Ryan C. Reetz and Pedro Martinez-Fraga
Ryan C. Reetz and Pedro Martinez-Fraga ()

St. Louis-based Bryan Cave is the latest international law firm to open an office in Miami, the gateway to Latin America.

The 985-lawyer firm is opening its 27th office with two prominent Miami litigators snagged from DLA Piper, Pedro Martinez-Fraga and C. Ryan Reetz.

Ironically, Martinez-Fraga and Reetz are the lawyers who opened DLA Piper’s Miami office three years ago.

“We’ve been considering the possibility of opening an office in Miami for a number of years,” Bryan Cave chair Don Lents said. “It’s a market that, when we talk about locations that we might consider, it’s been on the radar screen. We’ve had our eyes open and were waiting for the right team.”

Bryan Cave’s clients have had litigation needs in South Florida, particularly financial institution and manufacturing and commercial clients, Lents said. Miami is “one of the major markets in the United States, and that has some interest, particularly its role as the U.S. gateway to Latin America.”

Bryan Cave is following a well-trodden path of national and international law firms opening offices in Miami—some successfully and some not. Squire Sanders & Dempsey, DLA Piper, Jones Day and Foley & Lardner are some of the firms that have opened Miami outposts in recent years.

Martinez-Fraga and Reetz, who specialize in international dispute resolution, said they approached Bryan Cave because they had a philosophical issue with DLA Piper’s firm structure. They said DLA Piper operates its international offices in a Swiss verein legal structure of independent offices.

All Bryan Cave offices operate under the same management, rules and governance in a one-firm model.

“The idea is to grow in a way that is consistent with firm values,” Martinez-Fraga said. “It matters to Fortune 500 companies that a non-U.S. jurisdiction adheres to the same core values and principles and exercise of law.”

DLA Piper spokesman Josh Epstein confirmed the two lawyers left the firm. His only comment was “we wish them well.”

Martinez-Fraga will serve as co-leader of Bryan Cave’s international dispute resolution team, while Reetz will act as office managing partner and hiring partner.

Bryan Cave’s Miami office opens Monday in the Southeast Financial Center at 200 S. Biscayne Blvd., where the firm leased 10,000 square feet. Lents said the firm plans to grow the office, although the firm has no target number.

Bill Brennan, a law firm consultant with Brennan Strategy in Philadelphia, said he was not surprised to hear Bryan Cave was opening a Miami office.

“Bryan Cave has been growing very rapidly on the West Coast, and it would not surprise me if they target the East Coast as their next area of expansion,” he said. “This is a premier law firm with extremely competitive billing rates that has been under the radar but it is growing at the expense of mega-1,000 firms.”

The firm is attractive to laterals because it has lower billing rates than “mega-1,000″ lawyer firms, Brennan added.

“They are a really well-managed firm, and their rates are very reasonable, so they are going to be a survivor,” he said. “They are perfectly positioned to pick up people that are spinning out of your mega-1,000 firms. A lawyer can be a top-tier partner at Bryan Cave and avoid the pricing pressure and actually expand his practice by being more competitive with billing rates.”

Bryan Cave ranked 46th on the Am Law 200 in 2013, pulling in $643 million in gross revenue, up 3 percent from the previous year.