Law Firm Growth Strategies - Adding Talent, Opening Offices, Serving New Clients
Thirty-five years after Gerry Greenspoon co-founded a new Fort Lauderdale law firm, Greenspoon Marder has expanded across the country, opening new offices in Miami, Las Vegas and New York, as well as entering new practice areas.
In contrast to this outward-bound strategy, Bowman and Brooke LLP, one of the nation’s leading product liability firms, opened its first South Florida office in February. Meanwhile, mergers, acquisitions and new boutique firms continue to reshape the region’s legal landscape.
Here is a closer look at some of these firms’ growth strategies.
Buckner + Miles
David M. Buckner, Seth Miles and Brett von Borke left their previous firm to co-found Buckner + Miles in December. Since then, the boutique trial firm in Coral Gables has added new talent to serve its clients. “We started with three partners and recently hired a fourth attorney,” says Buckner. “We will expect more growth in the next year or so, but we will always be a boutique firm.”
Buckner and Miles worked together as federal prosecutors about 20 years ago, and continued to handle litigation on behalf of private clients. The firm handles plaintiff personal injury and class action cases, as well as commercial litigation.
“Our goal is to be the best trial firm in Florida and beyond,” says Buckner, who also handles appellate matters. “If I try a case, I handle the appeals, since I know the facts, as well as the arguments at trial.”
Buckner says Miami is “a great town” for trial lawyers. “We have a large group of attorneys with good trial experience,” he adds. “We also have many talented associates. We look for lawyers with strong ethics, a good work ethic and the ability to represent our clients in the courtroom. There is no shortage of well-qualified young lawyers in South Florida.”
Espinosa Trueba Martinez, PL
A boutique firm specializing in intellectual property (IP) law, Espinosa Trueba Martinez, PL took a major step forward in January. “We acquired the legal team at Martinez, White & Viniegra, enhancing our ability to assist larger clients and provide better service under one roof,” says Jorge Espinosa, managing partner of the Miami firm, which handles complex trademark litigation in the U.S. and abroad, as well as copyright matters and drafting international agreements.
“Our firm culture is very horizontal,” adds Espinosa, who co-founded the firm in 2008 with William Trueba. “We strive to have a relaxed atmosphere and discuss issues and opportunities openly with our colleagues.”
After the acquisition, the firm had eight attorneys and another seven staff members, with plans to add a new attorney in the patent litigation section. “We typically hire attorneys with several years of experience,” Espinosa says. “As a boutique firm, it’s hard to invest in people fresh out of law school.”
While South Florida has plenty of talented attorneys, there’s a scarcity in the IP practice areas, Espinosa says, adding it’s also hard to find trademark and copyright paralegals in the regional market.
Now, with a “deeper bench,” the firm is going after mid-size to larger national corporate clients. “We are having a very busy year, with no signs of a slowdown,” Espinosa says. “We are already seeing a return on our investment in talent. It’s a pleasure to work with partners and associates who share similar goals and want to keep growing professionally. At our firm, we want everyone to succeed.”
Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel LLP
In 2015, Hamilton Miller Birthisel LLP, joined with delancyhill, P.A., to expand its presence in Florida and the Caribbean. “Our firm is on a strong growth trajectory,” says Jerry D. Hamilton, managing partner of the Miami firm. “We launched the firm in 2006 with three lawyers and on our tenth anniversary we are approaching 50 attorneys including partners Michelle Delancy and Marlon Hill, who were the founding members of delancyhill. Our strategic plan calls for us to double in size in the next decade.”
One of the region’s most diverse law firms with several offices in Florida and the Caribbean, Hamilton Miller Birthisel is a trial law firm specializing in insurance defense and coverage, premises liability, medical and professional liability, labor and employment, admiralty and maritime, construction, and complex business litigation.
“We are primarily and insurance defense firm, and about 90 percent of our work is litigation with the other 10 percent involving transactions,” Hamilton says. “Our growth helps us serve our clients in different markets and sectors. We can also take on larger cases, including the defense of class actions.”
At Hamilton Miller Birthisel, shared values, such as a commitment to diversity and community service are embedded into the firm’s culture, Hamilton says. “We know the importance of teamwork within a law firm. It can’t be a place where ‘it’s all about me,’” he adds.
While continually looking for good laterals who complement its practice areas, the firm has a commitment to promote from within, whenever possible. Many of the 15 partners were once associates, he says. “It gives me great pleasure to see young lawyers come in, try their own cases and build a book of business,” he says. “We respect our talented attorneys and staff members and provide them with the support they need to be successful in their careers.”
