Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein P.C. is a law firm on the move, literally and figuratively.
Literally: The firm recently moved two-and-one-half miles from its longtime office in Mineola to new digs in Garden City.
Figuratively: An upcoming attorney hire will be the firm’s 10th of 2007, bringing Meyer Suozzi to 68 total attorneys, including 45 on Long Island.
It’s all part of the firm’s “strategic plan” for growth, according to Managing Partner Lois Carter Schlissel.
“You hear that phrase all the time, but we have a concrete process,” Schlissel said, a process that starts with the evolving needs of clients. “If you’re going to be a full-service firm, you can’t rely on departments created in 1960.”
Real estate and land use are areas Meyer, Suozzi identified as a growing client need. To meet it, the firm hired Abraham Krieger, who had been in private practice for 31 years, specializing in commercial real estate law. Three associates were hired to work alongside Krieger.
That sort of approach – hiring a new partner and a support group of associates to work alongside – is an example of Meyer Suozzi’s“well-leveraged growth,” Schlissel said, mixing greater and lesser experience. Of the nine 2007 hires so far, two have been partners, two of counsel and five associates. Another associate will be hired in the New York office in the next two to three weeks, Schlissel added.
Meyer Suozzi’s growth is part of a trend of large firms getting larger, according to Schlissel. Uniondale’s Rivkin Radler, Long Island’s largest law firm, recently added seven attorneys, for instance.
Much of Meyer Suozzi’s growth has been through the addition of solo practitioners, who bring expertise and good client lists and benefit from the larger firm’s support and breadth of experience. That’s a message that resonates with Krieger, who found himself spending more time than he liked fixing copying machines and paying bills.
“I found as my practice was getting bigger – and it did continue to grow over the years – the administrative parts of the practice were taking more time,” Krieger said.
And rather than referring clients with matters in which he’s not expert to outside counsel, he can now send them down the hall. That’s convenient for clients and better quality control for Krieger, he noted.
Above all, it’s Meyer Suozzi’s culture and atmosphere that Krieger said he appreciates most.
“The surprise that I’ve had is the comfort level that I’ve had with the firm from Day 1,” he said. “I don’t think there is such a thing as a small client, a small case. This is a firm that let’s me take that approach comfortably.”
In addition to Krieger, new attorney hires this year have included partner Bruce Maffeo; Niki Warren and Robert Zausmer, of counsel; and associates Michael Antongiovanni, Joni Haviva Kletter, Craig Rosen, Janice Whelan Shea and Adam Glaser.
Another recent hire at Meyer Suozzi is also dedicated to helping the firm grow, but he’s not an attorney.
“I don’t pretend to know any (law),” noted Fred Esposito, a certified legal manager – a fairly new certification from the Association of Legal Administrators that demonstrates expertise in managing legal companies.
Of the 11,000 members of the ALA, only 240 are certified legal managers. Esposito is the only one on Long Island and one of just a handful in the New York metro area, each keeping an eye on financial, human resources, facilities and technology issues.
“These are core requirements in any business, but tailored to the legal profession,” Esposito noted.“They wanted to bring in a business professional to be part of the leadership of the firm. Someone in my position, what the firm is trying to accomplish over the next few years – I help to keep them on course.”
Esposito’s concentration on financial and business matters frees up the partners to do what they want to do most: “practice law and serve clients,” he said.
The most obvious piece of Meyer Suozzi’s growth strategy is the richly appointed new Garden City offices. The firm occupies the entire third floor of 990 Stewart Ave. and part of the fourth floor, with the potential for expansion there. A conference room seats 60. There were 11 empty offices when the firm moved in November; now there are four.
The firm’s old office, which it occupied for a quarter century, was “a cozy place,” Schlissel said, but too small for the actual and still-anticipated growth. The old office was 23,500 square feet and the new one is 37,500 square feet, according to Joe Benty, the firm’s director of marketing.