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Saving Face - Largest Minority-Owned Law Firm in U.S. Continues Without Founding Partner

George Yoss
George T. Yoss

» Managing partner, Yoss LLP

» Before joining the firm, he was an assistant state attorney for 14 years, including seven as chief assistant state attorney under Janet Reno.

» Yoss LLP, with 116 attorneys in Florida, ranks 16th on Florida Trend’s list of the state’s biggest law firms.
[Photo: Matthew Pace]
Since the mid-1980s, Hank Adorno has been the face of Adorno & Yoss, a politically connected Miami law firm that grew to become the largest minority-owned law firm in the United States. At 63, Adorno was the firm’s “rainmaker,” a high-profile partner who recruited national clients, introduced them to other attorneys on staff and then made sure the clients were happy. His role in a class-action suit in 2004, however, changed everything, from his ability to practice law to the name of the firm.

In November, following years of legal battles, the Florida Supreme Court discarded a lower court recommendation to publicly reprimand Adorno for his role in settling the class-action suit and instead suspended Adorno from practicing law for up to three years. Soon after, the firm Adorno founded in 1986 dropped his name and became Yoss LLP. George T. Yoss, Adorno’s longtime colleague, remains managing partner, and Yoss LLP, after redistributing Adorno’s ownership share to other partners, remains the nation’s largest minority-owned firm.

Aside from Adorno not coming to the office, Yoss says, it has been “business as usual” at the firm. “I can tell you with respect to our national clients, many of whom Hank was involved in bringing into the firm, we simply received an outpouring of support and encouragement from all of them,” Yoss says. “Keep in mind, we haven’t lost any clients since the announcement was made about Hank. I think that’s a testament to the lawyers who had previously assumed the relationships status with those clients and the work we do for them.”

For Yoss, though, life will be different without his old friend. He and Adorno had been colleagues since 1975, when they were both prosecutors working for then-State Attorney Janet Reno. When Adorno started the firm, Yoss joined him less than a year later. It’s unlikely they’ll work together as lawyers, Yoss says. Even after the suspension is lifted, Adorno may have to pass the Bar exam again and submit to a Florida Bar investigation before he can return to practicing law. Given that Adorno is 63, Yoss says, “you do the numbers.”

Everything that Adorno did has been divvied up among other partners. Yoss, who as managing partner essentially runs the firm, says he’ll have to get used to making decisions without Adorno, whom he used to consult with five or six times a day. He’ll also do his part to make up for the loss of the firm’s public face.

“Last week, I went to two lunches and two dinners that I ordinarily wouldn’t have gone to before,” he says. “But now everyone has to step up and do some of those things that they weren’t doing that much of before.”

In The News

Robert Moffat
Moffat
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