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Business Observer Thursday, Mar. 11, 2010 8 years ago

Smaller firms grow, too

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With its 2006 expansion into Tampa, Shutts Bowen grew by building its new office on the foundation of a 100-year history, and the nearly 200 lawyers already on staff across the state. However, several smaller law firms have found a way to grow as well.

With its 2006 expansion into Tampa, Shutts Bowen grew by building its new office on the foundation of a 100-year history, and the nearly 200 lawyers already on staff across the state.

However, several smaller law firms have found a way to grow as well. Here are a few examples of such firms from along the Gulf Coast:

• Yesner & Boss, P.L., Sarasota: Shawn Yesner and Chris Boss have been using their backgrounds in accounting to help represent borrowers involved in distressed real estate deals. Late last month, they added another tax and accounting specialist to help grow the practice in Sarasota.

Jo Ann Koontz, a former employee at Icard Merrill, is now expanding Yesner & Boss' southward reach. She says the flexibility she's found since the move has expanded her ability to do business. “The bigger the firm,” she says, “the more often you can't represent a potentially adverse client.”

After having seen positive growth in every year since the firm's inception in 2004, this latest hire could serve to continue the trend for Yesner & Boss — which has opened an additional office in New Tampa, as well.

• Sheppard, Brett, Stewart, Hersch, Kinsey & Hill, P.A., Fort Myers: By avoiding the committee and budget meetings of the larger law firm, Craig Hersch has been able to take his family and estate planning-focused law firm onto YouTube, reaching more clients than ever before. “I have a very unique client intake system,” Hersch explains.

Before meeting with potential customers, he requires that they do three things: either attend an hour-long meeting or watch a video (hence the “YouTubing”) about estate planning, fill out an informational organizer, and collect existing documents. By spending less time on the front end, Hersch can help many more clients with the individualized services his law firm provides. The strategy has led to growth during a difficult time for the region.

Even with an 85-year history, the Shepard Law Firm has maintained the flexibility needed to be technically savvy by staying small.

• Bayshore Law Group, Tampa: Suzette Marteny and Harry Teichman specialize in business, tax, and intellectual property law. It's their IP practice — a countercyclical business — that has pushed them to profitability just short of a year after opening their doors. Businesses are leveraging the intellectual property rights they established in boom times to generate a little more cash in a down economy.

The current economic environment, which is forcing larger companies to find ways to reduce overhead, may also lead to what Marteny calls “the rise of the boutique” law firm. As the severance pay of many former larger-practice lawyers runs out, “You're going to actually see what's going on,” she suggests.

In the meantime, the Bayshore Law Group will look to take advantage of their head start on the competition, and may break the million-dollar revenue mark at the end of this year.

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