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In a stunning blow to the Broward, Fla., office of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, prominent Fort Lauderdale, Fla., litigator and managing partner Henry Latimer announced Monday he has joined Greenberg Traurig, the powerhouse law firm based in Miami. Latimer takes with him a thriving labor and employment practice, as well as Eckert associates Caran Rothchild and Dionne Wong. All three have started work at Greenberg in Fort Lauderdale, where Latimer and Rothchild have become shareholders. Wong is an associate. The Florida operation of Pittsburgh-based Eckert has struggled for years, as lawyers have defected to firms with a greater presence in the state. Within the last three years, the firm has closed its offices in Tallahassee, Boca Raton and Miami, retaining only its Fort Lauderdale office. Dennis Veraldi, Eckert’s general partner in Pittsburgh, did not respond to phone messages before deadline. The defection of Latimer is a great coup, said Cesar Alvarez, Greenberg’s chief executive officer. “We have shown an interest in him for years, but until now, he didn’t want to talk,” Alvarez said. “Henry is a great addition to our Fort Lauderdale office.” Latimer said he left Eckert after seven years because of a lack of a diversified practice. “For example, if my clients needed corporate lawyers, I didn’t have any corporate lawyers,” he said. “If my clients needed tax lawyers, we didn’t have those. This was an opportunity for growth and to have a variety of support in all disciplines.” Compensation played no part in his decision, he said. After years of being recruited by nearly every law firm in South Florida, Latimer made the decision to leave Eckert quickly. He said he decided to make the move Wednesday and has not even notified some of his clients. A former Broward Circuit judge, past president of the Broward Bar Association and member of the Florida Bar Board of Governors, Latimer is highly regarded in legal circles. Last year, his peers voted him one of South Florida’s top attorneys in The Best Lawyers in America. Last week, he was named to the dean selection committee for Florida A&M University’s new law school. Active in the African-American community, he served on the Florida Supreme Court’s Racial and Ethnic Bias Study Commission and as general counsel to the Fort Lauderdale NAACP. Latimer’s areas of expertise include complex commercial litigation; and representing individuals, cities and corporations litigating civil rights, wrongful discharge, sexual harassment and age discrimination and legal malpractice actions. With the arrival of Latimer and his colleagues, Greenberg now has 43 lawyers, including 13 litigators, in its Fort Lauderdale office. Eckert Seamans now has four lawyers remaining in Florida. When the firm closed its Tallahassee and Boca Raton offices; Akerman Senterfitt inherited its lawyers there. The same year, the firm closed its Miami office on the heels of the defection of its entire real estate practice, led by zoning king Stanley Price, who went to Miami’s Bilzin Sumberg Dunn Baena Price & Axelrod.

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