Although Holland & Knight was debt-free, the firm began going over its books more frequently so that the partners, unlike those at Dewey & LeBoeuf, would have a clear picture of the firm’s financials. Additionally, Sonberg says, staying abreast of technological change is key to the day-to-day running of the firm, pointing out that the younger attorneys now draft their own pleadings and contracts. They rely more on computerized templates and less upon legal secretaries than those attorneys at the firm who have practiced for 25 years or more, he says. That technology saves time and money, freeing up the secretaries to work for several attorneys, as opposed to the one-to-one ratio of years past.
For Alan J. Kluger, founding member of Kluger Kaplan, technology is the big equalizer in law firms. His litigation firm relies heavily on predictive coding — software that helps locate the most relevant content — to sort through reams of discovery documents. He is currently using that process to whittle five million documents to what is most pertinent in one of his current cases. “I had my group get it down to 1,500,” he says. “I got it down to 200. I am going to go through it and will get it down to 90.”
When Kluger first started his litigation-only firm in 2009, he modeled it after similar firms in the bigger cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., with the capacity to throw numerous attorneys at big, complex cases. Until recently, he says, that model “hadn’t really been successful in Miami, Houston, Atlanta — what I call the second-tier cities.” But that’s changing as Miami matures, he says.
John C. Sumberg, Bilzin Sumberg’s managing partner, agrees.
“I think what’s happened is Miami is becoming part of a global community,” Sumberg says. “I think Miami and New York are the two most interesting cities for economic development today.”
So true, says, Greenberg Traurig’s Rosenbaum.
“Miami is just one of those cities when you go around the world, it is a place where people want to be. Some of our clients who can live anywhere choose to live in Miami. The fund people like the tax environment. They like the weather, the excitement.”
That influx of international interest and financing is also stoking Miami’s growing importance. While Asia is a big backer in New York, Miami’s financial future is being fueled by investments from Russia and Latin America, Rosenbaum says.
For that reason, Miami’s largest firms — Akerman Senterfitt, Greenberg Traurig, Holland & Knight — all see Latin America as part of their core business. Over the summer months, Holland & Knight even opened offices in Mexico City and Dallas to further that interest.
Miami’s evolution from a sleepy Southern town to a sophisticated city provides a comfort level for Latin American businessmen who are seeking secure investments in a stable environment. Instead of being a flyover for those businessmen en route to New York, Miami now serves as a destination point.
“It’s now recognized as a full gateway city,” Rosenbaum says, comparing Miami to New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco — all traditional gateway cities for international business. “That’s why you are seeing a lot of legal activity in Miami.”