Buffalo-based Hodgson Russ has named Mark Klein, a tax partner in its Manhattan office, as its next chairman. Signaling the firm’s intent to grow its brand and business in the region, Klein is the first chairman of the 201-year old firm who mostly works beyond its Buffalo base.
While everyone knows Hodgson Russ’ brand in western New York, “in New York City, it’s Hodgson who?” Klein said, adding he wants “to let folks here appreciate that they can use a full-service firm that is more midmarket” for matters originating in Manhattan and other cities where the firm has offices, including Toronto.
Meanwhile, Klein, 60, who also commutes to Buffalo weekly, said he also wants to make sure Hodgson Russ is positioned “to continue to be the pre-eminent firm in western New York.”
Klein, who became chair effective Feb. 1, succeeds Daniel Oliverio in Buffalo, who had been chair for the past six years. The firm picks a new chairman and managing partner every four to six years, leading to the leadership change this year. Oliverio has a full-time white-collar defense practice, including defending Louis Ciminelli, a Buffalo developer indicted for charges related to the Buffalo Billion bribery and bid-rigging scheme. Ciminelli is expected to face trial later this year.
Hodgson Russ is the largest firm by head count in Buffalo. The firm has about 200 attorneys firmwide, with offices in Albany, Saratoga Springs, Toronto and Palm Beach, Florida, as well as Manhattan. It last appeared on the Am Law 200 rankings when the firm generated $93 million in gross revenue in 2011.
Klein has spent his entire legal career at the firm, having joined right after law school in 1982. He has served a total of about 12 years on the firm’s board of directors, which functions as a management committee.
An author of many books and articles on state tax law, Klein’s clients include high-net-worth individuals, celebrities, sports figures and Fortune 500 companies in tax matters. Klein, who declined to name any clients, said he will continue his tax practice while chair of the firm.
Klein serves alongside Buffalo-based managing partner Rick Kennedy, 62, who is responsible for day-to-day management. As chair, Klein overseas external brand and strategic vision.
While several upstate New York firms have grown by mergers in the last few years, including Bond, Schoeneck & King and Barclay Damon, Kennedy said Hodgson Russ is “not actively looking at any merger opportunities right now. … We do not feel much pressure to get bigger just to be bigger.”
Klein added, “We’re looking for organic growth and looking for opportunistic growth. We don’t ever aspire to be Skadden [Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom], but we think we hold a pretty secure position in the middle market.”
At the same time, Kennedy said, the firm faces the same challenges as any other Am Law 200 firm, including lackluster demand for legal services across the industry and large clients relying less on one firm to handle all of its needs. “Our challenge is to distinguish ourselves in the marketplace,” Kennedy said.
Hodgson Russ moved last year into new Manhattan office space after signing a 10-year lease on the East Side at 605 Third Ave. Klein said his appointment to the position is “an indication of how important we consider our clients’ interests across the region,” including in Manhattan.