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Ferrell Schultz Carter Zumpano & Fertel recently opened offices in Buenos Aires and Beirut, cities that have been wracked by political and economic turmoil. What’s next, some quipped — Kabul? Not likely. In September, the Miami-based law firm opened an outpost in the peaceful and prosperous metropolis of Santiago, Chile. And the firm doesn’t plan to stop its international push there. During the next six months, it plans to dot the Americas with its yellow and gold logo. The firm said it’s in various stages of negotiation to open offices in Caracas, Bogota, Mexico City and Sao Paulo. Not since Steel Hector & Davis launched its aggressive strategy in 1993 to open offices in a number of Latin American countries has a South Florida firm so aggressively pursued business there. In recent years, Ferrell Schultz has become known for serving as a type of legal concierge service for wealthy individuals. Indeed, the firm has entered Latin America partly for the express purpose of helping wealthy individuals in troubled countries find ways to move their money, their business and themselves and their families to the United States. “It’s a natural market for our firm to expand into,” said Milton M. Ferrell Jr., chairman of Ferrell Schultz. “We’ve done significant business for several family groups there. We’ve worked on many joint venture, tax and wealth transfer issues there.” “Our firm’s strategy is to pursue the streams of income for which Miami is best positioned,” he added. “Miami is becoming the financial center for Latin America and the Caribbean.” Two years ago, Ferrell Schultz had just 12 attorneys and one office. Now, with 70 attorneys, 16 practice areas and offices already opened in Buenos Aires, Beirut and Nassau, Bahamas, Ferrell Schultz plans to have eight offices up and running by next spring in capitals across the Caribbean, Middle East and, in particular, Latin America. The move to Chile by Ferrell Schultz, and the plans for further expansion, continue a recent trend of South Florida law firms opening offices in Latin American cities. This past summer, Ruden McClosky Smith Schuster & Russell of Fort Lauderdale announced the opening of an office in Caracas, while Steel Hector opened an office in Buenos Aires. Nearly a decade ago, Steel Hector pioneered the move of South Florida firms to Latin America and the Caribbean by opening offices in Caracas, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Santo Domingo. That strategy has since been emulated by a number of South Florida’s major firms in one form or another. In 1995, Holland & Knight established a presence in Latin America by opening an office in Mexico City. It now has offices in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and has a representative office in Caracas. Meanwhile, other South Florida firms, such as Adorno & Yoss, have gone the route of creating a law firm network that focuses on Latin America. Such organizations, and there are many, are loose confederations in which law firms associate with law firms located in other cities. Several giant international firms that have offices in Miami, including Baker & McKenzie and White & Case, operate offices in Latin America, but their focus is global rather than solely in the Americas. Other big firms, such as Hunton & Williams and Hogan & Hartson, do Latin American business without Latin American offices, arguing that much of the work can be done from their Miami perch. Greenberg Traurig and Akerman Senterfitt, two of the fastest-growing firms based in South Florida, have no offices south of Miami, but have clients in Latin America. Joseph P. Klock Jr., chairman and managing partner of Steel Hector, said other South Florida firms’ recent moves south confirm his firm’s wisdom in opening new offices in Latin America. “Miami is the center of commerce and culture in Latin America,” he said. “All roads lead through Miami.” It’s that thinking that is inspiring Ferrell Schultz’s foray into Latin America. But, the firm’s leaders contend, it’s going about its expansion in its own unique way. “Our model is what we consider to be a new globalism,” said Joseph I. Zumpano, managing partner of Ferrell Schultz. “Rather than attempting to rip away market share in other countries, we’re targeting the stream of commerce between markets.” In each country, Ferrell Schultz aims to partner with a law firm already established in the local market. It opens an office in or near that firm’s office in Latin America and, in return, that firm opens an office in or near Ferrell Schultz’s office in Miami. Ferrell Schultz handles U.S. legal matters, while the foreign-based firm handles legal issues for its particular country. Attorneys at each firm are rotated through each office. For example, Ferrell Schultz has opened an office next to its Chilean partner firm, Vial y Palma, in the Las Condes section of Santiago, and Vial y Palma is in the process of opening an office in the Miami Center, where Ferrell Schultz is located. Despite considerable political and economic uncertainties in countries such as Argentina and Venezuela, Ferrell Schultz is convinced its strategy will be profitable. “The key is the movement of people and capital,” Zumpano said. “It can be engendered by crisis as well as prosperity.” Ferrell Schultz has specifically targeted wealthy people seeking refuge in the United States. After opening an office in economically devastated Buenos Aires in March, the firm conducted seminars for wealthy business people in which it touted immigration, real estate and corporate services for those interested in moving to or investing in the United States. Zumpano said that the Buenos Aires office was profitable within two months of its opening. He said about one-quarter of the work of the firm’s eight-attorney immigration department in Miami currently consists of business from Argentina. Law firms could capitalize on a similar massive outflow of people and capital if Venezuela experiences another coup d’etat, or if leftist Brazilian presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wins election on Oct. 6 as expected. Analysts fear that debt-burdened Brazil, which has hued closely to International Monetary Fund recommendations under President Fernando Hernique Cardoso, may fall into economic disarray because jittery investors will move capital out the country if Lula wins. “Instability has always created a lot of opportunity for U.S. law firms,” said Glenn Gopman, director of the law firm advisors group at South Florida-based accounting and consulting firm Rachlin Cohen & Holtz. But Zumpano said his firm also will thrive in prosperous countries such as Chile. Santiago has been one of the few South American cities to avoid the economic malaise that has gripped much of the continent. In Chile, Zumpano anticipates that much of the firm’s business will come from prosperous individuals and companies looking to diversify or gain entry into the U.S. market. The industries he identified are health care, aviation, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and real estate.

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