Fox Rothschild is opening a Morristown office, staffed with lawyers who of late were the core of Day Pitney’s New Jersey transactional real estate practice.
Eight attorneys made the move in January and February to Fox Rothschild in Roseland and are expected to move to the new office in June.
The acquisition, the firm’s fourth in 18 months, brings its New Jersey headcount to 148.
Managing partner Mark Silow says a real estate practice was “the last missing piece” for the New Jersey branch since its 2006 merger with 60-lawyer Grotta Glassman & Hoffman.
“The goal from that day forward was to diversify that office,” Silow says. “We’ve been moving in that direction in the six years since then. Even in the teeth of the recession, we knew real estate was a cyclical practice and would recover.”
Silow says the firm’s real estate practice is “solid” though “not at breakneck speeds” as in 2004 and 2005. Still, there were “pretty consistent needs for real estate capabilities in New Jersey that we could not satisfy” and the new faces seem “to be hitting the ground running,” he adds.
The defecting Day Pitney lawyers are Robert Klausner, Deirdre Moore, Christopher Rider, Grace Shin and Mat Carlson, who join as partners, and Jennifer Solberg, Joshua Franklin and Corey Kaplan, who come as associates.
Clients in tow include the Hampshire Real Estate Companies of Morristown and the Prism Group of Lakewood, according to Moore.
Discussions began in late summer, when recruiter Gayle Moran of Lawson Legal Recruiters in Madison contacted Klausner on Fox Rothschild’s behalf. Such calls were not uncommon, but Fox Rothschild “seemed like the best choice,” Klausner says. “From a rate structure standpoint, it really fit.”
Some suitors, particularly New York-based firms, indicated they would want significant fee increases that Klausner feared would drive away clients, especially developers.
He adds that Fox Rothschild offers intellectual property, condemnation and other services that existing clients need, and its 60-lawyer real estate practice is significantly larger than Day Pitney’s.
Moore — who since the 2007 merger of Day Berry & Howard and Pitney Hardin had chaired the real estate practice group — adds that Fox Rothschild can represent those clients in markets Day Pitney doesn’t reach, such as Pennsylvania and California.
Klausner and Moore decline to discuss compensation but say Fox Rothschild presents more opportunities to expand the practice.
A deal was struck in mid-January. Moore, Klausner and Rider started on Jan. 24, with the others coming over in stages, most recently Shin on Feb. 15.
Silow says there wasn’t a desperate need for more real estate lawyers, but Fox Rothschild wanted to provide a full slate of services and hopes the acquisition will “enhance our brand in the state of New Jersey.
“We think we’re one of the great unknown stories out there,” he says, citing six straight years of increased profits.
The new Morristown office will be the firm’s 18th and its fourth in New Jersey, along with Atlantic City, Princeton and Roseland. As of Monday, the space had been selected but lease negotiations were not yet final.
The firm hopes to recruit more lawyers to populate the Morristown office, which can accommodate as many as 15 attorneys, Silow says. He adds that there are plans eventually to consolidate the firm’s entire northern New Jersey operation, possibly in Morristown, where many clients are headquartered.
The acquisition is Fox Rothschild’s latest in a series since 2011.
In August of that year, the firm acquired a three-lawyer intellectual-property firm in Los Angeles, the Chan Law Group.
The next month, it hired away eight construction and government lawyers from Smith Currie & Hancock in Washington, D.C.
Last September, the firm opened a Denver office with four new additions, including three patent-prosecution and patent-litigation attorneys from Bryan Cave in Denver.
The 530-lawyer firm, based in Philadelphia, ranked 118th in The American Lawyer’s survey last year of the nation’s most profitable firms, with 2011 gross revenues of $257 million: a 7.3 percent increase over its $239.5 million in revenue for 2010.
Fox Rothschild ranked ninth in the Law Journal’s Top 20 survey, with 2011 New Jersey gross revenues of $74.7 million.
Silow says that with five weeks remaining in its 2012 fiscal year, its revenue is projected to be 3 percent to 4 percent higher than in 2011.
The departure reduces Day Pitney’s New Jersey real estate practice to five lawyers, and brings the firm’s headcount to 106 in New Jersey and 314 overall.
Its managing partner, Stanley Twardy Jr. in Stamford, Conn., says: “We’re disappointed whenever any partner leaves. But this is how the legal business is today. We still have one of the best real estate practices in the region and our real estate department is doing just fine despite the departures.”
Day Pitney ranked 142nd in the AmLaw 200 with gross revenue of $185 million nationally and ranked 12th in New Jersey with $66.7 million in revenue.