Emil R. Infante
Emil R. Infante (J. Albert Diaz)

With the breakup of Coral Gables-based law firm Infante Zumpano, most of its lawyers are heading to another minority-owned law firm, Roig, Tutan, Rosenberg, Martin & Stoller, to create a nearly 100-lawyer Florida firm.

The new firm will be called Roig, Tutan, Rosenberg, Martin, Stoller & Zumpano and be headquartered in Deerfield Beach with other offices in Miami, Coral Gables, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Tampa and Tallahassee.

Michael Rosenberg, managing partner of the old and new Roig Tutan firms, said the new firm, which is adding 18 of 22 Infante Zumpano attorneys, will be the largest minority- and Hispanic-owned law firm in the state if not the country.

Infante Zumpano shut down Friday. Co-founder Emil Infante and two other firm lawyers, Daniel Diaz Leyva and Carlos Abarco, are joining Foley & Lardner to boost its Latin American practice in Miami.

The co-founders of the 10-year-old Coral Gables firm say the breakup is amicable. Infante said he needed a larger platform for his energy deals, which are now approaching $1 billion.

Carlos Zumpano, for his part, said he started talking with the Roig firm about merging a few months ago. It will take effect late next month.

“We kept talking and talking, and all of a sudden I realized we could take this to the next level,” Zumpano said. “They gave us the ability to grow the practice under a statewide platform. It allows us to expand throughout Florida instantly.”

Rosenberg said the merger will allow his firm, which primarily focuses on insurance defense, to become more full-service with practices in litigation, labor and employment, real estate, entertainment, immigration and family office services providing legal services to wealthy Latin American families.

“It brings in new practice areas,” he said. “As a firm, we were primarily focused on insurance defense. Those clients needed employment work. They needed other help we were not able to provide to them. Carlos brings great litigators with him. We’re thrilled.”

Latin American Practice

Foley & Lardner’s Miami managing partner, Bill Davis, also is excited about taking on Infante and his team. The international law firm, which has been boosting its Latin American practice in recent years, will now have about 30 lawyers in its Miami office.

“They’ll enhance our Latin American group domestically and internationally,” Davis said, adding the firm added two other lawyers in Miami simultaneously, Rosanna Gutierrez and Myla Reizen.

When the firm formed in 2005, Infante Zumpano brought together a cadre of high-powered, mostly Hispanic lawyers. They billed themselves as a small firm that could do the type of work traditionally done by Big Law firms without the high overhead and rates. Infante, who moved from Washington to form the firm, spoke of how, in the early days, he didn’t even have his own office and sat at a sliding window in the reception area greeting clients.

Other partners included Tony Castro, a former state prosecutor who chaired a Florida Bar grievance committee and served as the president of the Cuban American Bar Association, and Armando Bucelo, special counsel to Miami’s code enforcement board, the first Cuban-American chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and past president of the Downtown Miami Business Association.

But it turned out the firm might not have a large enough platform to handle the success of Infante’s Latin American business.

“I was referring out too much business,” said Infante. “It’s one thing to do a $300 million deal, but when you do a $1 billion deal you need a lot of help from other lawyers.”

He was sending most of his referrals to his friend, Francisco Cerezo, chair of Foley & Lardner’s Latin American practice.

Staffers Safe

Roig Tutan, meanwhile, has been growing rapidly since its inception in 2000. The firm opened offices in Miami and Orlando last August, in West Palm Beach last November and in Tampa last month. The merger will push the firm from 80 to 98 lawyers.

Rosenberg said the firm will keep both Zumpano’s Coral Gables office and Roig’s Miami office open for now but likely consolidate them in the future. No staffers will be laid off in the short term, said both firm leaders.

Abbe Bunt, a legal recruiter who has worked with both firms, said Rosenberg and Zumpano are well-matched.

“The principals are both opportunistic and visionary,” said Bunt of Bunt Legal Search of Hollywood. “Michael grew the firm aggressively, and Carlos Zumpano is very aggressive. They will continue their expansion, I’m sure.”

Law firm mergers have been on the uptick since the recession and set a record in 2013, rising 47 percent, according to national law firm consultant Altman Weil. Small firm tieups were partially responsible for the frenzied merger activity, which saw 88 firms join forces—the largest number in a single year since Altman Weil began tracking them in 2006.