March 21, 2007
Defections Mark Big Changes for Two Firms
Lathrop gains transactional attorneys at Blumenfeld's expense
By Heather Cole
early March, Brent Baldwin had a problem other law firm managing partners might
the managing member of Lathrop & Gage's
who until then had been leisurely scoping out office space in Clayton and points
farther west, hastily arranged the lease of 11,000 square feet in the
attorneys' move makes for a dramatic change for both Lathrop and Blumenfeld
Kaplan. Lathrop, which has 21 attorneys in a downtown
quick growth through the acquisition of large groups in the past, Blumenfeld is
falling back on a slow-but-steady expansion model, according to President Phil
Kaplan. Kaplan disputed the $4.5 million number, drawn from the estimates of
officials at Greensfelder and Lathrop, but wouldn't otherwise comment on a
figure for the revenue loss.
attorneys joining Lathrop as partners are well-known zoning attorney John King;
Bennett Keller and Scott Malin, whose practices include estate planning; Ira
Blank, a labor and employment attorney; Donn Herring, who has a health care and
business transactions practice; and Eric Schmitt, who has a real estate and
litigation practice. Andrew Hogenson, who also does estate planning, is joining
as an associate.
attorneys, who still were at Blumenfeld as of press time, weren't talking about
their moves. Kaplan pegged the departures to a relationship that "didn't
work out." Baldwin and Lathrop Chief Executive Tom Stewart said the
attorneys probably were attracted by the ability to grow their practices more at
a larger firm. Blumenfeld will have 37 attorneys after the exodus. Kansas
City-based Lathrop has 275.
new attorneys have client lists weighted toward wealthy individuals and their
attorneys' combined book of business is "more than $3 million and less than
$10 million," according to Stewart.
the core group and opening the Clayton office will help other attorneys make the
decision to join,
doesn't have a specific target for a number of lateral hires in
& Gage's acquisition comes with a cautionary tale for law firms, however:
Expansion announcements can turn into publicity over departures several years
down the line.
was the case with Blumenfeld Kaplan, which happily announced in 2001 the
addition of nine attorneys from Rosenblum Goldenhersh Silverstein & Zafft.
Four of the lawyers now joining Lathrop - Keller, Blank, Malin and Herring -
were the last of that group remaining at Blumenfeld.
others - Jay Nathanson, Marilyn Nathanson and Leonard Vines - were among those
who left for Greensfelder. The three have a book of business in excess of $1.5
million, according to the estimate of Eric Riess, manager of the corporate
department and leader of the franchise practice at Greensfelder.
attorneys, Mark Berry and Mark A. McColl, left last year for in-house positions
with clients, according to other former Blumenfeld attorneys.
and Marilyn Nathanson, who is married to tax attorney Jay, said they exited for
the opportunity to bring their franchise practice together with Greensfelder's.
people left for different reasons," said Vines, who added that he "was
very happy at Blumenfeld."
and the Nathansons were actively pursued by Greensfelder. That wasn't the case
with the group leaving for Lathrop. Blank, who had worked in
said an attraction for the attorneys' might be the opportunities to
"cross-sell" services to specialty areas Blumenfeld doesn't have, such
as bankruptcy, intellectual property, and mergers and acquisitions practices.
Lathrop also offers strong marketing support,
said he'd seen the fallout at other firms when mergers and acquisitions didn't
work out, but it was not usually something that happened at Blumenfeld. The
recent departures mark the first time in 17 years that Blumenfeld has lost a
senior partner, Kaplan said.
a 60-year-old firm. In our experience people who come here generally stay
here," he said.
Kaplan has been fairly successful at hanging on to attorneys, considering the
firm's growth over the past ten years, said Aaron Williams, president of Aaron
Consulting Inc., a nationwide attorney search and legal consulting firm based in
hovered at between 44 and 53 attorneys from 2000 to 2005, according to Missouri
Lawyers' rankings of the largest
addition to the Rosenblum group, Blumenfeld also acquired four attorneys from
the former Ziercher & Hocker firm in the last several years. Three of the
former Ziercher & Hocker attorneys still are with Blumenfeld, Kaplan said.
large practice group acquisitions or law firm mergers it is inevitable that
fallout will occur, either at the beginning or years later as the culture of the
larger entity makes adjustments and basically asks people to buy in to those
adjustments," Williams said. "This worked for a pretty long time with
(the Rosenblum) group."
now, Blumenfeld has no plans for either a merger or acquisition of a larger
group, and will stick with steady growth. Three associates are joining this
year, and the firm also will have two summer clerks, Kaplan said.
talking to some laterals, as we always do," he said.
© 2007 Lawyers Weekly Inc., All Rights Reserved.