Photo: J. Albert Diaz/ALM

Holland & Knight has opened a Philadelphia office, taking 11 partners and one of counsel from Reed Smith to make the launch.

Leading the new office is executive partner John Martini, who had chaired the global executive compensation and employee benefits practice at Reed Smith. Leonard Bernstein, who was Reed Smith’s Philadelphia office managing partner, is making the move as well, and will be leading Holland & Knight’s financial services regulatory group.

Also joining Florida-based Holland & Knight are partners Kelly Bley, James DelBello, Robert Frank, Kerry Halpern, Daniel Mateo, David Pardys, Nipun Patel, Tracy Quinn and Matthew Siembieda, as well as of counsel Robert Jaworski. The full group’s practices include  environmental law, employee stock ownership plans, intellectual property and commercial litigation, in addition to executive compensation and employee benefits and banking and financial services. All are based in Philadelphia.

At Reed Smith, Wayne Stansfield has been named Philadelphia office managing partner to replace Bernstein, the firm announced Tuesday. Stansfield has practiced at Reed Smith since 1998, focusing on complex commercial litigation.

Martini said he and others in the group ”received a lot of strong offers from a number of different firms” over the years. But as Holland & Knight looked to build a Philadelphia presence, he said, it seemed like the best fit for the group’s clients, some of whom are common clients to both firms.

“It wasn’t that we were looking to leave Reed Smith,” Martini said. “It just kind of fell into our laps,”

Steven Sonberg, managing partner of Holland & Knight, said Philadelphia has been a city of interest for his firm for a while, as it looked to continue growth in the mid-Atlantic region. About 40 percent of the firm’s lawyers are located in that region, he said.

Sonberg said Holland & Knight evaluates four factors when considering growth opportunities—geography, practice, industry and clients. “We think this meets all four of those strategic focal points,” he said. Many of the firm’s banking and financial services clients have offices in Philadelphia, he added.

The group is setting up shop in Cira Centre, starting with one floor of the building, and the ability to expand that space as needed. Martini said he is “confident” the Philadelphia office will be adding more lawyers in the near future, as lawyers from various firms have already begun to reach out about making a move.

As for client interest, ”More clients than I expected to come wholesale have done so,” Martini said, though he declined to elaborate on how much business he and his partners are bringing to their new firm.

Martini joined Reed Smith in 2003 as a lateral partner in its labor and employment practice from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. His move at the time closely followed that of Pardys, who was also a Morgan Lewis alum. In 2014, he ran against Alexander “Sandy” Thomas in an election for firmwide managing partner, but Thomas ultimately won.

Bernstein has been at Reed Smith for over a quarter-century. He joined the firm in 1992, after starting his career as an associate at Blank Rome. He was named Philadelphia office managing partner in 2013.

In a statement Tuesday, Thomas wished his former partners well, adding that “the movement of talent among firms is routine.”

“Given our size, geographic breadth and deep bench of talent, these departures will not impact our capabilities and we will continue to provide excellent client service with no interruption,” Thomas said. “Just as we have brought in significant groups of lawyers from other top tier firms, now we are experiencing a departure.”

Holland & Knight now has 25 offices in the U.S., as well as locations in Mexico City; Bogotá, Colombia; and London. With $848.19 million in gross revenue in 2017, the firm placed 42nd on the Am Law 100.

The last Am Law 200 firm to enter the Philadelphia market was Ice Miller, which did so just over a year ago, taking three lawyers from Panitch Schwarze Belisario & Nadel.

Sonberg noted that Holland & Knight’s firmwide strategy has been more focused on growing its existing offices, which it will continue to do.

To excel as an out-of-state firm in Philadelphia, Martini said, “you have to come with a reputation, which is something that Holland & Knight has done, come with a lot of energy and a lot of trust in the key partners” leading that office.