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After five years of building his own corporate practice, Warren Kirshenbaum arrived at a crossroad. Thanks to the hot economy, things this year were going well — too well. Suddenly this summer, he found he had too much work, too few employees and too little office space. He was forced to pass on some valuable work, which had already cost him one client. Unable to handle it all with his staff of one paralegal and one associate, Kirshenbaum decided he needed a new way to conduct his business. He considered the options open to most solos when business blossoms — hire more associates, join forces with another lawyer, or merge into a larger firm. And then the telephone rang. A recruiter called to ask Kirshenbaum whether he would speak with some medium-sized firms about merging. A few months and many meetings later, Kirshenbaum, 34, who came from South Africa to attend New England School of Law in Boston, decided to merge with the 28-lawyer, general practice firm, Goetz Fitzpatrick Most & Bruckman. On Oct. 31, Mr. Kirshenbaum will pack up his files, his associate and his paralegal and move his clients to his new firm, located at One Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, N.Y. “It was becoming increasingly difficult to service my clients effectively without more support,” said Kirshenbaum. “You need support.” Kirshenbaum, who is still in the early stages of his legal career, said it is important to continue to expand his firm and develop his legal expertise. But the option of building up his own firm would mean pouring money into hiring more associates and an office manager, upgrading the computer system and renting more space in a tight labor and real estate market, which would have been costly. And with new employees and new equipment, come expanded administrative duties. BENEFITS OF SUPPORT At a larger firm, administrative staff takes care of bills, medical benefits, copying and hiring. And most importantly, the expense is shared by partners. Meanwhile, his excess legal work will now be distributed to partners and associates within the firm, not to competitors. Kirshenbaum said that he wants to focus more on establishing a legal expertise in corporate securities — an impossible task when every morning as a solo presents a new challenge or dilemma. Because he started his own practice two years out of law school, he has not had the opportunity to focus on any single area of the law, he said. Instead, he is a general corporate lawyer, handling matters from antitrust litigation to immigration to buying and selling his clients’ apartments. The only cases Kirshenbaum will not take on are wills, divorces and personal injury. With many clients and complex deals, according to Kirshenbaum, a lot of time is wasted just getting up to speed on each new issue that confronts him. “I can grow my own practice but never get the expertise in the area that I know I could be the best lawyer,” he said. In addition to developing an expertise, Kirshenbaum said he will have an easier time doing what he does best — rainmaking. That is precisely what Goetz Fitzpatrick expects him to do, said Howard M. Rubin, the firm’s managing partner. “I think Warren has the rainmaking talent,” said Rubin. “He knows how to talk to people and make them comfortable. They don’t teach you that in law school.” According to John Considine, a legal recruiter with Juris Placement International, a match like this is not unusual. When larger firms scout for talent, they are more concerned with finding rainmakers than experts in a particular field, he said. A lawyer can be taught to be a good lawyer, but not a good rainmaker, he said. Rubin agreed. In order to expand Goetz Fitzpatrick’s practice, rainmakers are as essential as good lawyers, he said. LOSS OF INDEPENDENCE But Kirshenbaum is not closing his eyes to the potential pitfalls of this relationship. Not only will he lose his independence — a commodity that is highly valued by most solo practitioners — but he might do no better financially. There are no guarantees that he will take home more money at the end of the day, he said. And, although he claims that after some cajoling he was able to convince all his clients to come for the ride, they could leave if his billing rates rise. He explained that his hourly rate will not increase but some of the expenses will. Kirshenbaum has a year-long trial period to figure out whether his personality gels with his new partners. For now, he and Goetz Fitzpatrick have decided to work under a contract agreement, which they worked out themselves. If they are mutually satisfied, in a year Kirshenbaum will become an equity partner. “I have very little risk in this situation,” he said. “If it doesn’t work out I can be where I am now, renting new space on my own,” he said. But both parties are hopeful that the relationship will be a success. “In the future, he will be one of the leaders of this firm,” said Rubin.

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