(L-R): David Spector, Sandra Heller and Adam Hodges have jumped to Holland & Knight.

 

Holland & Knight, which is no stranger of late to making group hires that include partners with leadership credentials, has done it again, this time bringing on the former head of an Am Law 100 firm.

David Spector, who lasted as chairman of Akerman for only seven months before the firm’s former chairman, Andrew Smulian, retook the reins, has left the firm to join Holland & Knight. Joining him is commercial litigator Adam Hodges, fraud and recovery practice co-chair Sandy Heller, and nine other Akerman attorneys.

In February of 2018, Spector succeeded Andrew Smulian as the CEO and chairman of the Akerman in a move heralded as a generational shift for the firm. But seven months later, the succession plan seemed to falter, and Spector left the chairmanship, returning to his position as co-chair of the fraud practice. Smulian resumed his role as chairman and continues to run the firm to this day.

Smulian said Tuesday that Spector’s departure from the top job last year was “in the best interest of the firm:”

“[His fraud] practice was active and it was decided that it was in the best interest of the group to return to the fraud and recovery practice,” Smulian said.

Of the team’s departure, Smulian said, “We wish David and his whole group well. We wish them success in their future.”

Spector said he decided to leave for Holland & Knight because of the strength of the firm’s fraud and investigation attorneys, specifically mentioning Holland & Knight partners Mark Delegal and Bill Shepherd, executive partner of Holland & Knight’s West Palm Beach office. Spector’s practice focuses primarily focused on eradicating insurance, health care, banking and retail fraud.

“[Shepherd] and I have been friends for a decade,” Spector said. “Together we’re a much stronger advocate for our clients.”

He declined to comment on his short tenure as Akerman chair, though he wished his former firm well.

Spector, Heller and Hodges will lead the firm’s 12-attorney insurance investigations and litigation team. Attorneys  C. Matthew Detzel, Matthew DiBlasi, Andrew Lowenstein, and Nicholas Purvis will join as partners; James Duffy has joined as a senior counsel; and Kayla Pragid, Caitlin Saladrigas, Darcie Thompson and Joseph Valdivia have joined as associates.

“The team primarily represents insurance and other financial services companies in investigating and recovering payments made in connection with complex fraudulent and other unlawful attempts to obtain insurance payments,” said Steven Sonberg, managing partner of Holland & Knight, in a statement. “Their focus aligns very well with our existing financial services practices. We believe their addition will greatly benefit our firm and its clients.”

Most of the group will be based out of the firm’s West Palm Beach office, though Heller will work out of Fort Lauderdale, Detzel in Orlando and DiBlasi in New York.

2018 was a solid year for Holland & Knight’s lateral activity. The firm had 63 hires with only 12 departures, according to ALM Intelligence’s Legal Compass, as firm revenue climbed by nearly 8 percent, topping out at $915 million.

Fort Lauderdale-based Akerman Partner Michael Goldberg will be taking over the fraud and recovery practice he co-founded with Spector in 2015. For three decades, Goldberg has focused his practice on Ponzi and EB-5 fraud schemes. He serves as trustee for several high-profile estates, including that of Scott Rothstein and the Woodbridge Group of Cos., who orchestrated Ponzi schemes valued at a combined $2.4 billion.

“I think it’s fortuitous that Michael was able to step back into the practice that he co-founded,” said Smulian, who also mentioned that the fraud practice has been increasingly active.

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