Bowman and Brooke LLP
Bowman and Brooke LLP, one of the nation’s leading product liability firms, recently acquired Seipp, Flick & Hosley LLP, giving it new offices in Miami and Orlando.
“This combination was a natural fit for our team,” says John Seipp, Jr., managing partner, Miami. “We had build a strong defense litigation practice over the past 20 years, and it’s a pleasure to be working side-by-side with lawyers across the country who are equally dedicated to excellence.”
Bowman and Brooke’s Miami office now has 20 attorneys, and may add more lawyers in the future, Seipp says. “We represent most of the major automotive manufacturers, as well as many heavy equipment manufacturers,” he says. “We also handle pharmaceutical and ethical drug manufacturing defense.”
The firm’s Miami and Orlando attorneys represent manufacturers and other clients in claims filed in Florida courts, as well as on a national basis.
Also joining Bowman and Brooke were appellate attorney Wendy F. Lumish, and litigator Robert Rudock. “As a lawyer who has represented the automotive industry throughout my career, I have long known Bowman and Brooke as a great trial firm,” says Rudock.
Bowman and Brooke LLP has nearly 200 attorneys who defend a variety of corporate clients, including many Global 500 companies, in widely publicized catastrophic injury and wrongful death matters, and in other product-related litigation throughout all 50 states.
Goldberg Segalla is another national law firm that entered the South Florida market this spring, opening offices in Miami and West Palm Beach. The 15-year-old Buffalo, N.Y., firm with nearly 300 attorneys, has no plans for further expansion in Florida.
“We are primarily a business and commercial litigation firm with a heavy emphasis on insurance coverage and insurance-related defense work,” says Rodney Janis, managing partner for Florida. “Our firm’s practice areas, including professional liability, class action defense, construction, trucking and transportation, are highly litigated in South Florida.”
Goldberg Segalla now has 12 attorneys in its Miami and West Palm Beach offices along with 12 staffers. The firm also has a small office in Orlando. Janis says the Florida team is well-aligned with the national firm’s positive culture and vision of service.
“We have been able to recruit great lawyers who are also good human beings,” he says. “In our firm, you have to pass the chemistry test before you get to the math test [regarding the book of business].” Janis notes that Goldberg Segalla is highly regarded as one of the nation’s top places to work. “We are proud of creating such a positive environment.”
Since its founding in 1981, Greenspoon Marder has grown to more than 160 attorneys practicing in more than 40 areas of law, plus over 500 staff, in 13 offices throughout Florida and beyond. “We are very entrepreneurial in nature,” says managing partner Gerald “Gerry” Greenspoon. “The attorneys we bring in share that spirit. From a firm-wide perspective, we are looking for opportunities to broaden our base and add practice areas, as well as attracting new talent.”
Last year, Greenspoon Marder opened an office in Las Vegas, and recently expanded to six attorneys handling litigation, labor and employment, and regulatory matters. On April 1, the firm opened a New York City office with nine lawyers doing litigation, corporate and securities cases.
“We believe there is a great synergy between Florida and New York, in developing our corporate, mergers and acquisition, private equity and securities practices,” Greenspoon says. “It also allows us to grow our talent pool in the capital of the world’s financial markets, and increase our ability to service our clients.”
This January, the firm opened a Miami office on Brickell Avenue, initially leasing half a floor that rapidly grew to an entire floor. “Miami had been a major part of our strategic plan for many years, but we held off until we found the right people,” Greenspoon says. “We are definitely excited about being part of the legal community in this dynamic gateway city.”
Robert Lewis is managing shareholder of the Miami office, which now has approximately 20 attorneys. He also chairs the firm’s Alcohol Beverage Group, which includes attorneys Louis Terminello and Marbet Lewis.
The Miami office is also home to the firm’s Criminal Defense Practice, led by shareholder David Kubiliun, the sophisticated real estate practice of shareholder Manny Crespo, and the firm’s newly established Entertainment Law Group, led by shareholder Leslie Zigel. In April the firm also added a family law practice group led by shareholder Richard J. Preira.
“Our Miami lawyers and staff now enjoy beautiful, thoroughly-modern space with large common areas and hospitality features that were designed to promote teamwork among practice groups and offer added conveniences to our clients,” Lewis says.
Looking ahead, Greenspoon says the firm will continue to look for growth opportunities. “We recently launched a national marijuana practice to handle the complex legal side of the recreational and medical marijuana business,” he says. The firm’s new Cannabis Law Group includes attorneys in Denver, San Diego and Florida.
“Eventually, we plan to open offices in almost every state that has some legal marijuana business,” Greenspoon says. “Our attorneys are used to dealing with complex state regulations and this will be a natural expansion for our firm.”
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