October 20, 2014

Marketing the Law

Roots vs. Reach

Two firms take different approaches in trying to appeal to clients.

Cynthia Barnett | 1/1/2006
Holland & Knight has a proud Florida history dating to 1889, when Peter O. Knight moved from Fort Myers to establish his practice in Tampa. There, he was active in law, politics and industry, helping found Tampa Electric Co. and Exchange National Bank of Tampa, which eventually became part of Bank of America. Numerous mergers with some of the best firms in the state, including the firm that former Florida governor and U.S. Sen. Spessard Holland founded in his hometown of Bartow, resulted in the name Holland & Knight in 1968.

But H&K has chosen to emphasize its reach rather than its roots. It no longer considers itself a Florida firm, says Managing Partner Howell Melton Jr. That point recently hit a couple dozen of the firm's lawyers close to home, with Melton's Friday-after-Thanksgiving voice mail announcement that H&K will shutter the Bradenton and Lakeland offices, consolidating that staff into Tampa. (The firm also will pull out of unprofitable offices in Providence, R.I.; San Antonio; Seattle; and Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.)

Melton insists that today's H&K is a global firm with no headquarters. He's based in New York. The new CFO is in Tampa. The new COO is in Orlando. The national legal press refers to H&K alternately as a Washington, D.C., firm (that's the largest office) or a New York firm (that's where the press releases are datelined). The Florida press and many Floridians think of it as a Tampa-based firm, but that's inaccurate, Melton says. "Today, the headquarters is in New York," Melton said in a telephone interview from Manhattan. "Next week, it might be in Orlando."

Akerman Senterfitt is taking the opposite approach, sticking to its slogan: "Our footprint begins in Florida." For years, as H&K and Greenberg Traurig expanded aggressively outside Florida, Akerman Senterfitt stayed focused on the Sunshine State. But two years ago, the firm opened a Washington, D.C., office. Recently, it opened an office in New York City, staffed with about 10 lawyers.

The intent is not to become a national firm, says Chairman and CEO J. Thomas Cardwell. The idea is to better serve those Florida clients who have interests in the nation's commerce center or the nation's capital. "It's difficult to live and breathe without having to connect with Washington," Cardwell says. "And more capital flows to and from New York than anywhere else." The firm plans to build both offices significantly, to between 30 and 50 lawyers each. "But we expect to remain a Florida law firm," Cardwell says.

Holland & Knight
H&K emphasizes its reach and no longer considers itself a Florida firm, says Managing Partner Howell Melton Jr.

Akerman Senterfitt
Akerman Senterfitt is taking the opposite approach, sticking to its slogan: "Our footprint begins in Florida.


You can reach Cynthia Barnett at cynthia_barnett@yahoo.com

Tags: Politics & Law, Around Florida, Government/Politics & Law

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