Maryland-based Offit Kurman plans to add five-lawyer tax and estate planning boutique Fineburg Law Associates to its Philadelphia office, effective October 1.
The move comes on the heels of litigators Philip Vogler, Michael Haley and Adam Brownstein joining the firm as principals in its construction and claims litigation practice group from Flaster Greenberg at the beginning of August and will complete a 50 percent increase in the Philadelphia office’s headcount over the past two months, from 16 attorneys to 24 attorneys.
Set to join the firm from Fineburg Law are founder Herbert Fineburg, who will serve as co-managing principal of the Philadelphia office, and attorneys Ted Greenberg, Joseph Armstrong, Joseph Hayes and Frank Noyes, who will be principals.
Offit Kurman principal Howard K. Kurman said Philadelphia is a key market in the firm’s strategic plan to build a regional Mid-Atlantic presence that stretches from Northern Virginia to New York.
In addition to Philadelphia, the firm has Maryland offices in Baltimore, Maple Lawn, Frederick, Owings Mill and Bethesda, as well as locations in Tysons Corner, Va., and Wilmington, Del.
Kurman said the firm views Philadelphia as being very similar to Baltimore, albeit much larger.
And while there is no shortage of law firms in Philadelphia, Kurman said, there are comparatively few that serve the same client base Offit Kurman does.
“There aren’t many firms that have a hold on that marketplace, representing middle-market clients,” Kurman said. “Many of the large firms have pretty much abandoned those markets with their rate structures. Many of the attorneys we’ve recruited are attorneys who are tired of the rate pressure and who can’t pass those rates onto clients.”
Kurman said his firm prides itself on being “lean and mean” when it comes to staffing cases and tends to hire experienced lawyers rather than young associates.
Kurman said the firm is also efficiently run, largely because of its team of nonlawyer business managers.
All of that, Kurman said, aids the firm in working toward its goal to become “a one-stop shop” for middle-market commercial clients.
According to Kurman, Fineburg’s group fits well into that business model, as many of Offit Kurman’s entrepreneur and private owner clients have tax and estate planning needs.
While Offit Kurman has several attorneys with estate planning and asset protection planning practices across its several Maryland and Virginia offices, Fineburg’s group will now bring those capabilities to the firm’s Philadelphia office.
Kurman said Fineburg’s group also has a significant presence in South Jersey.
“We have a very large estate planning and asset planning practice and Herb’s practice is a natural adjunct to that,” Kurman said, adding that the group brings with it “a very nice client base we think we can cross-refer to and vice versa.”
Fineburg said that when he first met with Offit Kurman leadership, his lease was running out and he was trying to decide whether to renew it and continue building his own firm or join up with a larger firm.
Echoing Kurman’s sentiments, Fineburg said he felt his practice fit nicely with Offit Kurman’s because they both serve a similar clientele and their rate structures are compatible.
Fineburg said he was also drawn to the wide range of practice capabilities Offit Kurman could offer his clients.
The move “allows us to have in-depth service in a lot of specialty areas that we would often co-counsel with other firms on,” Fineburg said.
But aside from the practice compatibilities, one of the biggest things that attracted Fineburg to Offit Kurman was the fact that the firm was willing to bring on his entire practice.
“I had opportunities to go to different firms by myself or with one other lawyer but, because these people had been with me for so long, I felt committed to find a place that would take everybody,” Fineburg said, noting that in addition to the four lawyers that are coming with him, he’s also bringing a paralegal, two legal assistants, his office manager and his receptionist and billing clerk.
“We’re all going over there as a family to practice law together,” Fineburg said, noting that it’s the best arrangement for the clients as well, because it will make for a “seamless” transition.
This is not the first time Offit Kurman has significantly expanded its Philadelphia office in a short amount of time.
The firm opened in Philadelphia in 2006 with a handful of attorneys, but by 2008 had acquired nine attorneys from Philadelphia-based general practice firm Abrahams Loewenstein & Bushman.
Not all of those moves worked out, however, as several of the Abrahams Loewenstein attorneys have since left the firm.
Sayde J. Ladov, for example, who had joined the firm in the Abrahams Loewenstein merger, departed for Dolchin, Slotkin & Todd less than two years later, telling The Legal at the time that Offit Kurman was “experiencing its growing pains.”
The firm has continued to add to the Philadelphia location over the years, however.
Among those additions were the six insurance recovery attorneys it brought aboard from Anderson Kill & Olick in 2009, including Michael Conley, who currently manages the Philadelphia office.
Last year, the firm hired business and intellectual property litigator Don P. Foster from Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg as well as IP and patent litigator Robert R. Axenfeld from Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads as principals.
Foster now heads up the firm’s business litigation group.
But while Kurman acknowledged Tuesday that growing the Philadelphia office by 50 percent in the span of two months is a large undertaking, he said the firm has gained some valuable experience through trial and error and has figured out what it takes to make those types of additions work.
What it comes down to, Kurman said, is making sure the firm hires attorneys who will mesh well with the firm’s business model, as well as its existing attorneys and support staff.
“I think what we’ve learned over the years is that the revenue picture is only one side of it. We’ve made our share of mistakes along the way, but what we’ve learned is that the cultural fit is as important in any affiliation,” Kurman said, adding, “Our batting average is not 1.000, but it’s pretty good.”