Steven Zelkowitz, partner with Fox Rothschild in Miami. Courtesy photo

GrayRobinson announced new leadership for its Miami office last month without saying what was happening with the outgoing boss, Steven Zelkowitz.

It turns out Zelkowitz had been talking for months with Fox Rothschild and moved his real estate and banking practice a few blocks to his new firm Aug. 31.

He opened GrayRobinson’s Fort Lauderdale and Miami offices in succession and “will assume a leadership position” at Fox Rothschild, his new firm said in an announcement Wednesday.

Fox’s Miami managing partner, Joseph DeMaria, was a little more forthcoming. He said the firm cycles through leadership appointments with the fiscal year starting every April 1, and Zelkowitz is in a transition to take over in Miami and expand it, extending a rapid string of mergers and lateral hires.

“It’s part of a natural transition. It’ll happen next year as part of our natural rotation,” DeMaria said. He said he suggested the transition to chairman Mark Silow and supports the switch. The commercial litigator with a national practice will lead the Miami litigation team.

Silow is focused on growth firmwide by targeting new locations and expanding existing offices.

“There are other markets that we’re interested in, and we still have offices like Miami that are still in their early growth phase that we would like to get larger,” he said Thursday.

Zelkowitz is expected to help grow the Miami office from 14 attorneys and expand the real estate practice in West Palm Beach as well, Silow said.

“As a first step, we would like every office to achieve a critical mass of size, which we think is somewhere between 20 and 30 lawyers, so that’s our first realistic target,” he said.

Silow has no number in mind for the firm’s expanded attorney headcount. But for Miami, “25 to 50 lawyers would seem to be a very good target to shoot for over time” in the next three to five years.

Zelkowitz opened GrayRobinson’s Fort Lauderdale office when the firm expanded to South Florida in 2005, repeated the process in Miami in 2008 and served as managing shareholder in both offices.

Fox has noticed transactional attorneys have a knack for office expansion, and DeMaria said it’s something the firm was seeking in Miami.

“The idea with Steve is look where he came from,” DeMaria said, referring to Zelkowitz’s track record on office growth.

When Fox Rothschild reached out, Zelkowitz was receptive and attracted to Fox’s national platform. Recent growth has added attorneys in Denver, Chicago and Wilmington, Delaware.

GrayRobinson has broached the idea of expansion outside Florida but remains an in-state firm.

“I have been seeking an opportunity of this magnitude for some time. They don’t come along every day,” Zelkowitz said. “The reason I left was to provide my ­clients with that enhanced legal platform with offices coast to coast.”

His clients have assets outside Florida, and some of his banking clients are in New York, where he started his legal career with Lord Day & Lord in the late 1980s.

Zelkowitz came to South Florida as a shareholder and real estate chair with Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman in 1995 and joined GrayRobinson in 2005.

Zelkowitz is active in public affairs, serving on the Miami Shores Village Council and as general and special counsel to community redevelopment agencies in North Miami, North Miami Beach, Hallandale Beach and Naranja Lakes.

In 75th place on the Am Law 200 rankings, Philadelphia-based Fox Rothschild has more than 800 attorneys in 21 U.S. offices, including 14 in Miami.

Orlando-based GrayRobinson, at No. 161, has about 300 attorneys in 14 Florida offices and 45 attorneys and consultants in Miami.

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