The decision to leave a job after 17 years of service usually isn’t easy, especially so when one is dealing with an ailing parent. Consider Marc Weintraub, a Tampa-based corporate attorney who joined Stinson LLP, a Kansas City-based, full-service law firm that recently expanded to Florida, It chose Tampa for its local office over Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville and other contenders.
Weintraub had been the managing partner at the Tampa office of Bailey & Glasser, a Charleston, West Virginia-based law firm that hired him in 2006. Earlier this year, Stinson contacted him and “a series of lengthy discussions” ensued, he says.
“Stinson has a very aggressive plan to grow the firm. They knew they wanted to come to Florida. And so they reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, you look like you'd be somebody who could help us do this. Would you be interested?’”
During their discussions, however, Weintraub’s mother fell ill and died. As difficult as that experience was, instead of derailing negotiations, the opposite occurred.
“That’s one of the ways that I knew that Stinson was the right place for me,” he says. “Because when I told them what was going on, they were incredibly caring about it. And they were patient with me, which I really appreciated.”
To rack up victories in the war for legal talent, firms such as Stinson have prioritized the human element of their organizational culture — in the process downplaying past perceptions of law as a profession for hard-nosed, hard-charging, type-A personalities.
“That personal connection is so important to achieve the success that we want to achieve,” Stinson Managing Partner Allison Murdock says. “We want to be there for Marc so that he feels comfortable introducing his clients to us and maybe providing us some areas of expertise or resources that aren’t currently available.”
She adds, “Without that human connection, that trust in one another, you can’t get to the success part.”
Weintraub was born, raised and educated in New York City, but his career took him to Charleston, where he lived for 15 years, “and I loved it,” he says. Not only did he get his start in law there, but he became deeply connected to the community in his role as a city councilman from 2002 to 2014.
“What I learned in West Virginia was that there are different cultures in the United States and I am personally much more comfortable in a Midwestern or Southern culture,” he says. “Obviously, Stinson is Midwestern in its culture, and I think that plays really well on the west coast of Florida. So, I knew that I would fit in with Stinson’s culture, but I also knew that Stinson’s culture would fit in well in Tampa.”
But there are other, more practical reasons why a law firm such as Stinson would expand to Florida, and particularly Tampa: It’s where their clients are. The post-pandemic boom of companies relocating or expanding to Florida is real, and Weintraub and Murdock agree Stinson is “merely following our clients,” Weintraub says.
“Our clients and their businesses are taking advantage of opportunities in Florida as Florida grows,” he adds. “And so many Midwestern-headquartered companies are on the west coast of Florida — we're just following.”
Weintraub says about half of the firm’s 100 largest clients already do business in Florida, and so having a physical office in the state will help strengthen existing relationships.
“Visiting those clients, thanking them for being our clients and then letting them know that we're available in Florida is going to be a key part of building out this office,” he says.
Weintraub won’t be doing it all by himself. He comes to Stinson LLP along with Stephen Putnoki-Higgins, another former Bailey & Glasser attorney. In addition to Weintraub and Putnoki-Higgins, three other attorneys will be joining Stinson in Florida: of counsel Kurt Gleeson and associates Gregory Payton and April Petrosino. They will be joined by Todd Phelps, a Stinson partner who’s been splitting time between Tampa and Minneapolis.
“Todd is a lifetime Stinson lawyer who has a significant client base in Florida and who's been practicing from here since 2016,” Weintraub says.
East Coast bias
Weintraub says out-of-state law firms seeking to get a foothold in Florida usually gravitate to Miami. But not necessarily for the right reasons.
“They’re insistent on moving to Miami because of the rate structure and the cachet associated with the city,” he says. “But when people sit down and think about where the growth is in Florida, where it's going to be and where you have the ability to access the entirety of the Florida market, I believe the Tampa-Orlando corridor is going to be where people decide they want to land.”
He adds, “There’s an incredible amount of growth going on in the central part of the state, and I think the quality of life in the central part of the state is fantastic. As a result, we’re seeing people and businesses flock here.”
It can be a challenge, though, for a firm like Stinson, which has about 450 attorneys practicing at 13 offices around the country, to choose a home base when there are so many good options in the Sunshine State. The firm couldn’t go wrong, but Tampa had an X-factor: its people.
“We were looking for the right partners to join us,” Murdock says. “We didn’t foreclose ourselves, necessarily, to geography, but with Marc and Stephen, we just clicked. They’re great people, very collaborative and we all have the same goals in mind.”
With temporary office space secured and a lease for a permanent home in downtown Tampa’s Wells Fargo Center being negotiated, the challenge for Stinson now becomes technological in nature. For all the increases in efficiency that automation, artificial intelligence and other advanced technology has brought to the legal profession, setting up a new office and transferring clients when attorneys leave one firm to join another can be fraught with difficulty.
“When we lived in a paper-centric world, you just grabbed the paper file, put it in a box and took it with you,” Weintraub says. “But in this day and age, you have to get in touch with IT professionals at your old firm and your new firm, and make sure that all the data that it has (has) been collected and organized at your old firm so it makes it over in a way that it can be properly ingested at your new firm. I appreciate how cooperative everybody's been on both sides of that in trying to make it work. But there’s some serious brain power that goes into it.”
The transition of Weintraub and Putnoki-Higgins from Bailey Glasser to Stinson had its fair share of glitches, including some trouble with laptops, Murdock says, but Bailey & Glasser was highly cooperative when it came to transferring client files.
“In our experience, that’s almost always the case,” she says. “The priority for all firms and lawyers is to make sure that the client’s needs are taken care of. And so that requires that we be cooperative with one another. The client needs to be satisfied — that’s the goal for everyone.”