A merger helped Fowler White Boggs pick up the most new partners in South Florida last year, while Greenberg Traurig expanded its partnership roster the old-fashioned way — by home-growing them.
Tampa-based Fowler White Boggs added nine laterals after combining with Atkinson Stone Diner Mankuta & Ploucha. In October the firm also added a Greenspoon Marder partner, Duane Dickerson, who brought a plum client, AutoNation Inc., with him.
Fowler White now has 29 attorneys, including 19 shareholders, in the Fort Lauderdale office opened in 2010 and a total of 143 attorneys. Fort Lauderdale managing partner Terry Russell is looking to add more.
“The merger is going fabulously,” Russell said. “The office finished in the black this year. It’s a very strong group.”
Meanwhile, Greenberg Traurig promoted 11 associates in South Florida, including eight in Miami and three in Fort Lauderdale, and 44 firmwide. The numbers were provided to the Daily Business Review by law firms with South Florida offices.
Firms reported promoting 73 associates in South Florida in 2012, down from 84 in 2011. A total of 80 partners joined from other firms last year.
Greenberg’s South Florida promotions include three women, five Hispanics and one Israeli-American. Firm president Matthew Gorson said Greenberg does not promote lawyers based on diversity but on work quality.
“It’s obviously nice because we want to service the community we practice in, and it’s important to have a diverse law firm as we do,” Gorson said. “But quality is the first rule, always.”
Unlike other firms, which typically promote associates to non-equity partner, all of Greenberg’s promotions are equity shareholders. The new shareholders are “300 level” attorneys, which means they must buy the minimum 300 shares to join the partnership. Gorson wouldn’t disclose the buy-in amount, but several sources familiar with the firm said it’s about $40,000. Greenberg, like other firms, provides loans to new shareholders to help with the buy-in.
Akerman Senterfitt promoted nine lawyers, the second-highest after Greenberg. Carlton Fields and Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson followed with five promotions each.
Akerman’s Daniel Faust was one of nine attorneys promoted to non-equity partner. The 33-year-old has worked at the firm since the day he graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 2004.
“The partnership track is eight years, and I made partner at the end of eight years,” Faust said. He attributed his success to the support of senior partners, the entrepreneurial nature of the firm and hard work.
Faust is also a member of the real estate team headed by Neisen Kasdin, the firm’s Miami managing partner. However, real estate has only started picking up in the last year or so, and Faust said his promotion was by no means a sure thing.
Another newly minted partner is Rafael Ribeiro at Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod. He was not surprised to make partner since it was part of the deal when he moved from Hunton & Williams last year.
Still, he’s pleased with the new title.
“For marketing purposes, it’s a good thing,” Ribeiro, 35, said. “I’m in my eighth year as a lawyer. It’s the next logical step for my team to become a partner.”
On the lateral front, Greenberg added three, including heavy-hitting bond counsel Albert del Castillo from Squire Sanders. Berger Singerman had the second-highest number of lateral hires after Fowler White at seven, while Akerman was third with six.
Akerman chairman and CEO Andrew Smulian said the laterals included a hospitality group from Proskauer headed by Andrew Robins. Promotions included five lawyers in Miami, two in West Palm Beach, one in Boca Raton and one in Fort Lauderdale. Three of the new partners are women. All are non-equity partners.
“There were a lot of good people,” Smulian said. “They’re doing great work for clients, they’re well-recognized, very solid in their talents, solid in their client relationships.”
Smulian said there is no track for equity partners at Akerman. “It’s on a case-by-case basis.”
The numbers “reflect a healthy balance between internal promotion and lateral hiring,” said Joe Ankus, a legal recruiter with Ankus Consulting in Weston. “The numbers make sense relative to the sizes of the firms doing the hiring.”