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National Law Firms Open New Offices in South Florida

Raul J. Valdes-Fauli joined one of the nation’s largest law firms this spring. “I needed a bigger platform for my practice,” says the long-time Coral Gables attorney who is now a partner in Fox Rothschild’s new South Florida office. And Valdes-Fauli is far from alone. In the past two years, many leading attorneys have joined national firms like DLA Piper, Foley & Lardner and Simon PLC in their recently opened South Florida offices.

While each national firm has its own business plan, South Florida is perceived as an up-and-coming metropolitan region with a growing demand for litigation and transactional services. And as the global economic recovery continues, some national firms are expanding their office networks to provide close-at-hand service to individual, family and corporate clients already residing in the region. However, the prime attraction for many firms is South Florida’s strategic location as the number one gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean.

As Miami attorney Ramón Abadin, now a member of Sedgwick LLC, says, “South Florida is a dynamic international business center with a growing economy. It’s also a desirable place to live, attracting residential investment from around the world.”

Cozen O’Connor

Established in 1970, Cozen O’Connor ranks among the 100 largest law firms in the United States. With 575 attorneys in 22 offices on two continents, Cozen O’Connor represents a broad array of leading global corporations and middle market companies in practice areas that include litigation, business law, and government relations.

D. Scott Elliott

Although the Philadelphia-based firm has had a Miami office for several years, it lacked a bricks-and-mortar presence in Palm Beach County until this spring.

“Expanding our presence and capabilities in the vibrant South Florida market is a priority for the firm,” says Cozen O’Connor Chief Executive Officer Michael J. Heller. “We look forward to continuing our expanded presence and capabilities in Florida.”

Located in downtown West Palm Beach in the Waterfront Clematis building, the firm’s new office has seven attorneys including former partners at Edwards Wildman and Duane Morris.

“Cozen’s decision to expand into Palm Beach County was a function of its overall strategy of expanding in practice areas where it has the deepest teams of attorneys,” says D. Scott Elliott, office managing partner, who practices with the firm’s Private Client Services group, representing high net worth individuals and families and corporate fiduciaries. Elliott’s practice includes tax, business succession and charitable planning, as well as probate and trust litigation.

“The firm has had a substantial private client and trusts and estates practice in New York and Philadelphia, with many clients living in Florida,” says Elliott. “In that regard, this office is a natural extension of those practice areas, and an ideal fit for me.”

Other Cozen O’Connor attorneys will focus on real estate, corporate transactions, labor and employment, and commercial litigation, adds Elliott. “Most of our attorneys have always practiced in national firms, and we see new opportunities to grow with Cozen O’Connor.”

Richard Dunn, Cozen O’Connor’s Miami office managing partner added that the new attorneys bring significant depth to the firm’s Florida practice. “Their strengths in real estate, estate planning and corporate insurance are an excellent complement to our existing litigation practice areas,” he says. “We are thrilled to bring them on board, and to augment our Florida presence.”

Jones Day

Jones Day is one of the largest law firms in the world, with more than 2,400 lawyers including offices in Europe, Latin America and Asia. In April, the firm opened its 40th global office on Brickell Avenue in Miami under the direction of Pedro Jimenez, partner-in-charge, and Enrique ‘Rick’ Martin, office administrative partner.

 Pedro Jimenez

“In years past, the Latin American practices of many major law firms, including Jones Day, were centered in New York City, primarily to access the debt and equity markets,” said Steve Brogan, managing partner of Jones Day. “Today, corporate and business leaders in Latin America have increasingly made Miami their point of contact in the U.S.

Jones Day’s expansion to Miami reflects the firm’s “continuing commitment to the rapidly growing Latin America market,” according to Jimenez, who expects the new office to grow to eight to ten attorneys in the next year. The office will focus on capital markets, mergers and acquisitions, lending, project finance and restructuring.

“We view Miami as a key business center for Latin America,” says Jimenez, noting the firm opened offices in Mexico City in 2009 and in Sao Paulo in 2011. “Our clients look to us for advice on doing business in Latin America. Having an office in Miami lets us better represent their interests in 18 other countries, including Colombia, Panama and Argentina. It also allows us to serve the firm’s many clients who now live in Florida.”

Luis Riesgo, chairman of Jones Day’s Latin America practice and partner-in-charge of the firm’s Brazil office, says, “Adding Miami to our long-standing offices in Madrid and New York, and our more recent expansion in Brazil and Mexico, makes us among the first integrated global law firms with a regional approach to Latin America. In combination, these locations create a critical mass of legal capacity in key business centers of the Latin America region.”

