Fowler White Burnett Changes 'Have Worked Out Well'

, Daily Business Review

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Christopher E. Knight
Christopher E. Knight

Fowler White Burnett says it has overcome difficulties of recent years and is adding a restructuring and bankruptcy practice in West Palm Beach.

Fowler White Burnett says it has righted its ship after losing 10 attorneys in one month amid a 2012 management shakeup.

The Miami-based law firm has hired 11 new attorneys and is launching a restructuring and bankruptcy practice at its West Palm Beach office. The firm recently moved into new space there in the Northbridge Centre Tower. These moves followed the hiring of a new executive director in 2012.

"The changes we are making have worked out well," said Christopher Knight, the firm's managing shareholder. "We've grown in the areas we wanted to, which is tax, international and environmental, and now we have a restructuring group in West Palm Beach focusing on creditors rights."

Yet the firm is still down from 100 attorneys listed on its website in 2012 to about 80, and most of the new lawyers are associates. And the firm has not yet replaced Lilly Ann Sanchez, a high-profile Miami white-collar criminal defense attorney, and lacks a white collar practice.

Fowler White Burnett hired West Palm Beach partner Eric Rosen, a longtime solo attorney who has been practicing bankruptcy law for 28 years, and his associate, Kaleb Bell, to launch the restructuring and bankruptcy group.

Rosen specializes in bankruptcy and creditors rights, out-of-court debt restructuring, business litigation and commercial law. He has represented publicly held corporations, privately owned companies and individuals as debtors and debtors in possession in cases under Chapter 11, 13 and 7 for more than 25 years, and sits on the board of directors of the Bankruptcy Bar Association for the Southern District of Florida.

"Business bankruptcy law covers tax, litigation and other areas, and the sophistication of Fowler White's IP platform and the quality of its lawyers will allow me to continue my work, probably to a broader scope of clients," Rosen said. "There are a lot of people who have been here for a long time, and that speaks highly of the firm."

Big clients include Miami-based Carnival Corp. and the University of Miami, which maintains Fowler White as its chief outside counsel. The university also has been doling out work to other law firms including Wicker, Smith, O'Hara, McCoy & Ford.

Recent new hires include associates Marta Acosta, Cameron Barnard, Stephanie Chaissan, Miguel Gonzalez, Lelia Menendez, Scott Migliori, Christine Walker and Richard Zajac. Alyssa Razook-Wan, previously with the firm's commercial litigation practice group, has rejoined the firm after receiving a master's of law in taxation.

Fowler White Burnett recently renewed its lease at the Espirito Santo Plaza in Miami for 10 years, relinquishing some space on the 15th floor that was being used for administration and accounting.

The firm was created after it split from Fowler White Boggs several decades ago. Under their agreement, Fowler White Boggs was blocked from opening a Miami office, and Fowler White Burnett was barred from opening in Tampa. Fowler White Boggs is deep in talks with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.

"We're in the acquiring mode. We don't want to be acquired," Knight said. "We are happy being a regional firm. We get national clients, and they want local roots. We've been around for 70 years, and we are here to stay."

Joe Ankus, a recruiter with Ankus Consulting Inc. of Weston, calls Fowler White Burnett "well-regarded, a long-time true Miami firm—one of the few that has retained the legacy of the local firm feel with a large-scale practice."

He added, "They have a known brand name in their niche areas and have never tried to grow exponentially like the Greenbergs or Hollands and preferred to remain a strong, regional firm."

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