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Miami-Broward County, Fla.’s pre-eminent Hispanic law firm, Montero Finizio Velasquez, has disbanded after 14 years, and the parting is hardly amicable. “We all have lawyers. I can’t talk in detail,” said former name partner Carlos Velasquez, who suddenly departed from the firm with his belongings on a recent weekend. “We’re trying to figure out fee arrangements and who’s going to handle which cases and the division of property.” Velasquez left the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based firm over the Sept. 26 weekend, taking two associates, Jose Fuentes and Andrew Berrio, and four staffers. He has set up his own firm, the Law Offices of Carlos Velasquez, in Plantation, Fla. Hiram Montero is starting Montero & Ochoa with partner Janet Ochoa at what had been the Montero Finizio Velasquez offices. Paul Finizio, who returned from South America on Wednesday, said he had no idea that the entire firm was disbanding until he read it in the Daily Business Review, a sister paper to The National law Journal. He said he is still operating out of the Fort Lauderdale building that he and Montero own jointly, but “we’re not talking much. “You’re talking about the value of a name, the value of a telephone number that’s been there for 14 years, not to mention joint property,” said Finizio, the only non-Hispanic partner. Broward County Hispanic leaders bemoaned the breakup of the firm. The firm helped found the Broward County Hispanic Bar Association in 1989 and championed a variety of Hispanic causes, including a push to encourage all Hispanics to be counted in the 2000 census. Former partner Carlos Reyes-now a shareholder in Greenberg Traurig’s Fort Lauderdale office-served as president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce of Broward County in 1995 and 1996. Different specialties Montero Finizio Velasquez formed in 1989 when the three friends, who were associates at a Miami firm, decided to join forces. Montero focused on personal injury and construction law, Finizio concentrated on family law and personal injury, and Velasquez specialized in representing family members of victims of airplane crashes. Montero focused much of his time on pro bono and community activities, including serving on the boards of the Brain Injury Association and the Take Stock in Children mentoring program. During its peak, between 1995 and 2000, the firm had 15 lawyers and office-sharing agreements in Miami and Boca Raton, Fla. Reyes said that he left the firm in 2000 after three years because the partners did not want the firm to grow. “I’m not surprised they broke up, but I’m sad because that firm had the right chemistry to be a powerhouse,” he said. “But you have to have a game plan to grow, you can’t stand pat. They made a decision they would stay small.” Montero said his secretary arrived at the office on Sunday morning, Sept. 28, to find Velasquez’s belongings gone. Velasquez said his departure was not a surprise to Montero and others there. He hinted at the differences that ultimately separated the partners but would not go into much detail, citing pending legal action. “Our philosophies changed in terms of the kind of work we want to do,” Velasquez said. “Paul doesn’t want to practice law much. He wants to get involved in business ventures.” Montero agreed there were philosophical differences. “There was no argument, no fight, no animosity,” he said. “My philosophy is I love practicing law, I love litigating and I want to give back to the community.” He said he was hopeful that the legal entanglements would be resolved amicably.

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