is that I will miss all the attorneys and staff whom I was fortunate to work with over the past 13 years – just under one-third of my entire legal career. While there were times that some of NCHC’s population could not play as nicely as they might have in our sandbox, overall it was a great group of people to have been associated with. And, I wish all of them much success and happiness in their endeavors after NCHC.

This, I guess, will be a short president’s message, as there really is not much more to say. It is a sad thing, but we all know that life goes on, and so will ours. I just regret that such a valuable Ventura County institution is no more. In all events, however, I remain very proud to have been a part of it for as long as I was.

Joel Mark was the managing partner at Nordman Cormany Hair & Compton LLP, in Oxnard, and did go down with the ship. It was quite a ride, except for that darned iceberg.

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