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Three years after Atlanta-based Kilpatrick Stockton opened a Miami office and announced plans to stock it with 30 lawyers, management has closed the doors. Personnel were notified late last year that the office would close on Dec. 31, said William H. Brewster, Kilpatrick’s managing partner. The last Miami partner, intellectual property attorney John C. Carey, left last week for the Miami outpost of New York’s Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, immediately after the end of a six-week trial on which he worked. Other partners bolted a few months ago, and two associates left earlier this year. Brewster acknowledged that the Miami office never met Kilpatrick’s expectations. “Go back and look at why we opened it,” he said. “We said we were going down there for essentially three reasons … one, technology and technology-related clients; two, Latin American [business] … and three, to serve existing clients.” For Kilpatrick, South Florida was not the place to be for technology. The Latin American market was stagnant and management decided that litigation and corporate transactions could be handled from its other offices, Brewster said. The Miami office never grew to more than about 15 lawyers. Last year, Brewster told the Daily Report that the economy had stunted that office’s growth, adding, “I don’t doubt that we can do things in Miami better.” Kilpatrick tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate its South Florida presence. It sent Atlanta partner W. Randy Eaddy to act as a liaison to the Miami outpost. He started commuting when the office opened, and he stopped going at the end of 2001. The firm also shopped for a merger with Florida firms. “We had some discussions with groups of lawyers and some firms about strategic opportunities in South Florida. … But at the end of the day we didn’t think we needed that office,” Brewster said. Kilpatrick considered a merger with 65-lawyer Jorden Burt, which has offices in Miami and Washington, but the union didn’t work out, according to one source in the Miami legal community. TROUBLE AT THE TOP In the view of at least two lawyers who worked in Kilpatrick’s Miami office, the problem was in Atlanta, almost from the start of Brewster’s appointment to managing partner in April 2001. “It just seemed really clear that there was no real interest from Atlanta in making a go of this thing,” said Terrence J. Mullin, a tax lawyer who was of counsel in Miami from October 2000 to February 2002. There was little hiring, requests for help from Atlanta went unheeded and cross-selling with the rest of the regional firm’s offices never materialized, said Mullin, who is now a name partner at Brodsky & Mullin in Miami. “We were just hung out to dry,” he added. Kilpatrick partners George R. “Rocky” Harper and James M. Meyer left with associate Manuel A. Perez to set up their own firm last fall. Harper came to Kilpatrick in 2000 to head the Miami office. He echoed Mullin’s sentiment that Brewster, an intellectual property lawyer who’d become the firm’s leader, showed little interest in the international commercial transaction work in which most of the Miami partners specialized. “Even if it isn’t real, it’s a feeling that you get,” Harper said. Brewster countered, “If there had been any [international commercial transaction work], I would have been interested in it.” Among the others who left were Carlos F. Concepcion, who opened the Miami office when the firm hired him in early 2000, along with five of his associates at Concepcion Sexton, which represented Latin American banks. Concepcion left in October 2001 to form Concepcion Rojas & Santos, a Coral Gables firm specializing in international business, technology and intellectual property law. Concepcion declined to comment on the Miami office’s demise. Theresa M.B. Van Vliet, a veteran federal prosecutor who joined Kilpatrick Stockton’s Miami outpost in mid-2000 to work in white-collar criminal defense as of counsel, left after 18 months. Shortly after she left, she told the Daily Report that she had grown tired of the daily commute to Miami from her home in Fort Lauderdale. Van Vliet joined Ruden, McClosky, Smith, Schuster & Russell in Fort Lauderdale in April 2002. She was in trial this week and could not be reached for comment. MAKING IT WORK The history of South Florida’s legal community is marked with out-of-state firms whose outposts failed to grow according to plan or vanished entirely. Among those out-of-towners who’ve come to Miami and gone in recent years, for a variety of reasons: Dykema Gossett; Kelley Drye; Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott; Shea & Gould; Jenner & Block; and Popham Haik. Of course, some Miami transplants have lasted. Washington-based Hogan & Hartson opened its Miami office around the same time as Kilpatrick. The six-lawyer Hogan office has grown to 25. About nine months before Kilpatrick opened in Miami, Hunton & Williams set up shop there by luring four lawyers from Holland & Knight. Today, Hunton’s office there has 46 lawyers. One key to the longevity of a new office is that its strong practice areas mirror those of the larger firm, said Mark Zelek, the managing partner in Miami for Philadelphia’s Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. His office, which is celebrating its 25th year in Miami, counts commercial and securities litigation and labor and employment law as strengths — as does Morgan Lewis as a whole. Firms must make careful long-term plans and set realistic expectations for South Florida offices, said Ira J. Coleman, the managing partner of New York-based McDermott Will & Emery’s Miami office and head of the 1,000-lawyer firm’s strategic planning committee. “Anybody who comes into town and says, ‘We’re going to be the biggest, baddest whatever, I feel like I’m going to be reading their obit in five to seven years,” said Coleman. “It’s just not that kind of town,” he said. “It’s an interesting market, but it’s not meant for nonstop growth; it’s meant for quality growth in a controlled manner.” McDermott Will has its strengths in healthcare law, intellectual property, commercial litigation and international matters. Coleman said even if the firm had a chance to hire a medical malpractice lawyer with $10 million worth of business in Miami for example, it wouldn’t take it. “It wouldn’t fit our model,” he said. It’s not just a matter of consistency, but also of depth of expertise, according to Coleman. It’s not that there’s no opportunity in Latin American work, for instance, but it is important for clients to know that the extent of a firm’s international law expertise amounts to more than two lawyers in Miami. “That ain’t going to work,” said Coleman. “Clients have said that right out.”

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