Partners at Berchem, Moses & Devlin took a direct approach when they set out to grow their market share among municipal, education and employment law practices. First, they identified lawyers who were widely respected in their communities and recruited them. They also put ads in newspapers and online in search of top talent.
The final result: Berchem Moses, with offices in Milford and Westport, has increased its attorney head count by 20 percent, growing to 40 lawyers from 32 as of last week.
The firm, which has long been a fixture in the top 20 of the Law Tribune’s yearly ranking of Connecticut law firms, appears likely to move up the list.
“I think we were about the 16th or 17th largest firm in the state, so this moves us up a notch,” said Ira Bloom, managing partner of the Westport office. “In Connecticut, we are certainly one of the larger firms now.”
Berchem Moses is the second large firm in Connecticut to make an aggressive growth move this year. In January, Waterbury-based Carmody & Torrance and its 62 attorneys merged with the 15-lawyer Stamford firm of Sandak Hennessey & Greco. The new 77-lawyer entity is known as Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey.
Berchem Moses took another approach to growth. Instead of one big merger, it plucked eight lawyers from various practices around the state. First off, it absorbed the father-son Norwalk firm of Kimmel & Kimmel.
Eugene Kimmel, who is moving over to Berchem Moses as senior counsel, launched his firm in 1965. His son, Gregory Kimmel, now a senior partner at Berchem Moses, joined about 17 years ago. Their firm concentrated on real estate transactions, divorce and family law issues, personal injury matters and criminal law.
The small firm’s good reputation in the Norwalk area, along with its range of practice areas, prompted Berchem Moses to make the Kimmels an offer, Bloom said.
“They approached us over the summer,” Greg Kimmel said. “It was something we had discussions about for several months and we decided in the end this was the right move.”
While it was difficult to walk away from a law firm that was in the family for 40 years, the benefits of merging outweighed any downside, Greg Kimmel said. “We’re gaining in other areas of practice as [Berchem Moses] has, so we can do different things. Plus, you gain the expertise and support of having a large office behind you.”
Addressing its desire to grow employment and education law practices, Berchem Moses also identified and hired six additional partners and associates from six different firms.
Bloom said the firm is continuing a course of strategic growth that started in 2008. That year, he was among a group of lawyers with Wake, See, Dimes, Bryniczka, Day & Bloom that joined Berchem Moses.
“This is all part of a longer-term goal to grow first in Fairfield County, and statewide,” Bloom said.
Robert Berchem, president of the firm, echoed that theme of strategic growth.
“These new lawyers at our firm bring a wide range of experience that will enhance service to our growing statewide client base,” he said. “Our growth has always come through strategic steps aimed at improved service to clients.”
With a desire to bolster its municipal law practice, the firm actively recruited as of counsel Peter Gelderman, a Fairfield land-use and municipal lawyer who has been in business for 30 years. They also placed ads online and in newspapers, which led them to hire Ansonia Corporation Counsel John Marini as an associate.
Others joining Berchem Moses as associates are Rebecca Goldberg, formerly of the management-side employment firm of Brody & Associates; Christopher Sugar, who worked for the employment firm of Durant, Nichols, Houston, Hodgson & Cortese-Costa; and education lawyer Lynn Kirshbaum.
Gelderman, who also will be based in the expanded firm’s Westport office, handles business and commercial transactions, commercial and residential real estate transactions, condominium law and civil litigation. He has previously served as an assistant town attorney for Westport and a town attorney for Trumbull.
On Feb. 4, the firm hired Joseph Corselli, who had been working as an associate at Zeldes, Needle & Cooper since 2010. Corselli is a civil litigator whose practice included professional liability defense. He has also represented clients in complex business litigation, products liability and intellectual property matters.
“He’s going to be working in our business services department, handling commercial real estate and related litigation,” Bloom said.
In anticipating the hiring spree, Bloom said the firm last summer relocated to a new, bigger office in Westport on Post Road East. He added that the firm is not likely to hire anyone else any time soon.
“I think right now we’re going to absorb the new people we have,” he said. “Longer term, I think we’re looking forward to expanding our presence in the state and addressing opportunities as they arise.”•