Florida law firm Ruden McCloskey falls victim to economy, housing bust
Wake up and good morning. While most of mortals probably see large law firms as a license to print money, here's a prominent one in Florida that just fell victim to the nasty economy.
Fort Lauderdale-based, 200-employee (at its peak) Ruden McClosky filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday, the Miami Herald reports here, owing more than $4 million in debt (though other reports say more than $10 million). Another law firm called Greenspoon Marder in Fort Lauderdale said it will purchase Ruden's assets.
What happened? It appears Ruden McClosky, a full-service firm (with an office in Tampa) known for its land-use law practice, fell prey to its dependence on real estate and the Florida housing bust. The Herald says about 50 attorneys will join Greenspoon Marder, which will have about 140 attorneys after the sale.
But Ruden's office at 401 E. Jackson in downtown Tampa will not be joining the rest of the migrating firm. (Greenspoon has no office in Tampa.) The South Florida Business Journal reports that L. David Shear (photo, right), shareholder with Ruden in Tampa, confirmed that the 10 attorneys in that office have plans to join a larger firm. Shear stated:
"The lawyers in Ruden McClosky's Tampa office have collectively decided to pursue a different opportunity. The office is comprised of 10 lawyers who work in numerous disciplines, including health law, litigation, corporate, tax, banking, real estate and trusts and estates. We are finalizing discussions with a preeminent law firm, and anticipate making an announcement in the immediate future. We, of course, wish everyone at Ruden McClosky the best of success, and look forward to working with them as we transition our practices."
Curiously, Ruden's Tampa office was all that remained after two other Ruden offices on the Gulf Coast defected to New Orleans-based Adams and Reese in December 2009.
In 2009, I interviewed Carl Schuster, who had worked at Ruden McCloskey for 47 of the firm's 50 year. Then 72 and the law firm's managing partner, Schuster (he's still there) had to explain how economic pressures even then had forced the firm to jettison both its St. Petersburg and Sarasota offices.
Said Schuster at the time: "I've seen plenty of down trends in the '80s and early '90s but by everything I have ever read, this is the worst since the Depression. But you know something? You've got to tighten the belt and to do the things you need to do to keep going. And that is what we have done."
Alas, it was not enough.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times