A New York-based commercial law firm with an eye on growth has expanded its Connecticut presence by absorbing two partners from a Stamford litigation firm.
Robert Bello and Thomas Cassone, formerly two-thirds of Stamford’s Bello Lapine & Cassone, announced they have joined the 60-lawyer, Manhattan-based firm of Meister Seelig & Fein. The other member of the Bello firm, Lawrence Lapine, retired last year.
Meister Seelig had been looking to expand in Connecticut because an increasing number of its clients live in the state. Bello and Cassone offered an opportunity for that expansion, said Mark Seelig, the firm’s managing partner.
“The firm is excited to have Tom join us and to have Bob and his experience available to the firm’s clients,” Seelig said. “Their broad legal experience and extensive community and civic involvement make them a great fit to grow our Stamford office.”
Cassone will run the Connecticut office as a partner. Bello will serve as of counsel. The other attorneys who will work in the Stamford office include former Robinson & Cole partners Alexander Pencu and Christopher Major, and associate Austin Kim.
Cassone’s practice includes litigation in areas of malpractice, personal injury and matrimonial law. Bello focuses on criminal defense. The pair also have handled land-use and development matters.
“I’ve worked in private practice and in the public sector for 31 years and I’ve never made anything I can consider as exciting a change as this,” Cassone said. “I’m very excited that I’m now joined with some exceptional lawyers I’ve known for a number of years.”
One of the biggest changes for Cassone in moving to a larger firm will be the ability to keep more of the cases outside of his field of expertise, rather than having to refer those cases to attorneys at other firms. For example, estate planning, intellectual property and taxation cases can all be handled by his new firm.
“There are a wide variety of matters that we will now have the resources to take on,” Cassone said.
Founded in 1994, Meister Seelig & Fein has offices in Manhattan, California, New Jersey and Massachusetts. The firm opened its Stamford office in 2011, primarily as a satellite office for New York-based attorneys who had legal matters to attend to in Connecticut. The hiring of Bello and Cassone will make that presence permanent.
The firm provides legal services in areas of real estate, commercial litigation, corporate, securities, employment, intellectual property, technology, entertainment, tax, and trust and estate law.
Cassone said that while the current space in an office tower on Stamford’s Summer Street is “at capacity” with five attorneys, the Connecticut operation could expand in the future.
That would make sense, as Meister Seelig has been growing. Last year, before Cassone and Bello made the decision to sign on, the firm hired more than 10 lawyers. To make room for anticipated growth, the firm in October signed a 15-year-lease for more than 55,000 square feet of office space on Park Avenue in Manhattan.
The move from Meister Seelig’s former 38,000-square-foot office was considered a significant upgrade.
“While many law firms are cutting back, [Meister Seelig is] actually growing and needed this additional space,” said Jason Meister of Avison Young, who handled the firm’s new lease and is the son of partner Stephen Meister. •