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Hunton & Williams, the Richmond, Va.-based firm that entered the Miami market with a splash seven years ago, is facing a serious upheaval in its 20-lawyer corporate/international group. Two top Hunton lawyers left the firm Aug. 1 for Greenberg Traurig. Another three are expected to announce their departure for Holland & Knight this week, according to sources who did not want to be named. On Aug. 1, partner Enrique Martin and of counsel lawyer Allen Moreland left Hunton for Greenberg Traurig. Martin had worked at Greenberg for 10 years before being lured to Hunton five years ago. Moreland worked at Hunton for 3 1/2 years, coming from Thacher Proffit & Wood in New York. According to several sources, Hunton partners Maria Currier, Robert Pupo and Albert Hernandez either have signed on with Holland & Knight or are finalizing a deal. None of the three attorneys returned calls for comment. Peter Prieto, executive partner of the Miami office of Holland & Knight, said Friday that he has spoken with Currier, Pupo and Hernandez but would not confirm any hirings. “It’s no secret that we’ve talked to [them] over the years and recently,” Prieto said. “They are terrific health care lawyers and have many friends here. It’s consistent with our long-term strategy of cherry-picking lawyers or groups of lawyers in hot practice areas.” Marty Steinberg, managing partner of Hunton’s 60-lawyer Miami office, said last week that he was not aware that the three partners were in talks with Holland & Knight. But he said of the two attorneys who left for Greenberg that “people make choices in life for a variety of reasons.” Steinberg denied there are any serious problems in the corporate/international department, which is formally called the Global Capital Markets and Mergers and Acquisitions Department. “We may be one of the most stable firms in the area,” he said. “In our short history of seven years, these are the only departures we have had.” Prieto also dismissed talk that there is turmoil at Hunton’s office in Miami. “Hunton is a great law firm,” he said. “This is just part of a trend where sophisticated lawyers look to grow their practices. As Michael Corleone said, it’s not personal, it’s business.” But one partner who did not want to be identified challenged Steinberg’s characterization and said the corporate/international division is in trouble. The partner said there is a lack of recognition for the lawyers and dissatisfaction with the two-year bonuses that were awarded in June. The partner said very few partners in the corporate/international group received bonuses, yet the head of the Latin American practice group, Fernando Alonso, received a $150,000 bonus. Steinberg denied that Alonso is the only lawyer in the corporate/international department who received a bonus this year. “That’s ludicrous,” he said. “Unlike other firms, we have a two-year window in which we award bonuses instead of every year. Some go up and some go down.” The partners also complained that Alonso frequently took credit for big deals that other partners actually worked on, including a $775 million transaction involving London-based Reed Elsevier Group. Alonso is in Europe on vacation and unavailable for comment, a Hunton spokeswoman said. “There’s a meltdown going on in the corporate group,” the partner said. “It’s really sad because this was a premiere group for a long time. But people didn’t feel like they were being recognized.” Steinberg had made Hunton’s corporate/international department the jewel of the Miami office. Hunton was the first firm in Miami to hire a former U.S. ambassador, Luis Lauredo, a nonlawyer, to generate business from and cultivate relationships with foreign countries. Lauredo is still with the firm. One South Florida managing partner who did not want to be identified said he was not surprised to hear that Hunton’s corporate/international group may be facing problems. “This is not the only out-of-town firm to come to Miami with big hopes of capturing that high-billing Latin American business,” the managing partner said. “Several big New York firms tried it and were not able to make a go of it. You can’t charge the same rates as you charge in Philadelphia or Richmond.” The Daily Business Review’s 2006 Review 15 survey of South Florida’s top-grossing law offices hinted at possible problems. Hunton & Williams’ South Florida operation, which ranked 13th with $40.1 million in gross revenue, increased its revenue just 1.4 percent between 2004 and 2005. South Florida legal headhunter Joe Ankus expressed surprise at the expected departures. He recalled what a ripple it created in the Miami legal market when Hunton lured Steinberg, a Greenberg Traurig star, to run its Miami office seven years ago. “They were such a high-flier when they came into the market,” Ankus said. “Because of Marty, they opened with quite a bang.” Julie Kay can be reached at [email protected]

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