Jimenez said the Miami office will focus on capital markets, mergers and acquisitions, lending, project finance, and restructuring in Latin America. It will also have a significant focus on dispute resolution, including litigation, arbitration, issues and appeals, labor and employment, intellectual property, executive compensation, and health care. His own practice focuses primarily on U.S. and cross-border transactions, including secured financings, and distressed acquisitions.

“Along with our substantial capabilities in Mexico and Brazil, a presence in Miami allows us to establish a deep bench of gifted lawyers who can effectively guide our clients seeking to do business in the region,” added Brogan. “An equally important reason for opening in Miami is to handle the growing litigation docket coming out of the state. Our office in Miami will be staffed by lawyers who have the experience and ability to try cases throughout Florida.”

A native of Miami, Jimenez began his career with White & Case in Miami, and moved to Jones Day’s New York office in 2006. Since then, he has been involved in high-profile matters, including the Chrysler and Dana restructurings, and led some of the firm’s largest cross-border restructurings, including those of Spansion Japan, Costamex, and PT Arpeni Pratama.

“For me, this was a great opportunity to return home and reconnect with my former colleagues in this market, while building our firm’s international practice,” Jimenez says. “While many national firms are looking at South Florida to grow their litigation services, we see huge opportunities on the transactional side. South Florida has a wealth of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking legal talent that we can draw upon when providing services to clients in Latin America.”

Sedgwick LLP

On April 1, San Francisco-based Sedgwick LLP acquired Abadin Cook, a boutique Miami firm led by Ramón Abadin and Kimberly Cook, its husband-and-wife founding partners.

 Kimberly Cook Ramon Abadin

Founded in 1933, Sedgwick is celebrating its 80th anniversary as an major international litigation and business law firm that provides counseling, risk management, litigation management, trial, appellate and transactional legal services to corporate clients. The firm has more than 370 attorneys in offices around the world, including an office in Fort Lauderdale that opened in 2009 and focuses on product liability, intellectual property, commercial, media and class action services.

“Sedgwick takes pride in having a deep trial bench,” says Cook, who specializes in professional liability defense, complex litigation and catastrophic injury defense cases.  “There are not a lot of female trial lawyers in our region, and Ray and I form a unique package. We both worked with Gordon James, managing partner of Sedgwick’s Fort Lauderdale office, and it’s great to be together on the same team again.”

“Joining the national firm gives Abadin and Cook’s local team the ability to service a larger client base,” says Abadin, who focuses on complex commercial, insurance and corporate litigation matters as well as specialty tort defense litigation and premises liability.

Abadin notes that Sedgwick has given its new Miami team the flexibility to grow the office’s practice areas in keeping with the evolving needs of the market, both regionally and aboard. “I’m Cuban born and one of three bilingual attorneys in our office,” he says. “We have an international perspective, which helps in serving clients who have homes and investments in South Florida. Miami is a global city with plenty of room for newcomers, and we look forward to supporting that growth.”

Fox Rothschild

After more than 40 years of practice, Valdes-Fauli joined Philadelphia-based Fox Rothschild in March with associate Thomas Oppenheimer. The national firm, which has more than 500 attorneys, has had an office in West Palm Beach since 2005.

 Raul Valdez-Fauli

“Fox Rothschild had been looking to establish a Latin American practice, and Miami was a natural choice,” says Valdes-Fauli, whose practice is focused principally on representing businesses and high-net-worth individuals from Latin America and Spain in their U.S. business endeavors. “This was a very good fit, since almost every business sector in Miami – real estate, tourism, banking and trade – has something to do with Latin America.”

From its new Miami office, Fox Rothschild’s legal services include tax, estate planning, real estate, intellectual property, immigration, litigation and Latin American work. “With his extensive ties to the local business community as well as his international connections, Raul was the prime individual to help us realize our goal of expansion in South Florida,” said Mark L. Silow, the firm’s managing partner.

Valdes-Fauli has also been a partner at several law firms in South Florida and was formerly managing partner of Fowler Rodriguez Valdes-Fauli. He was a senior tax counsel for Creole Petroleum Corporation in Caracas, Venezuela, and tax counsel for Standard Oil Company in New Jersey. He served as mayor of Coral Gables from 1993 to 2001, and currently serves as treasurer of the Spain-Florida 500 Years Foundation, chairman of the France Florida Foundation for the Arts and is Honorary Consul for the Republic of El Salvador. 
“I’m looking forward to introducing Fox Rothschild to our unique market,” says Valdes-Fauli, who is aiming to grow the office to more than 20 attorneys. “We offer clients the right combination of local experience with the support of a strong national network.”

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