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The 4 Cities Law Firms Have Flocked To So Far In 2019

Aebra Coe LAW360.COM

National and global law firms opened up a slew of new offices across the U.S. during the first half of 2019 as the legal industry rode high on a strong economy, but four cities attracted an outsized slice of that action.

At least five national or international law firms have opened up shop in Boston so far this year, while at least four have launched new offices in Miami, and at least three have made their debuts in Dallas and Minneapolis, according to a review of firm announcements by Law360.

Lateral partner movement among law firms is scalding-hot right now and has been the preferred method of growth for law firms as they enter new cities in 2019, according to Christopher Batz, a legal recruiter at the Lion Group.

"Partners are entertaining all opportunities right now," Batz said. "There's a real interest, a real curiosity, an opportunistic spirit in the air."

Successful law firm partners are sniffing out opportunities where they may be able to make a lateral move and increase their salary substantially or take on a leadership role, Batz explained.

"There is a momentum where partners are thinking and moving opportunistically, especially before the market crashes again," he said. "It's a great time for partners to be entertaining thoughts of better opportunities for themselves."

In each of the new office openings in Boston, Miami, Dallas and Minneapolis, all of the law firms making an entrance, with the exception of one, did so by bringing on lateral hires.

Here is a look at those openings, who was involved and how they did it.

Boston

So far this year, at least five firms with a national presence have opened new offices in Boston: Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Morrison & Foerster LLP, Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP, Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP and McGlinchey Stafford PLLC.

The year started off with a bang in Boston. During the first week of January, Orrick announced it was opening an office in the city with the addition of a 10-attorney privacy and cybersecurity team from Ropes & Gray LLP, and Pierce Bainbridge announced the launch of its office there with two partners, one from Boston's Murphy & King PC and one from Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP.

In February, Morrison & Foerster opened up a Boston office with the addition of a team of 22 finance lawyers from boutique Riemer & Braunstein LLP. The firm also hired an emerging companies and venture capital partner in Boston from Proskauer Rose LLP.

Finishing off the first half of the year strong, two more law firms set up shop in Boston.

Manatt Phelps opened up with one lateral partner and an internal professional: a cybersecurity and data privacy attorney from Holland & Knight LLP and a Manatt Phelps senior managing director who specializes in health care. And McGlinchey Stafford snagged two attorneys who focus on the financial sector and complex litigation from LeClairRyan in order to open up its office in the city.

Boston is now home to 40 of the 100 largest law firms in the U.S. by revenue, and 22 firms have opened their doors there since 2017, according to Robert Zinn, a recruiter for Major Lindsey & Africa in Boston.

"The abundance of companies and industries that are flourishing in the greater Boston area also happens to coincide with the prioritized areas of growth for numerous law firms," Zinn said, pointing to private equity, mergers and acquisitions, life sciences, venture capital, health care, intellectual property, real estate, white collar litigation and data privacy as the "driving forces" behind the growth surge.

Miami

FisherBroyles LLP started off the year with a Jan. 12 announcement that it had opened a Miami office with four new partners and three existing partners from its Naples, Florida, office. The new partners came from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson and a Miami-area boutique.

One month later, Polsinelli PC entered the South Florida city with five shareholders and one associate from GrayRobinson PA and Akerman LLP, who specialize in real estate, health care and corporate and transactional law.

Puerto Rico law firm McConnell Valdés LLC also set up shop in Miami, according to a Feb. 4 announcement. The firm did so by making use of its internal talent, bringing María Domínguez, head of its government enforcement and white collar and criminal defense practice team, to Miami from Puerto Rico to lead the new office.

Finally, in June, Morrison & Foerster added nine Latin America-focused transactional attorneys from Greenberg Traurig LLP to open up a Miami office that also serves as its Latin America desk.

"With a healthy economy and the largest migration of wealth in the country, Miami continues to be one of the fastest growing cities and a market where global law firms are positioning themselves to best service their clients and seize opportunity," Miami-based Major Lindsey & Africa recruiter Joshua Dull said. "Given the growth of the market and strategic position of Miami, we anticipate there will be additional office openings in the foreseeable future."

Dallas and Minneapolis

Spencer Fane LLP established a presence in Minneapolis earlier this year with the addition of three partners from Twin Cities-based Felhaber Larson, while Greenberg Traurig set up shop in the city in February with three DLA Piper lawyers. Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP also planted a flag in Minneapolis with the addition of eight partners from the city's oldest law firm, Gray Plant Mooty.

Meanwhile, LeClairRyan, Reed Smith LLP and Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP opened up new offices in Dallas during the first half of the year.

Bradley Arant kick-started its new Dallas office by hiring the co-founder of highly regarded Texas trial boutique Sayles Werbner PC, along with eight of the boutique's former members, in January.

In May, LeClairRyan and Reed Smith both opened up offices in the city. LeClairRyan did so with the addition of Constangy Brooks Smith & Prophete LLP partner William Hammel and several existing attorneys who had been working remotely in Dallas, and Reed Smith did so with the addition of eight partners from Perkins Coie LLP, Bracewell LLP and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.

Dallas boasts a broad economic base that provides firms more opportunity to successfully recruit in a state that is experiencing explosive, sustained competition for legal talent, according to Dallas legal recruiter Bob Croyle of Major Lindsey & Africa.

"For many firms that initially entered Texas through Houston, the next logical market for expansion is and has been Dallas," Croyle said. "We wholly expect that interest by firms in opening offices in Texas generally, and Dallas specifically, will continue."

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