Philadelphia-based Fox Rothschild has become the latest Pennsylvania law firm to launch a Florida office, snagging banking lawyer Raul Valdes-Fauli to head its operations in Coral Gables, Fla., near Miami.
The move follows on the heels of Cozen O’Connor’s opening of a West Palm Beach, Fla., office last month with a team of partners from Edwards Wildman and Duane Morris growing in the region with additional attorneys from Edwards.
Valdes-Fauli left his former firm, Fowler Rodriguez Valdes-Fauli — now Fowler Rodriguez — in Coral Gables last month and opened Fox Rothschild’s new office in mid-March. He will be joined by an associate, Thomas Oppenheimer, next week.
Fox Rothschild managing partner Mark L. Silow said the goal is to continue to add attorneys and build the Miami office into a full-service location. He said he is in talks with a few other individual attorneys and groups to that effect.
The firm is currently in temporary space that could house four or five lawyers. Silow said that, while there is no set headcount target for Miami, the goal for all of the firm’s offices is to be between at least 20 to 25 lawyers and that is on the low end for what he expects for Miami.
Silow said Miami has been on the firm’s radar screen ever since it got established in West Palm Beach in 2005. That office has since built up to 20 attorneys.
"We realized that Miami is a very distinct market from Palm Beach," Silow said. "A lot of business we have in Palm Beach is Miami-based litigation so it will be helpful to have a presence in Miami."
Aside from the convenience of having lawyers on the ground in Miami to handle work previously done out of West Palm Beach, Silow said the firm has found Miami to be a "vibrant, standalone community."
Valdes-Fauli’s practice is focused principally on representing businesses and high-net-worth individuals from Latin America and Spain in their U.S. business endeavors.
Silow said Latin America is definitely a large driver in Fox Rothschild’s interest in Miami, though he said the market has its own active business community. He said that is driven in part by capital coming from Latin America, but Europe has been a contributor to that as well in the last few years. Silow also noted the real estate community has rebounded in the market.
Silow said Miami "seems to have fully recovered. Things are really booming down there." He said Fox Rothschild has a growing international practice, so the Latin America component was a plus.
Valdes-Fauli, a former mayor of Coral Gables and former chairman of the board of Banesco Bank, had been a named partner at his former firm since 2005. Valdes-Fauli has been practicing for more than four decades, serving as senior tax counsel for Creole Petroleum Corp. in Caracas, Venezuela, and as tax counsel for Standard Oil Co. in New Jersey.
Attorneys at Fowler Rodriguez did not return calls for comment.
Fox Rothschild is the latest in a string of national and international law firms trying to break into the Miami market and capture lucrative Latin American legal business. Earlier this week, San Francisco-based Sedgwick acquired Miami boutique firm Abadin Cook to establish a foothold in Miami. Others to open in recent years include DLA Piper, Squire Sanders and Foley & Lardner.
Joe Ankus, a legal recruiter with Ankus Consulting of Weston, Fla., said he has not seen so much activity in the Miami legal market in three years.
"These firms are hoping that by planting the seeds in Miami, it grows fruit in their other offices," he said, adding that Fox Rothschild is a "highly respected Pennsylvania law firm."
Abbe Bunt of Bunt Legal Search of Hollywood, Fla., agreed.
"The Miami economy is clearly attractive to a variety of firms: global, national and regional," she said. "It seems every day we hear about a firm opening here or targeting Miami and looking for an opportunity to open."
Julie Kay is a reporter for the Daily Business Review, a Legal affiliate based in Florida.