January is an active time for lawyer-movement between big firms, but typically only a few moves are considered game changers that elevate a firm’s profile and lead to additional business opportunities and increased profitability.
It’s still difficult to gauge what the precise business impact will be of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s decision to quit Bracewell & Giuliani, a Texas-based firm that carried his name and whose New York office he founded in 2005. Yet in joining the larger, global law firm Greenberg Traurig, Giuliani brings name recognition, as well as colleague Marc Mukasey in what could be a move that opens up untapped business opportunities for the Florida-founded firm.
The biggest question is what caused this sudden lateral leap? When Giuliani first joined Bracewell in 2005, he commented in The New York Times that “the purpose is to grow the law firm,” which then staffed about 400 lawyers.
Bracwell, today, staffs about 450 lawyers in Texas, New York, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, Seattle, Dubai and London, according to the firm. Greenberg Traurig staffs about 1,950 lawyers with 38 offices around the world.
In an interview, Giuliani outlined key factors of what he called a personally “difficult” decision to leave Bracewell & Giuliani. And the growth of the $1.2 billion-grossing Greenberg Traurig was paramount.
“These are people who were close personal friends of mine,” said Giuliani, ticking off a handful of names, including Patrick Oxford, chair of Bracewell, Daniel Connelly, managing partner of the firm’s New York office, and Scott Segal, co-head of the firm’s federal government relations practice.
Giuliani described his decision as one that was rooted in a desire to service clients on a broader scale: He said that he wanted to offer cybersecurity and white collar defense expertise on a farther-reaching platform, in foreign jurisdictions where his clients operate.
“It was, from our view, taking a ten- or twelve-office platform to a forty-office platform in parts of the world where I spend a lot of time,” he said.
Giuliani noted that, since leaving his post as mayor, “I traveled to sixty five countries and probably made two hundred foreign trips. I’ve done a lot of work in South America, Japan, the Middle East, Europe” that has included “a great deal of security work, which involves cybersecurity.”
Specifically, Giuliani said that he has worked with a number of governments to implement programs to reduce their crime rates, including in Medellin, Colombia, and that he plans to continue that work in California and elsewhere.
Giuliani also said he has been working with corporations to implement compliance programs — which he called “preventative medicine” — to ensure that executives comply with federal anti-bribery and other regulations being enforced on multi-national companies.
“We represent the Defense Ministry of Columbia, and we represent Puerto Rico” on safety and security matters, he said, adding that he also provides services in Mexico and Israel, where Greenberg Traurig has a presence.
Finally, Giuliani said that he sees cybersecurity as being a big threat to corporations and that he would like to provide solutions. In different phases of his career, as a federal prosecutor and defense attorney, he said he has tried to improve society: “I did it with the Mafia and with white collar crime throughout New York State... and I realized that about (10 years ago) the fastest growing crime is cyber theft, and during that time I’ve been trying to convince corporate America that you have to do a lot more about this.”
He added: “It’s only over the past two or three years that people have been paying attention, with the breaches you read about.”
On his collaboration with Marc Mukasey, Giuliani said that he has known Marc since he was six-years-old because of his longtime relationship with Marc’s father, Michael Mukasey, also a prominent member of the federal bar in New York City.
As the Washington Post noted in a 2007 article , in the 1970s, the pair built a case against Bertram Podell, a three-term Brooklyn congressman who had been given illegal payments to obtain a route for an airplane.
From the Post story:
To help Giuliani prepare for the trial in 1974, Mukasey played Podell in a rehearsal and did such a good job that Giuliani eviscerated Podell in cross-examination, causing him to drop his glasses in nervousness one day and decide to plead guilty the next.
When Giuliani was considering a job offer from the New York law firm where Mukasey was working in 1977, Mukasey anonymously faxed a prank letter to Giuliani questioning his friend’s qualifications for the job. “Giuliani showed me the letter,” former federal judge Harold Tyler, a mentor to both men, recalled in a 1995 Newsday profile of Mukasey. “I said, ‘Do you think this is a joke?’ And Giuliani said, ‘Yes, but I’m not sure.’ So he called Mukasey and said, ‘Damn it, I am qualified.’ And he listed the reasons why. It was only then that Giuliani realized he should take the offer.”
In 1994, Giuliani selected Mukasey, then a federal judge, to preside over his inauguration as mayor. The ties only strengthened after Giuliani left City Hall. Mukasey’s son, Marc, a former assistant U.S. attorney himself, works as a partner at Giuliani’s consulting firm, and Giuliani named Mukasey and his son to one of his presidential campaign advisory committees.
Mukasey and Giuliani “are two people who are extremely close -- extremely, extremely close -- and everybody knows that,” said New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat. “This is a wonderful thing for Rudy Giuliani.”
Giuliani said that Michael Mukasey, who practices at Debevoise & Plimpton still works with him on some matters, including one confidential regulatory compliance matter the pair handled over 10 months for a pharmaceutical company about two years ago.
“He and I refer cases back and forth to each other,” said Marc. “I do it with great confidence, but he probably does it with a bit more trepidation. It’s a great honor to be working with my dad and Rudy.”