Richard P. Cole
Richard P. Cole (J. Albert Diaz)

Florida’s law firms exhibited little change between 2013 and 2014, with Akerman, Greenberg Traurig and Holland & Knight remaining in the top three positions once again.

The Daily Business Review’s Review 100 survey of Florida’s top 100 law firms shows that Akerman remains Florida’s largest law firm with 403 lawyers throughout the state. Greenberg remained in second place with 331 lawyers—down seven lawyers from last year—while Holland & Knight remained in third place with 311 lawyers.

“A significant change for our industry over the past few years is the necessity to become more demand-side oriented—to let the needs of clients drive your strategy, your growth,” said Akerman chairman and CEO Andrew Smulian. “This is the real Akerman success story. We have now achieved record results for three consecutive years.”

GrayRobinson remained in fourth place with 280 lawyers.

Defense law firm Cole Scott & Kissane jumped to fifth place, bumping Carlton Fields down a notch. However, that switch is sure to be temporary: following its Jan. 1 merger with Jorden Burt, Tampa-based Carlton is expected to sharply rise in next year’s rankings.

Cole Scott & Kissane, with offices in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Key West, Bonita Springs, Orlando, Pensacola and West Palm Beach, jumped from 228 to 257 lawyers.

New associates exclusively comprised the growth, said managing partner Richard Cole. The firm opened its doors in 1997 with seven lawyers and has grown organically with no acquisitions.

“We’ve been fortunate that our clients have had confidence in us and referred more matters to us throughout the firm, so each of the offices has grown,” Cole said.

Another law firm experiencing solid growth in Florida this year was Foley & Lardner, which shot from number 15 to number 12 with the addition of 20 lawyers. The Wisconsin-based firm did so by strengthening its private equity group as well as its Latin American practice in Miami, adding four lawyers from the defunct firm Infante Zumpano.

Foley also added health care lawyer Myla Reizen and hopes to grow that practice statewide. Other lawyers were hired in Jacksonville and Orlando, Miami managing partner Bill Davis said.

“We’re growing so fast we’re bumping up against space limitations in Miami,” Davis said, adding that the firm has already taken an extra half floor in addition to the entire 19th floor at One Biscayne Tower and is looking to lease more space.

Another firm in high-growth mode is Morgan & Morgan. an Orlando-based personal injury firm, which jumped from 164 attorneys in 2013 to 203 attorneys in 2014, remaining the eighth largest law firm in Florida.

The firm drew headlines this year for bankrolling an effort to have medical marijuana put on the ballot in Florida and counts former Gov. Charlie Crist as a partner.

Joe Ankus, a legal recruiter with Weston-based Ankus Consulting, expressed surprise at Morgan & Morgan’s “meteoric” growth, accomplished without having a Miami office. The firm does have small offices in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach but its strength is in central and northern Florida. It is the only firm in the Review 100 top 10 that doesn’t have a Miami outpost.

“To me, that is incredible growth,” Ankus said. “For a plantiff’s firm, that is meteoric growth. Plaintiff firms are usually one or two guys, they’re boutiques. And it’s all been done without an office in Miami. That’s astounding.”

Another firm shooting up from 30 in 2013 to 19th in 2014 is Berger Singerman, the firm that has made a name for itself in bankruptcy court, representing trustees in massive Ponzi cases like the Scott Rothstein case. Fort Lauderdale-based Berger Singerman grew from 76 to 99 lawyers, a 30 percent increase.

Squire Sanders—the firm that entered the Florida market by merging with Steel Hector & Davis a decade ago—appears to be here to stay. The firm picked up 10 lawyers in Florida in the last year, including powerhouse lobbyist Al Cardenas, who defected from the dissolving Tew Cardenas.

Firms dropping on the chart were Hinshaw & Culbertson, which lost nine attorneys in Florida, and Roetzel & Andress, which lost 28.

Ankus downplayed the losses, noting that Hinshaw and Roetzel specifically are strong in other parts of the country. Formed in 1876, Roetzel has more than 200 attorneys and 13 offices throughout the country.