Fox Rothschild has lured the bulk of Day Pitney’s New Jersey transactional real estate practice, in its fourth acquisition in 18 months, and announced it would open a Morristown office.
Eight attorneys made the move in January and February from Day Pitney in Parsippany: Robert Klausner, Deirdre Moore, Christopher Rider, Grace Shin and Mat Carlson as partners, and Jennifer Solberg, Joshua Franklin and Corey Kaplan as associates.
That brings Fox Rothschild’s New Jersey headcount to 148.
Managing partner Mark Silow says a real estate practice was "the last missing piece" to round out the firm’s Roseland office since its 2006 merger with 60-lawyer Grotta Glassman & Hoffman.
"The goal from that day forward was to diversify that office. We’ve been moving in that direction in the six years since then," Silow says. "Even in the teeth of the recession, we knew real estate was a cyclical practice and would recover."
Silow says the firm’s real estate practice is "solid" though "not at breakneck speeds" as in 2004 and 2005. Still, there were "pretty consistent needs for real estate capabilities in New Jersey that we could not satisfy" and the new faces seem "to be hitting the ground running," he adds.
Clients the group cultivated at Day Pitney have come along in the move, including the Hampshire Real Estate Companies of Morristown and the Prism Group of Lakewood, according to Moore.
Discussions began in late summer, when recruiter Gayle Moran of Lawson Legal Recruiters in Madison contacted Klausner on Fox Rothschild’s behalf. Those calls were not uncommon, but Fox Rothschild "seemed like the best choice," Klausner says.
"From a rate structure standpoint, it really fit," he says. He adds that some suitors, particularly New York-based firms, indicated they would want significant fee increases that Klausner says would drive away clients, especially developers.
In addition, Fox Rothschild offers intellectual property, condemnation and other services that existing clients need, and its 60-lawyer real estate practice is significantly larger than Day Pitney’s, Klausner says.
Moore — who had chaired Day Pitney’s practice group since the 2007 merger of Day Berry & Howard and Pitney Hardin, and would have marked her 20-year anniversary with the firm in June — adds that Fox Rothschild can represent those clients in markets Day Pitney doesn’t reach, such as Pennsylvania and California.
Klausner and Moore decline to discuss compensation but say Fox Rothschild presents more opportunity to expand the practice.
A deal was struck in mid-January, and Moore, Klausner and Rider started on Jan. 24, with the others coming over in stages, most recently Shin on Feb. 15.
The eight are in the firm’s existing Roseland office, but are slated to move to a new Morristown office in June. It would be the firm’s 18th office and fourth in New Jersey. The firm has offices in Princetion and Atlantic City, in addition to Roseland.
As of Monday, the space had been selected but lease negotiations were not yet final.
The office could accommodate as many as 15 attorneys, and the firm hopes to recruit more lawyers to populate that site, Silow says.
The lease will be short term, with plans to consolidate the firm’s entire northern New Jersey operation in coming years, possibly in Morristown, where many clients are headquartered, Silow says.
Silow says there wasn’t a desperate need for more real estate lawyers, but Fox Rothschild wanted to provide a full slate of services in its Roseland office. Silow hopes the acquisition will "also enhance our brand in the state of New Jersey," he adds.
"We probably have a lower profile than we deserve. We think we’re one of the great unknown stories out there," Silow says, citing six straight years of increased profits.
Then again, a chip on the shoulder likely has played a role in the firm’s growth, he says. "It’s been known to work in sports, so it can work in law firm management as well."
Day Pitney managing partner Stanley Twardy Jr., in Stamford, Conn., says: "We’re disappointed whenever any partner leaves. But this is how the legal business is today. We still have one of the best real estate practices in the region and our real estate department is doing just fine despite the departures."
The departure reduces Day Pitney’s New Jersey real estate practice to five lawyers, and brings the firm’s headcount to 106 in New Jersey and 314 overall.
The acquisition is Fox Rothschild’s latest in a series since 2011.
In August of that year, the firm acquired a three-lawyer intellectual-property firm in Los Angeles, the Chan Law Group.
The next month, it hired away eight construction and government lawyers from Smith Currie & Hancock in Washington, D.C.
Last September, the firm opened a Denver office with four new additions, including three patent-prosecution and patent-litigation attorneys from Bryan Cave in Denver.
Silow credits the growth to a "lack of reliance on a key client or key group of clients."
With five weeks remaining in the firm’s fiscal year, Fox Rothschild is on track to meet revenue projections, which are 3 percent to 4 percent higher than in 2011, according to Silow.
The 530-lawyer firm, based in Philadelphia, ranked 118th in The American Lawyer‘s survey last year of the nation’s most profitable firms, with gross revenues of $257 million, a 7.3 percent increase over the $239.5 million in revenue for 2010.
Fox Rothschild ranked ninth in the Law Journal‘s 2012 survey of New Jersey firms, with $74.7 million in gross revenue.
Day Pitney ranked 142nd in the AmLaw 200 with gross revenue of $185 million nationally and ranked 12th in New Jersey with $66.7 million in revenue.