Offit Kurman’s New York expansion plans have hit a speed bump, as the mid-Atlantic, midsize firm’s agreement to affiliate with New York’s Eaton & Van Winkle fell apart at the last minute.
Offit Kurman announced in January that it would be acquiring much of what remained of Eaton & Van Winkle, including 16 lawyers and office space at 3 Park Avenue in Manhattan. The deal was set to take effect Feb. 1, but did not come to fruition.
“Eaton & Van Winkle has excellent attorneys, but their firm faced serious business challenges that we’re unable to overcome to consummate a firm-to-firm affiliation,” Offit Kurman managing principal Tim Lynch said in a statement Thursday.
Eaton & Van Winkle’s fate is unclear now that the deal is not coming together. In a statement, partner Ted Semaya said, “The determination has not been made about their future other than the firm is not affiliating with Offit Kurman. EVW is still examining all options to continue operating.”
Offit Kurman still expects up to eight of Eaton & Van Winkle’s attorneys to make the move, Lynch said. One, Brendan Marx, has already joined Offit Kurman’s New York office, the firm said.
The deal was never planned to be a merger in the legal sense, but Offit Kurman was planning to take over Eaton & Van Winkle’s office space. Now Offit Kurman will continue working out of a temporary office, with hopes of finding a permanent space in the near future, a firm spokesman said.
The spokesman said Offit Kurman plans to forge ahead with other expansion plans in New York, with more potential lateral hires in the pipeline, aside from any Eaton & Van Winkle attorneys who may still join.
Eaton & Van Winkle has operated under its current name since 1965, and it can trace its roots in the New York legal market back nearly 200 years. The firm had grown to about 40 lawyers in the early 2000s, then started to see “a particularly high loss of lawyers” in 2015, Semaya said in a January interview. So the partnership started looking at options for combining with another firm.
“We decided it would be hard to grow back with just ones or twos,” Semaya said in January. Becoming part of Offit Kurman, he said, would have allowed him and his colleagues to benefit from a larger footprint, complementary practice areas and more rate flexibility because of the firm’s presence in lower rate markets.
Offit Kurman was founded in the Baltimore region in 1987 with a focus on serving privately held businesses. It kicked off its regional expansion nearly two decades later, starting with Washington, D.C., in 2005 and the Philadelphia region in 2007—the same year it crossed the 100-lawyer threshold. Offit has said the firm, now with a head count of 140 lawyers, aims to have 200 lawyers by 2020.
Offit Kurman began looking for ways to expand in New York in early 2017, Offit said in January. Historically, the firm has grown in each of its regions by hiring small groups of attorneys, he said, and absorbing Eaton & Van Winkle’s lawyers would have been the biggest deal yet.