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Being There - Florida Law, Overseas

“We believe we can handle international work very well from here.” — George LeMieux, chairman, Gunster

Florida-born Holland & Knight has offices in four foreign countries. Greenberg Traurig has attorneys in six. Miami’s Diaz Reus [“Danger Zone,” August] built its reputation on being in every country where it sees opportunity. The Miami firm’s international presence includes Caracas, Frankfurt, São Paulo, Kurdistan and Iraq.

“In order to succeed financially and professionally in today’s world,” says Michael Diaz Jr., Diaz Reus’ founding partner, “you need to expand outside the U.S. borders.”

West Palm Beach-based Gunster wants international business, too, but doesn’t think it needs to open an office outside of Florida to get it. Rather than investing in office space overseas, the firm has been hiring Florida-based attorneys with experience in international law and international connections.

“We want to stay focused on Florida, and we want to have our practice in Florida,” says George LeMieux, chairman of the firm, which has 10 offices and 160 attorneys in Florida. “We don’t want to get captivated by the shiny object of opening an office in a different place. You do not need to be in a different market than Florida to do international business. I would contend that Florida is the most diverse state in the country and that southeast Florida is the most diverse region of the country.”

George Mencio, a Miami-based Holland & Knight partner who co-leads the firm’s international and cross-border transactions group, says his firm only expands overseas where it makes business sense and where it’s already doing work, such as Colombia, where it opened an office in May.

“Over the years, we established very good working relationships with attorneys in foreign jurisdictions, people who are tried and tested, but when we have our own office, we can keep the whole thing in house.”

Of Greenberg Traurig’s 35 offices, six are overseas. CEO Richard A. Rosenbaum says having a presence where clients do business and have investments is key to being a successful global firm. “To us, that means continuing to provide unmatched presence across the United States and coverage of the Americas, as well as maintaining strategic, disciplined centers of excellence in the other key world regions,” Rosenbaum says.

Richard A. Jacobson, a shareholder in Tampa-based Fowler White Boggs’ international practice group, is on the board of TerraLex, an international legal network of 160 law firms in 100 countries. By collaborating with member firms in other countries, he says Fowler White Boggs can do international work without going to the expense of opening a foreign bureau.

“You will find the multinational firms will have offices in many jurisdictions, usually fairly small offices, and they have gone to that jurisdiction usually because a major client wants them there,” Jacobson says. “If I have a client who wants to do business in a foreign country, it’s important to me that in that country I’m working with a law firm that is well established in that community and jurisdiction. Frankly, I would rather have that than a five-person branch office of some multinational law firm.”

Exotic Locales

Florida Trend’s 2012 TopRank law firms with international offices:

» Greenberg Traurig: Mexico City, Tel Aviv, London, Amsterdam, Warsaw and Shanghai

» Holland & Knight: Beijing, Bogotá, Mexico City and Abu Dhabi

» Shutts & Bowen: Amsterdam

» Becker & Poliakoff: Prague

» Foley & Lardner: Tokyo, Shanghai and Brussels