Miami is having a moment in the sun as a new hotspot for big law firms

January 30, 2020; Miami, FL, USA; General overall view of the palm trees and downtown Miami skyline. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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  • Kirkland, Winston & Strawn, King & Spalding opened offices in Miami in 2022
  • South Florida has attracted Wall Street executives and technology companies

(Reuters) – The recent office openings of Kirkland & Ellis and Winston & Strawn in Miami position it as the latest popular city for big law firms keen to track the exodus of attorneys and clients south amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like other previously under-the-radar legal markets in Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City, Miami has come to prominence alongside growing workplace flexibility and a talent shortage for corporate attorneys.

“If you can find a high-performing team in the very tough talent battle that’s going on right now, if you can find some practice groups that have good, strong client relationships, you’re going to go after them,” said Michael McKenney, senior client advisor for the Law firm group Citi Private Bank.

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Florida has long been home to some great law firms, including Greenberg Traurig, Holland & Knight, and Akerman. Miami has also served as a bridge for US attorneys working with Latin American clients.

The pandemic has helped Miami build a new client base as Florida has attracted tech companies alongside formerly New York-based executives, bankers and fund managers.

Financial firms Elliott Management Corp, Thoma Bravo and Citadel have all said they are flocking to the South.

“Obviously, it hasn’t escaped our notice that as the pandemic has progressed, Wall Street firms have moved some of their operations to South Florida,” said Randy Bassett, managing partner of King & Spalding’s Miami office, which opened earlier this year.

Firms are also swooping into the state to poach Florida-based attorneys, as Winston & Strawn did to open its new office. Others like Kirkland have found their own lawyers willing to relocate.

According to Bassett, King & Spalding already had about 50 attorneys in Florida working there for clients in areas such as litigation and healthcare. He said several had already relocated to South Florida during the pandemic.

Remote work from the pandemic era has allowed some attorneys to relocate to Miami for personal reasons like the warm climate and lack of a state income tax, followed by law firms, law industry observers said.

According to a 2021 report by the American Bar Association, the number of attorneys in Florida increased 19% between 2011 and 2021, making it the third fastest growing state for the profession.

But Miami still starts out with a historically smaller legal market and legal talent pool than many other cities where major law firms have built their ranks.

“The range for people at the talent level is limited in terms of rates that mesh well and the types of clients that some of these firms want to see,” said Joshua Dull, a Miami-based partner in attorney recruitment Company Major, Lindsey & Africa.

The interest rate differential could pose a challenge for law firms used to clients with deeper pockets elsewhere.

According to Wolters Kluwer rate data collected in 2021, non-litigation partners in Miami billed a median of $552 per hour, while their counterparts in the more traditional legal markets of New York and Chicago were billed at median rates of $1,175 and $886, respectively.

Large out-of-town firms have opened offices in Miami before, such as Reed Smith and Polsinelli in the 2010s. But this round of entry could herald a larger influx.

“You’ve seen other firms enter this market and the motivation to delve into this market I think has evolved along with the market itself,” said Enrique Martin, who left Jones Day to take on the new one to manage Winston & Strawn’s Miami office.

“It’s no longer just about entering the market to capture Latin American works,” he said. “It’s about entering a city that has become a major financial center.”

Continue reading:

Kirkland, Winston & Strawn join major law firms flocking to Miami

King & Spalding enters the hot Florida legal market with an office in Miami

Law firms went west and south in 2021 to find new markets

Quinn Emanuel expands in the Southeast and recruits the Mayor of Miami for a new Florida office

The pandemic is prompting Wall Street to look south for Florida’s life and work advantages

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Sarah Remember

Thomson Reuters

Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security and legal business, including legal innovations and key players in the legal services industry. You can reach her at [email protected]

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