A Remarkable Growth Curve
Greenberg Traurig, LLP is one of South Florida’s most remarkable success stories. By following a clear and consistent growth strategy, the once-small law firm founded in Miami has become the seventh largest in the United States. Now, under the direction of Chairman of the Board Larry Hoffman, Executive Chairman Cesar Alvarez, Chief Executive Officer Richard Rosenbaum, and President Matt Gorson, Greenberg Traurig (GT) is continuing to expand internationally, building a network of 1,800 attorneys in 33 offices on four continents.
“We have taken a proactive approach to the legal market and created our own platform,” says Alvarez. “By attracting top attorneys and building a strong firm-wide culture, we deliver consistent high-quality service in an efficient manner to clients from multiple locations.”
Back in 1967, three visionary attorneys joined together to create a new law firm with an entrepreneurial spirit. Bob Traurig, Hoffman and the late Mel Greenberg founded Greenberg Traurig as a New York-style commercial law firm focusing on middle market and start-up companies in a region where new immigrants were anxious to pursue the American dream.
GT founders Mel Greenberg, Robert Traurig and Larry Hoffman
“As forefathers of the firm, they took many of us under their wings and taught us how to be successful lawyers,” says Gorson, who joined the firm in 1973 — the same year as Alvarez — and led the firm’s real estate practice for many years. “Their philosophy was that you had to know your client and their business. Your client was your friend and your future. They taught all of us how to succeed and how to enjoy our practice and each other.”
In its first decade, GT focused on real estate and business transactions, in keeping with the South Florida market. Traurig soon became South Florida’s leading land use zoning lawyer, representing commercial, hospitality and residential developers. The firm also handled business, corporate and financial transactions, and soon dominated the legal market for initial public offerings (IPOs) from the region’s mid-size companies.
The firm’s first litigator, Alan Dimond, came aboard in 1975. Another major milestone occurred in 1981 when Florida Governor Reubin Askew joined the firm after leaving office. Rosenbaum joined in 1985.
Greenberg Traurig began growing geographically in the 1980s. Under the leadership of Hoffman, who succeeded Greenberg as CEO, GT opened its first satellite office in West Palm Beach in 1984, followed by a Fort Lauderdale office the following year. The firm’s growth continued in the 1990s, with new offices in Tallahassee, New York, Washington, D.C., and Orlando. Since 1996, GT has opened at least one new office every year, with the exception of 2007.
“Three decades ago, our executive team recognized the need for growth,” Gorson says. “Miami had a cyclical economy because of its dependence on real estate — something that’s still true today. By expanding we would be able to diversify our client base and build new practice areas. For instance, opening a New York office was a great way to develop our intellectual property (IP) practice.”
| GT Chairman Cesar Alvarez, President Matthew Gorson and |
CEO Richard Rosenbaum
Alvarez says GT had a clear expansion strategy. “We wanted to be in major U.S. financial and government centers, and in states that were growing in population,” he says. That approach led to new GT offices in cities like Albany, Austin and Sacramento. “We also wanted to match our offices with our client base,” Alvarez adds. “Some legal services, like real estate investments and transactions, are inherently local in nature.”
Unlike other large law firms, GT decided not to grow through mergers with smaller, local firms. “When you take in a dozen or so new lawyers, there are always a few who aren’t excited about the merger,” Gorson says. “We feel it’s better to add one or two new attorneys at a time. So, we have typically hired good people with the right skills and experience to help us build that local office. That has been one of the keys to maintaining our firm’s culture.”
Alvarez says that attorneys generally like the resources available in a large law firm, but dislike dealing with layers of bureaucracy. Therefore, GT has focused on communication and compensation systems that promote local decision-making and foster collaboration rather than conflict.
Gorson adds that the firm’s supportive culture extends to the business staff as well. “We try to recruit the best possible people in any field,” he says. “From the person who makes copies in office services, to the paralegals who pore over documents and to the executive assistants who make sure that things run smoothly, everyone is an important and vital member of our family.”
Building a nationwide footprint has allowed GT to attract larger corporate clients, including many Fortune 500 companies. “An institutional investor in Denver, who is buying properties in New York, California and Mexico, can retain GT to do the work, rather than hiring half a dozen local firms,” Gorson says. “That provides the client with more consistent service, benefits our office in Denver and generates more revenue for the firm.”
Now, GT is looking to continue its expansion by focusing more on the international markets. Led by Rosenbaum and Patricia Menendez-Cambo, chair of the firm’s global practice, GT is examining potential locations in Israel, Germany, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Russia and other global markets. “We have an opportunistic approach,” says Rosenbaum. “While the U.S. is a great legal market, we know if that if want to be a major global firm, we need to keep growing our international network.”
GT is also dedicated to leadership in local and regional communities across the country. The firm’s Miami partners, for instance, have been involved in arts and cultural organizations, chambers of commerce, United Way of Miami-Dade, University of Miami, Jewish Federation of Greater Miami and numerous other civic groups. “We believe in being great public servants who devote time and resources to the community,” says Gorson.
The firm and its partners have been continually recognized for excellence in the legal profession as well. For example, in 2008, Alvarez was honored by Chambers and Partners with its Lifetime Achievement Award and by the American Bar Association with its Spirit of Excellence Award. And in 2011, GT was reported as having the most minority partners among Am Law 200 firms participating in the Diversity Scorecard published by The Minority Law Journal.
Through the Greenberg Traurig Fellowship Foundation, founded and led by shareholder Holly Skolnick, GT provides funding for lawyers and law students to work with public interest groups. For instance, the foundation is the largest sponsor of Equal Justice Works Fellowships in the United States and has supported more than 100 fellows in 38 cities since 1999. Through their efforts, local organizations promote equal access to the justice system for society’s most vulnerable individuals and communities.
As Gorson says, “Like every family, GT has a past, a present and a future. The goal in the early years of the firm was to establish a truly great presence in South Florida.This meant hard work, long hours and a commitment to our clients and the community. We went through the same growing pains as any new enterprise would, but through it all we remained a family. Today, we are one of the top law firms in the United States with a bright future still ahead.”
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