The pace of small firm acquisitions and dissolutions in New York hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down since the new year. Already in 2018, several small firms closed when their partners joined larger firms.
In one of the latest, Marino Partners, a six-attorney firm in White Plains that handled lower to middle market deals, is winding down after its founding partner and two other attorneys headed to 24-attorney Sadis Goldberg in midtown Manhattan.
Also this month, 16 attorneys at Eaton & Van Winkle, motivated to become part of a larger firm with complementary practice areas and more rate flexibility, announced they would join in February Baltimore-born Offit Kurman, with about 140 attorneys.
Meanwhile, the founder of insurance litigation boutique Vocke Law Group, with offices in Stamford, Connecticut, New York, and Chicago, and two other Vocke lawyers joined 650-attorney Duane Morris, announcing their practices would benefit from a broader geographic reach. The Vocke firm was led by Damon Vocke, the former general counsel of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. reinsurance subsidiary General Re Corp.
In all three cases, the moves amount to the shuttering of a small firm, as some of their partners found greater security or the potential for expansion with a larger platform.
“You get to the point where you run a smaller practice and you want to be able to service your clients better, you want to be able to look at larger transactions … and the only way you can do that is by growing your footprint and base,” said Paul Marino, who founded Marino Partners 12 years ago. He joined Sadis Goldberg as a partner this month, along with counsel Robert Cromwell and associate Nick Federici.
Michael Blanchard, a New York law firm management consultant and partner at GLC Law Firm Consulting Group, said roughly three-quarters of the firms he is working with are trying to address whether they should merge with a firm of equal size or get “rolled up” into a larger firm.
As the lawyer population ages and senior partners face retirement, the pace of small firm consolidation is picking up, he said. “A lot of the smaller firms are built around very few key partners, from a business development client standpoint,” he said. “There are existing threats to their firm that they are not in a position to correct without the assistance of a bigger firm.”
Marino, 44, said his move “wasn’t based out of necessity.” The Marino firm, which had up to 12 attorneys at one time, had recently worked on deals involving litigation funder LawCash and entertainment listing business West World Media.
Still, he said at Sadis Goldberg, “I’m able to have more touch points” for client services, adding his prior firm didn’t have litigation or tax counsel. “It really comes down to how you’re going to service your clients,” he said. “It’s harder at a smaller firm to capture and to provide the amount of services to truly service a client well.”
Sadis Goldberg’s practices include financial services, real estate, regulatory defense, litigation, tax and estate planning, among other areas. Its financial services group, which the three Marino attorneys joined, represents many investment advisers and related investment entities, including hedge funds, private equity funds, venture capital funds and real estate funds.
Two other attorneys who were practicing at Marino Partners, George Kontogiannis and Alexandra Lyras, now practice at Kontogiannis PC.
Marino said he knew the Sadis Goldberg lawyers well after having worked with them on deals together in the last decade. “To be able to find a group of like-minded individuals was huge for me,” he said.
The firm is led by Jeff Goldberg, Douglas Hirsch, Ron Geffner and Yehuda Braunstein. Marino declined to specify the value of his practice moving to Sadis Goldberg, but said almost all of his prior firm’s clients are joining him.