When Hank Anderson and David Cramer merged their law firms in the early 1960s, some people thought it could be an ill- advised move.

Fifty-two years later, Cramer & Anderson is among the foremost law firms in northwestern Connecticut.

"There was a discussion going on at the time about what the size of a law firm should be and whether mergers were good," Anderson, 96, recalled.

"A lot of people thought it hurt firms to merge, since you might be representing a client who was in opposition to the client the other attorney was representing," he said. "They thought you'd lose business."

The complexity of a legal world that was about to dawn made it apparent to Anderson and Cramer, however, the correct direction would be to create a larger firm of attorneys with specialized areas of expertise.

"Specialization became the new direction," Anderson said. "When I started out as an attorney, I took on everything of every kind. By the time I retired after 50 years, I was specializing in wills and trusts."

The wisdom of diversification within one firm has been a hallmark of Cramer & Anderson since those early days.

Today, a third generation of attorneys are being mentored by the second generation who followed the lead of Cramer, Hank Anderson and Paul Altermatt.

The firm today boasts 19 partners and five associates.

Abigail Miranda, who joined the firm in January as an intern, has just passed the Connecticut bar and is gaining an associate's position, bringing that number to five.

"There's a continual regeneration in the firm," said Randy DiBella, a partner of 17 years and for many year's the town attorney for Mayor Pat Murphy's administration. "We mentor the new people."

"We want all of our associates that we bring in to rise to partners," he added. "It's a true law firm, not a confederation, not a bunch of solo practitioners sharing space."

Ken Taylor, a seven-year partner, agrees.

"We have some people whose entire career has been here," Taylor said. "We work collaboratively between offices and specializations. That's our greatest strength."

Senior partner Arthur Weinshank noted Cramer & Anderson's strong track record on winning cases by pairing clients with the right attorney.

"Our main objective is to assist our clients in meeting their needs," Weinshank said. "We make sure each of our attorneys has unique qualities and is committed to being an excellent attorney, strong advocate and community minded."

One such case which DiBella represented was a grandmother who had fallen and injured herself carrying her anesthesia-groggy grandchild out of a hospital following a procedure.

The trial court had denied the injured woman's right to file a straight negligence personal injury lawsuit against the hospital.

The court had found the situation was based on a medical decision to release the child and that certification from a medical specialist would be needed by the woman to establish malpractice.

DiBella successfully argued the judgment in the state appellate court and the case was then reinstated on court docket in December 2013.

Weinshank, who started with the firm in 1980, is confident Cramer & Anderson has a bright future.

"Many years ago, I was a young junior partner and a lot went on in this firm then," said Weinshank. "Now we're the largest firm in northwestern Connecticut and bringing in new talent."

For five years while he was in law school, associate Tom Mott harbored the goal of working at Cramer & Anderson.

"I grew up in New Milford," said the New Milford High School Class of 2001 graduate. "I was always familiar with this firm. I knew there was talent here and wanted to be part of it."

Lisa Buzaid recently returned to the firm. She had left eight years ago as a partner, setting out on her own.

Today, she works from the firm's Danbury office, a partner again.

"I was looking to have more control of my day to day," Buzaid said. "I had three young children and giving 110 percent to the firm was a little difficult."

As Buzaid's children grew, she found more time for her career. She also came to realize being part of a large firm with experienced colleagues allowed her to better serve her own clients.

"This is a winning team, a proven team," Buzaid said. "The people here give more than just their day at work. They're active members of their community, the type of people I like to be around."

Buzaid specializes in real estate law. Associate Peter Harrison often refers clients to her.

"I specialize in estate planning," Harrison said. "I went to Georgetown to earn an extra degree in that. I know real estate taxes, but a lot of estate planning needs a person like Lisa who can look at things from all of the perspectives."

"There's strength in numbers," said partner Neal White. "You can be an expert in any field but when you're bouncing ideas off of each other, that's where concepts come together."

White joined Cramer & Anderson in July, leaving a firm in Litchfield -- Litwin, Asman & White -- to join the larger partnership.

"I had worked hand in hand with Cramer & Anderson attorneys from its Litchfield office for years," White said, "so when (I was approached) about merging with the firm, I saw the direction I wanted to take."

Lisa Rivas joined the firm in December 2013. An associate, she brings bilingual expertise, speaking Spanish as well as English.

"Working in immigration like I do, you become part of your clients' day to day," Rivas said. "I was at a smaller firm before and something that stands out for me with Cramer & Anderson is that you see that same kind of caring about a client's well being."

"I don't think you always see that in a larger firm," she added.

Rivas is also a volunteer at the Multi-Cultural Center of Western Connecticut in Danbury and is a member of the selection committee for the Latino Scholarship Fund.

What does a Cramer & Anderson attorney do in his or her off time when not involved in community service?

White, a 1989 Litchfield High School graduate, said it perhaps the best.

"After I leave today, I'll have lunch with 12 4-year-olds at my daughter's day care," he said. "I live and work in the town I grew up in. What could be better?"

Cramer & Anderson has offices in Kent, New Milford, Washington and Danbury.

DiBella is the town attorney for New Milford and Kent.

Perley Grimes is Cornwall's town attorney, with Dolores R. Schiesel does some work for Bridgewater and David Casagrande does litigation for the city of Danbury.

For more photos, visit www.newmilfordspectrum.com.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322