In what could prove to be a bit of poetic justice, Jackson Lewis announced Wednesday that it is opening its 51st office in Puerto Rico, a place that some see as a strong contender to become this nation’s 51st state.
And while the results of a plebiscite last year on the issue of whether the island commonwealth should pursue statehood were somewhat mixed, Jackson Lewis sees the office it plans to open in San Juan as having plenty of potential.
“A lot of our clients have facilities in Puerto Rico, so having an office there made sense,” says Vincent Cino, a Morristown, New Jersey–based Jackson Lewis partner elected chair of the firm in December. “This had been in the works for about a year, but we really needed to find the right people.”
Joining Jackson Lewis in San Juan to open the new office are partner Sara Colon-Acevedo and of counsel Juan Felipe Santos, two labor and employment lawyers previously with local firm Schuster Aguilo. (Jackson Lewis isn’t the only Am Law 100 firm to recently make news in Puerto Rico: this month Steptoe & Johnson added the territory’s former governor, Luis Fortuno, to its government affairs and public policy practice.)
In addition to helping the firm meet the needs of existing clients, Jackson Lewis envisions its San Juan office acting as a magnet for new clients and business opportunities in the Caribbean and Latin America. Cino explains that firms like his—a go-to shop for labor and employment litigation—find that it’s more efficient to have offices in various locales across the country.
“Local lawyers better know opposing counsel, the judges, and certain jurisdictional differences,” says Cino, recalling an experience trying a case back in the early nineties in Cheyenne, Wyoming. “Imagine me, Vinny from Jersey,” he says with a laugh, noting that the movie My Cousin Vinny was out at the time.
Cino, who says he didn’t don a cowboy hat for that trial, joined Jackson Lewis in 1990. Since then the firm has been on an expansion drive that has resulted in an increase in attorney head count from 350 in 2002 to roughly 650 last year. A week ago, Jackson Lewis opened an office in Grand Rapids after its hire of partner Timothy Ryan and of counsel Linda Ryan from local firm Kotz Sangster Wysocki.
Jackson Lewis, which last week named Joan Ackerstein to succeed Cino as the firm’s national director of litigation, isn’t the only labor and employment firm in growth mode. In January alone, rivals Fisher & Phillips, Ford & Harrison, and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart have all opened offices in new cities.
The Am Law Daily reported earlier this month on Ogletree’s move into San Diego with the addition of former Fisher & Phillips partner Spencer Skeen, as well as the possibility that it will also be launching new locations in Seattle and China. For its part, Fisher & Phillips picked up former Squire Sanders partner Steven Loewengart, who will open a new office for the firm in Columbus. Ford & Harrison acquired five-lawyer Christine D. Hanley & Associates and in the process added an office in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Ogletree is not alone in responding to California’s siren song. Arent Fox, for one, will open an office in San Francisco on May 1 by relocating some partners from other offices and luring at least one partner from a rival firm, according to sibling publication The Recorder. Duane Morris has also opened in Silicon Valley after hiring K&L Gates IP litigation partner Karineh Khachatourian, who will become her new firm’s local managing partner.
Reuters reported Tuesday that Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton is poised to open in Los Angeles by combining with local IP boutique Keats, McFarland & Wilson. A spokesman for Kilpatrick, itself the product of a 2010 merger, declined The Am Law Daily‘s request for comment on the matter. Anthony Keats and Larry McFarland, name partners at the firm Reuters reports Kilpatrick has targeted, did not respond to requests for comment.
In the Midwest, Dykema Gossett hired two partners for its expansion into Minneapolis, while Dickinson Wright opened in Phoenix following its merger with 60-lawyer local firm Mariscal, Weeks, McIntyre & Friedlander, according to our previous reports. Grant & Eisenhofer, a Delaware-based plaintiffs firm formed by Am Law 100 refugees, also opened in Chicago this month after hiring veteran class action litigator Adam Levitt from New York’s Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz.
The Am Law Daily also reported this month that Reed Smith is poised to open in Houston by targeting strategic lateral hires from other large firms in the Lone Star State. Back on the East Coast, national IP boutique Novak Druce Connolly Bove + Quigg opened a Boston office after acquiring seven-lawyer local firm Rissman Hendricks & Oliverio, according to sibling publication The National Law Journal.
The nation’s capital is also proving attractive to some firms.
The Am Law Daily recently reported that Bennett Jones had become the first major Canadian firm to open in Washington, D.C., after rehiring former Canadian competition commissioner Melanie Aitken. Cleveland-based regional firm McDonald Hopkins has also opened in D.C. by hiring former congressman Steven LaTourette and his wife, according to the NLJ.
Other Am Law 100 and Second Hundred firms are looking to the Far East to extend their expansion efforts.
A decade after shuttering its Beijing office, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has received approval from local authorities to reopen in China’s capital in the first quarter of the year, according to U.K. publication Legal Week. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati also opened an office in Beijing just before the New Year by relocating a partner from Hong Kong, according to sibling publication The Asian Lawyer.
Elsewhere in China, Covington & Burling snagged five lawyers from Wilson Sonsini last year in a prelude to opening a Shanghai office that officially went live this month, shortly after Covington entered the increasingly competitive South Korean legal market by launching a Seoul outpost. Also opening in the city after receiving local regulatory approval last year is DLA Piper, according to Legal Week.
Morrison & Foerster, which began preparing last fall to return to Singapore following a three-year hiatus, also officially reopened in the city-state this month after relocating several lawyers from its Tokyo office. Large firms have been busy bolstering their operations in the city-state as part on the way to pushing into other regional markets, according to a report this month by sibling publication The Recorder.
One of those markets is Myanmar, where the lifting of economic sanctions last year has opened up the Southeast Asian nation’s abundant natural resources to Western companies. Two leading Singapore firms—Rajah & Tann and Zaid Ibrahim & Co—have recently launched Myanmar practices, according to U.K. publication The Lawyer. But with the country continuing to cope with ethnic unrest, The Asian Lawyer reported last year that many larger foreign firms remain wary of opening in the country.