Welcome back to the Big Law Business column on the changing legal marketplace written by me, Roy Strom. Today, we look at a Big Law firm’s move to Long Island and its plans for “working near home.” Sign up to receive this column in your inbox on Thursday mornings.
A big U.S. law firm is trying out a new twist on the work-from-home revolution—opening an office near lawyers’ vacation homes in the Hamptons.
Greenberg Traurig, a megafirm with more than $2 billion in revenue last year, is opening an office in Bridgehampton, New York as part of its new “work-near-home” strategy.
“Working from home all the time diminishes your home environment, and that is not all that healthy,” said Richard Rosenbaum, the firm’s executive chairman. “It might work while you’re sheltering from a pandemic. But after a while, having an office to go to, even if it’s close by, gives you a division that I think is healthy.”
The Miami-based firm is opening a second Long Island office in Garden City. With the new spaces, nearly 20 lawyers who now must enter Manhattan to visit their office will instead go to Long Island, where many of them already live and, presumably these days, work from home.
Lawyers at the firm who will take advantage of the new setup in Long Island include Mark Lesko, who the firm has hired after he recently finished serving as acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
“We’re going to have a major presence on Long Island with exceptional lawyers living the lifestyle they choose,” Rosenbaum said.
Greenberg’s “working near home” strategy represents a third option for Big Law firms searching for long-term workplace strategies coming out of the pandemic.
Most firms now offer “hybrid” options. They ask lawyers to come into the office two or three days a week.
There’s also the option to work from home full-time and permanently, though Quinn Emanuel so far is the only major firm to commit to that.
Greenberg is making its Hamptons play after a successful 2021.
While the firm’s full financial results aren’t yet available, Rosenbaum said the firm grew its revenue by 17% from a year ago, topping $2 billion for the first time. Profitability was up even more, he said, though specific figures weren’t available. That likely means Greenberg’s profits per equity partner will rise well above $2 million for the first time.
But more than finances, Rosenbaum stressed that the Long Island move is a way to get lawyers working together more often, something he thinks is vital to the firm’s culture.
“In the long term, money is not glue in law firms,” Rosenbaum said. “So we are very focused on that fundamental issue of bringing people together.”
Having offices in places that partners like to live will attract more lawyers to the firm, he said. That’s a strategy other law firms have employed. Kirkland & Ellis, for instance, opened offices in Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City last year.
Greenberg seems well-positioned on that front between its original office in Miami and its new one in the Hamptons. Both locations seem to be places where lawyers have been spending more time—and billing more hours than ever. I wrote last week about King & Spalding moving a big group of lawyers to South Florida, where recruiters say plenty of Big Law firms are sniffing around.
The Hamptons move is a relatively low-risk tactic considering the cost of a small office in the suburbs is relatively little, especially compared to Greenberg’s office space at the new One Vanderbilt building in Midtown.
Long Island clients won’t pay Manhattan rates, Rosenbaum said. But Greenberg has experience tailoring its costs to smaller markets, he said, pointing to examples like Warsaw, Poland.
Rosenbaum was non-committal about whether he will roll out his “working near home” strategy in other U.S. locations.
Chicago, for instance, might seem like a good place for it—but there is no obvious neighborhood or suburb where most partners live, he said. They’re scattered throughout mostly Northern and Western suburbs, Rosenbaum said.
So for now, Long Island will be the test case.
While a Hamptons office sounds like a convenient move for Big Law partners that have homes nearby, I’m not so sure “work near home” will take off across Big Law.
Most junior lawyers in New York probably aren’t hanging out in the Hamptons. Across the country, they live in major metro areas near the offices where they envisioned spending most of their days.
Simply put, they already live near the office.
But Big Law still has the problem of persuading those workers to come back to the office after working from home for so long.
My read on “hybrid” strategies is many law firms are using them to bide time until it’s safe and palatable to sell associates on a full-time return-to-office plan. That would be a mistake. Associates have never had more bargaining power, and firms offering flexibility will have a competitive advantage.
The Greenberg strategy shows law firms are looking for ways to be creative. That’s important, as Rosenbaum said, because the pandemic has created long-term changes.
Working from home is a change many young lawyers want to keep.
Worth Your Time
On Lateral Hires: Cooley hired a four-lawyer financial services group from Buckley as the firm continues to bolster services for banks and fintech companies. And Chris Opfer reports former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone hired veteran Republican lawyer Fred Fiedling to join Ellis George Cipollone. Fielding, who is 81, retired from Morgan Lewis.
On In-House Moves: The Washington Football team promoted deputy general counsel Mali Friedman to the team’s top lawyer role, Brian Baxter reports. She succeeds Damon Jones, who will join the Los Angeles Dodgers’ legal team.
On Judicial Appointments: President Joe Biden named eight judicial nominees including Arianna Freeman, who would be the first Black woman on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Madison Alder reports. The nominees also included lawyers from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and Jones Day.
That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading and please send me your thoughts, critiques, and tips.