Midsized law firm White Fleischner & Fino, which has served as co-lead liaison counsel in insurance litigation stemming from Hurricane Sandy, plans to split into two smaller firms early next year, according to a senior partner at the firm and a regulatory filing.
The firm, which has offices in New York and New Jersey with satellite outposts in Philadelphia and Boca Raton, Florida, lodged a notice in New York on Thursday under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, reporting that some 59 employees would be impacted by staffing changes, most in New York City but also a smaller number in the firm’s White Plains and Garden City offices in New York.
In a brief interview on Friday, insurance partner Benjamin Fleischner explained that the WARN Act notice was a formal step the firm had to take in preparation for the split, rather than an indication of any layoff or staff reduction. He said the “vast majority” of the firm’s employees and lawyers will remain on board at one of the two firms. The firm’s website currently lists 44 lawyers on staff, 19 of them partners.
“The firm, which is 43 years old, has amicably agreed to split into two,” Fleischner said.
The split will take effect on Jan. 31, and Fleischner said the decision was made based on a recognition that “smaller is better” in today’s legal market, particularly given rent costs in New York City. It was also based on different types of work done by lawyers within the current firm. He stressed that the split was not because of any drop-off in business. He also noted that the firm plans to make an official announcement about its future before the end of the year.
Fleischner said the two firms will have different focuses based on practices that have developed within the current firm. One group of lawyers, those based in the Garden City, White Plains and New Jersey offices, and some in the New York City office, focus primarily on insurance coverage and recovery work, with a little personal injury work thrown in. Another group based in New York City specializes more in personal injury and property damage liability defense.
Although White Fleischner & Fino lists several practice areas, the firm might be best known for its insurance work, which has been a core area of expertise since its founding in 1976, according to its website.
The firm has recently been involved in at least one high-profile litigation. Partner Jared Greisman was tapped in 2014 to serve as co-lead defense liaison counsel in Brooklyn federal court for insurers involved in litigation over damage caused by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. That role put the firm in the position of helping coordinate defense efforts in hundreds of lawsuits brought in Sandy’s wake.
The New York Law Journal reported in May 2016 that the vast majority of cases in the Sandy litigation were resolved relatively quickly compared with similar litigation that flowed out of Hurricane Rita, which hit Texas and Florida in 2005, and Hurricane Ike, which hit Texas in 2008.