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Small firms up and down Manhattan often lease more space than necessary and sublet the excess to solo attorneys likely to attract new business or serve as useful counsel for matters beyond the firm’s specialties. The alliance can work successfully in reverse: referral business can sustain or bolster a solo practice. By a combination of intuition and kismet, solos and small firms form mutual pacts in unscientific hopes of the give-and-take evolving into a commercially sound network of diverse – and sometimes colorful – interests. “You can take an office anywhere, but you want a sort of fraternity of colleagues, each of whom serve a practice area you don’t,” said David Barrett, a solo practitioner focused on matrimonial law. He sublets an office at Weiss & Hiller, a six-lawyer civil litigation boutique with spacious quarters on Madison Avenue. “You want people you can trust, you want a little camaraderie,” said Mr. Barrett. “There has to be a click.” The other side of the coin, said Arnold M. Weiss, managing partner of Weiss & Hiller, is not so different. “We’ve got a firm here that’s a pleasure to work at because everybody gets along. We’re nice, we’re not aggressive,” said Mr. Weiss. In considering solos with subtenant potential, he said, “We want somebody who fits in. We want a reasonable, agreeable, nice person. That’s the main factor. Second, we look for somebody who can complement our practice. We look for synergy.” So it is that solos housed at Weiss & Hiller include Craig S. Delsack, a self-described computer geek who concentrates on technology; Elliot S. Blair, a specialist in contract law for motion pictures and Broadway productions; Shannon K. Such, an immigration attorney; and Howard J. Kerker, who concentrates on corporate transactional law. Mr. Barrett said that during his 42 years in practice he has worked “everywhere except a big firm,” including a stint as house counsel for Apple Records, founded by The Beatles in 1968. “I like being my own boss,” Mr. Barrett added. “I like setting my own hours and earning my own money.” Prior to solo practice, Mr. Delsack was an associate at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, then Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and finally Greenberg Traurig. As a lawyer who entered practice relatively late in life – Mr. Delsack graduated from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 1996 at age 36 – he reasoned that he was unlikely to gain partnership anywhere and instead determined to work in as many practice areas as possible, to complement his previous professional background as a technology consultant for Touche Ross and later as a systems oversight specialist at Viacom. At Skadden, Mr. Delsack worked on technology transactions during the dot-com era. At Morgan Lewis, he handled matters for Nippon Telephone & Telegraph. At Greenberg Traurig, where Mr. Delsack said he especially enjoyed the firm’s “entrepreneurial spirit,” he was part of the entertainment practice group. In the world of big firm law, “Everybody looks at office space as a profit resource,” said Mr. Delsack, “which almost dilutes the pleasure of doing good work for your clients. He added, “I’ve never enjoyed practice more than being on my own. I work hard – until 7:30 or 8 o’clock every night, but it’s [about] my clients, as opposed to hitting that magic [billable hours] number at the end of each month.” Mr. Blair said his fascination with show business began with classic films that celebrate midwestern college life, which led him to take up acting while at university in Ohio. “Acting caused me to think about things, to dissect my emotions, to really gain insight into life,” he said. “Acting is contemplating. I think it’s why I’m a good attorney. An attorney’s job is to contemplate. It’s how you gain sagacity.” During his long career, Mr. Blair has handled contracts and intellectual property matters for the late playwrights Rachel Crothers and Howard Richardson and owners of rights to the literary works of Damon Runyon. Mr. Weiss said he enjoyed the company of his subtenants, who “even things up” in terms of his firm’s lease commitment. “We pay for more space, but we’re getting a great bulk of [the cost] back,” said Mr. Weiss. “We provide our tenants not only with an office, but receptionist service and conference rooms, and Xerox and fax service if they don’t have it. And we’re able to refer our clients who may need supplementary service.” Mr. Delsack, who has benefitted from referral work through Weiss & Hiller, said the small firm/solo network provides “less bureaucracy” for him and “big firm responsiveness to clients, but on a more intimate scale.” Mr. Barrett offered this advice for solos in search of such intimate, small firm arrangement: “Trust your instincts, trust your heart. Ask yourself, ‘Four years from now, am I going to be happy here?’” Colorful Background Prior to creating his “nice, not aggressive” litigation boutique, Mr. Weiss was something of a gangbuster. In 1957, while assistant counsel with the New York State Commission of Investigation, Mr. Weiss was heavily involved in the aftermath of a celebrated raid on the rural estate of the late Buffalo bootlegger and hitman Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara. Known as the Apalachin raid, New York state troopers got wind of a gathering of 120 mobsters from the United States, Canada and Italy, and wound up chasing through the woods fleeing underlings in the employ of Mafia bosses, such as Michael Genovese, Russell Bufalino, Joseph Profaci and Carlo Gambino. Mr. Weiss managed to convince a judge that several Mafia dons should be locked up for 18 months until they were willing to spill the beans about the true purpose behind the conclave in Apalachin, a rustic village near Binghamton. Contrary to what authorities were told – a hundred or so wiseguys were coincidentally in the vicinity of Apalachin and dropped by their ailing friend Joe the Barber’s house to wish him well – the agenda had to do with dividing up crime territory in New York City due to the untimely execution of Murder, Inc. founder Albert Anastasia, gunned down in a Manhattan barbershop. “When they came out, here were these six or eight guys ordered to testify” before the state commission, recalled Mr. Weiss, who soon learned the meaning of omerta. “The question put to them was, ‘What happened at the meeting?’” said Mr. Weiss. “The answer was, ‘Nothing, I was just passing through town.’” Reflecting on Mr. Weiss’ record in criminal investigations and later reputation as a civil litigator, along with the achievements of his fellow solos, Mr. Delsack said, “There’s a real wealth of resources here, like you have at a big firm.” - Thomas Adcock may be reached at [email protected].

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