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MIAMI � When Jeremy Alters’ clients come to meet him, they won’t have to drive into downtown Miami anymore. They won’t have to go around and around in the 55-story building searching for a parking space, ride up to his office in three different elevators, and time their visits to miss the horrendous rush-hour traffic. Instead, they’ll visit Alters, a medical malpractice lawyer, at his new digs in the trendy new Miami Design District, located about 10 minutes north of the downtown area, which is often compared to New York’s SoHo. They’ll park right next to his funky building, where he shares space with New York home-design galleries. They’ll lunch at one of a half-dozen new restaurants within walking distance, such as Michael’s Genuine, a patio bistro tucked in among art galleries and design stores and frequented by Martha Stewart and Wolfgang Puck. Alters of Alters Boldt Brown Rash Culmo, is one of a growing number of law firms eschewing downtown Miami and opening offices in nearby, more user-friendly areas, such as Coral Gables, Coconut Grove and now, the Miami Design District. “I didn’t want to be in downtown Miami anymore,” Alters said. “Parking is a nightmare. It’s a zoo. You see all the suits walking around. This is new and fun. Now all the defense attorneys say to us, ‘Can we do depositions in your office?’ “ Blazing new trails Downtown Miami has long been the legal and financial hub of South Florida, if not the state. All of the state’s major law firms, including Holland & Knight; Greenberg Traurig; Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson; and Akerman Senterfitt, have offices there, in high-rises like the 55-story Wachovia Bank Building, the 31-story SunTrust Building and the 47-story Bank of America Tower. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida is based there, as is the main federal courthouse. While large law firms are still based in downtown Miami � most due to the need for extensive office space that is only available there, plus the financial incentives offered by the city � smaller firms and solo practitioners have in recent years begun moving out of the downtown area. The trend is not limited to law firms. Macy’s Florida Chairman Julie Greiner created a stir in June when, at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce lunch, she blasted downtown Miami’s homeless people, and abandoned, boarded buildings infested with rats and mold. She said the retailer could move its Florida headquarters and 900 employees out of the downtown if improvements were not made. After 10 years of working in downtown Miami high rises such as the Miami Center and the Alfred Dupont Center, civil litigator Jim Cusack was fed up. Two years ago he opened his own firm in Coral Gables, a ritzy, historic area known for its Miracle Mile of restaurants, wealthy homes and profusion of trees. “It’s close to my house, close to the airport,” Cusack said. “You’re not socked in. When I worked in the downtown, it would take me 45 minutes to get seven miles. I love my new office, and so do my clients.” Alters also needed a change after working 10 years in downtown Miami. He knew he had to stay within the city of Miami for his clients, and fell for the hip new Design District the moment he saw it. However, his longtime law partner, Stuart Ratzan, wanted to stay downtown. So Alters approached seven other lawyers he knew and all came onboard. The parking puzzle The area has become so popular that the Florida Association of Women Lawyers plans to hold a cocktail party there in January, at a club called Grass. Attendees will enjoy cocktails while “learning how to run an environmentally-friendly law practice.” Abbe Bunt, a South Florida legal headhunter with Bunt Legal Search of Fort Lauderdale, said she is starting to see a trend of law firms moving out of downtown Miami � but not too far from the courthouse. “The biggest issue downtown is parking, especially for the support staff,” Bunt said. “With the construction boom came the lack of parking. And when there’s a shortage of parking, the first people who lose parking are the support staff. People are looking for a place that is relatively easy to get in and out of, that has a choice of restaurants, no congestion. “It’s not quite a trend yet, but people doing it now are at the forefront of the movement.”

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