Napa law firm merger: Coombs & Dunlap building

Longtime Napa area law firms — Coombs & Dunlap of Napa and St. Helena and Toller & Novak of St. Helena – are merging. The new law firm will keep the name Coombs & Dunlap. Pictured is the Napa office. Submitted photo

Two Napa Valley law firms — Coombs & Dunlap of Napa and Toller & Novak of St. Helena — are merging, effective Monday, according to a news release.

The new full-service law firm will keep the name Coombs & Dunlap and will retain offices in Napa and St. Helena. It will include more than a dozen attorneys, with a six-attorney trust and estate group.

Collectively, the six attorneys will offer experience in estate planning and trust administration to clients from all walks of life, according to the release.

“We continue to bring new associates and partners into the firm to grow our practice and ensure the best possible service to our clients,” said Malcolm Mackenzie, Coombs & Dunlap’s senior partner. “We maintain the family firm attitude that was established by our founder in 1876 and continue to have a multi-generational legal team and client roster.”

Coombs & Dunlap is Napa’s oldest law firm, founded by Frank L. Coombs, son of Nathan Coombs, who reportedly came to California via the Oregon Trail and helped lay out the city of Napa in 1847.

“I look forward to working with a very strong estate planning group and a full-service law firm of the best and brightest attorneys in Napa County,” said Frank Toller, who co-founded Toller & Novak, along with Miel Price Novak, in 2000. Novak first joined him as an associate in 1997.

“Miel Novak will be a partner with a new associate, Alexis Brown White, assisting her in the St. Helena office,” said Toller, who is a certified specialist in estate planning, trust and probate law by the State Bar of California, board of legal specialization. Toller practiced at the Internal Revenue Service for 20 years and joined the Napa law firm of Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty before starting his own practice in St. Helena in 1997.

In addition to Mackenzie, Novak, Toller and White, the trust and estate group will include Jennifer Byram, a Coombs & Dunlap partner who joined the firm in 2003 and is also a certified specialist in estate planning, trust and probate law, and Megan Bruce, an associate.  

Toller and Novak will work in Coombs & Dunlap’s St. Helena offices alongside White and managing partner Cynthia Smith. In addition to her employment and business law practice, Smith is a member of the St. Helena Unified School District board of trustees and a longtime community volunteer.  

Frank Coombs served as a member of Congress, a California legislator, Napa County district attorney and a U.S. ambassador to Japan. Five Coombs & Dunlap partners have been appointed as Napa County judges.

Toller is a former mayor of St. Helena, a former St. Helena citizen of the year, a former president of the St. Helena Unified School District board of trustees and a former board member of the Napa Valley Community Foundation and the St. Helena Rotary Club.

Miel Novak is a fifth-generation St. Helenan. Her great-grandmother’s aunt, Susan Russell Spotts, moved to St. Helena in the early 1900s and purchased Spottswoode. In 1972 her grandmother sold the property to her in-laws, Jack and Mary Novak.

The firm’s main office will continue to be the Theodore Parker House, a designated historic landmark, at 1211 Division St., Napa. The phone number is 252-9100 and the website is

The firm will also retain offices in St. Helena at 1312 Oak St. (963-5202) and 1407 Main St. (963-5547).


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