King & Spalding is entering the Miami market, relocating 12 partners to the city that has become an alternative Wall Street workplace during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Randy Bassett, who heads the tobacco and consumer products trial practice, will relocate from Atlanta headquarters to serve as managing partner for the new office. He has represented United Parcel Service Inc., General Motors Co., and Mercedes-Benz in Florida federal courts, Bloomberg Law data show.
“It doesn’t escape our notice that there has been movement into Miami from New York and among private equity firms and some of the firms we’ve historically worked with, Bassett said in an interview. “We see that as one of those growing opportunities that would complement the work we’ve traditionally done in Florida and for Florida-based clients.”
Miami has seen an influx of private equity and venture capital firms as South Florida became an destination for Wall Street during the height of the pandemic, with companies seek lower taxes and warmer weather.
Law firms are starting to follow. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan opened a Miami office in May, hiring lawyers from Hogan Lovells and Greenspoon Marder. Armstrong Teasdale, a St. Louis-based firm, this month acquired 12-lawyer Miami litigation boutique Waldman Barnett.
Josh Dull, a Miami-based partner at law firm recruiting company Major, Lindsey & Africa, said a handful of highly profitable firms are looking into opening a Miami office. They are by the lure of private equity clients that made the South Florida move last year like Blackstone, Apollo Global Management and Thoma Bravo.
“The biggest driver for firms considering Miami is this migration of wealth and talent and businesses that are moving to Miami,” Dull said. “Law firms want to follow their clients.”
King & Spalding’s 23rd office, set to open in early February, will handle work including mass tort, consumer class action, healthcare, international arbitration, government and public policy.
With more than 50 King & Spalding lawyers licensed to practice in Florida, the Miami outpost will also service the firm’s private equity, fintech, and healthcare technology practices, the firm said.
The firm said it has represented hundreds of litigation clients in Florida, including more than 100 jury trials in the past decade. Its healthcare practice advises several large Florida hospital systems and healthcare providers.
So far, only a handful of Big Law firms have made the move King & Spalding is making. Miami has yet to draw interest from high-profit Wall Street firms in the way Silicon Valley has in recent years.
The spike in interest could lead to a fight for talent in a city where the legal market has historically lagged the kind of scale as in mature markets like New York or Chicago. Dull said most law firms engaged in lateral hire discussions with Miami partners are talking to the same relatively small group of people.
“Miami is a big, sexy city known all over the world, but the legal market is small and not mature yet,” Dull said. “It’s headed in the right direction. It’s growing and becoming more sophisticated.”
King & Spalding’s Bassett said the firm opted to move its existing partners to ensure the new office maintains the firm’s culture. He said the firm is always looking to hire “high-end, strategic” partners and would take that approach in Miami also.
“There are some outstanding lawyers practicing in South Florida,” Bassett said.
King & Spalding, where partners earned on average about $3.5 million in 2020, would be among the most profitable firms with a Miami outpost, according to AmLaw data. It would rank behind Quinn Emanuel’s $4.7 million average profits per partner and Weil Gotshal & Manges, where partners earned $4.5 million.
The largest firms in the Miami legal market include Greenberg Traurig, Holland & Knight, and Akerman—all firms with long histories in the city. Other firms with large presences there include White & Case, McDermott Will & Emery and DLA Piper.