Faced with an expiring lease, lawyers from a prominent matrimonial boutique are combining with a growing real estate-focused New York firm.
Partners from Mayerson Abramowitz & Kahn, which has handled celebrity and high-profile divorces for decades, are joining Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, the firm announced Thursday. After the six matrimonial lawyers join on Jan. 1, 2019, the combined firm will have about 50 lawyers. Schwartz Sladkus will continue to keep the same name after the additions.
Alton Abramowitz, Leigh Baseheart Kahn, Alexis Cirel and Barry Abbott are joining Schwartz Sladkus as partners; founder Harold Mayerson will join as of counsel; and Daniella Schneider as an associate.
Schwartz Sladkus formed in 2015 when a group of partners spun off from Wolf Haldenstein. While its largest practice is real estate, handling transactions and commercial litigation, it also has a health care, nonprofits, trusts and estate and corporate practices as well as one matrimonial lawyer.
The Mayerson Abramowitz firm, founded about 20 years ago, is known for handling prominent divorce and family law cases, such as when the firm represented Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa; hedge fund manager George Sykes; and the ex-husband of Scarlett Johansson.
Besides divorce and custody, the firm also handles equitable distribution of property; spousal maintenance and alimony; child support; paternity, and a myriad other matters arising out of relationships. Abramowitz was a president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Faced with an expiring lease and the desire to undertake some succession planning for younger lawyers, Abramowitz, 70, said partners began considering all options, including remaining a standalone boutique, merging with another matrimonial practice or combining with a larger firm to become part of a matrimonial department.
“We were really looking for a place that would benefit everyone,” Abramowitz said.
Abramowitz said the matrimonial boutique “needed a broader platform for our younger partners” to continue their practice, pointing to advantages such as the ability to provide ancillary services. Partners at both firms pointed to cross-referrals benefits, including when divorce cases throw off corporate work, trust and estate matters and real estate transactions from sales of assets.
Meanwhile, Abramowitz and Mayerson both expressed a willingness to shed the administrative duties of running their own firm. “Running a law firm takes an awful lot of time away from the practice of law,” Abramowitz said.
Mayerson, 76, joining as of counsel, said he wants to continue practicing law but “didn’t want the burdens of any administrative responsibility, which are frequently a pain in the neck.”
When asked if he intended to slow down his practice, he said, “I suspect that will happen” but added he intended to practice law full time for the timing being.
Abramowitz and Mayerson said they spoke with a few other law firms in their search but were attracted to Schwartz Sladkus for its collegiality and ratio of female lawyers.
Mayerson said Schwartz Sladkus “treated us very well,” taking five administrative staff members. “They went a long way to ensure that economics would work,” Mayerson said, noting there were no pay cuts for staff. Billing rates for the matrimonial attorneys won’t change, Mayerson added.
Schwartz Sladkus, which also faced an expiring lease, will move into an expanded office in February 2019, after the merger is complete. The firm is moving from 21,000 square feet at 270 Madison to 33,000 square feet at 444 Madison under a 12-year lease.
“It was completely fortuitous that their lease was ending at the beginning of 2019,” partner Steven Sladkus said. “So it would be a seamless transition for us to move in together.”
Jeffrey Schwartz, the managing partner, said his firm, already looking for expansion opportunities, was introduced to the Mayerson Abramowitz lawyers earlier this year through consultant Lauren Wiesenthal and the two groups hit it off from there.
Partners from both firms said they also didn’t expect a great number of client conflicts—one reason why some matrimonial practices have stood alone or spun off from large firms.
“We’re very sensitive that if there’s ever a conflict or the appearance of a conflict, it will be seriously considered,” Sladkus said. “We didn’t feel that the potential for conflicts would outweigh the benefits of a merger with this matrimonial practice.”