Friday, February 23, 2018
Business

Merger for Fowler White Boggs? Deeper bench needed, says Rhea Law

As sophisticated health care, biotechnology and other complex businesses relocate or expand in Florida's improving economy, successful legal firms here need deeper bench strength to serve such corporate clients. That, in a nutshell, is what's driving current merger talks between Fowler White Boggs, a prominent 97-attorney law firm in Tampa, and the 450-attorney Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney firm in Pittsburgh.

So says Rhea Law, longtime Fowler White chief executive officer. Not only is Law a force in regional economic development circles and an influential board member at the University of South Florida. She's also a race car enthusiast. Law likes the fast lane.

The Tampa Bay Times caught up with Law one recent morning. While merger talks between the two law firms are ongoing (no deal has been announced), Law spoke about why Fowler White Boggs wants to become a bigger player. She spoke to Tampa Bay Times staff writer Robert Trigaux. The following are excerpts edited for space.

Why pursue a merger with another law firm now?

We have done some hard things over the last several years that caused our firm to contract. But now we are building it back up with a regional strategy. Unintentionally and intentionally, we have attracted interest from other law firms. The legal industry is full of change, and in our firm's retreats we agreed that to best serve our clients we need an expansion strategy now that the Florida economy is coming back.

So the old days of legal work in Florida are going away?

Look at the businesses being attracted here by Enterprise Florida, the governor's office and our own economic development efforts. We are focusing on high-tech and biomedical industries. Look at the MediFuture initiative (to make Tampa Bay a cutting-edge health care region) and the new USF Heart Institute. We need to be prepared to provide the services they need.

When I started practicing law, I had more work than I could handle and never would have thought of marketing. It was unheard of back then. It's not true now. There is a lot of competition. We need to show what we can do for our clients.

So size matters?

Depth matters. It's not how many people you have but what you can offer. I've always gone on the premise that we need a critical mass to serve our communities. Buchanan Ingersoll is small in Florida, so we bring some strength to them here, and their expertise complements ours.

Some attorneys say practicing law is tougher now and too cutthroat. Do you sense that?

It is changing. But it is no less rewarding and maybe more so. Now it is more complicated, so when you solve a problem for a client there is a greater feeling of success and fulfillment.

If this deal happens, what does the Tampa firm get out of it?

In a combined firm, we are dominant in Florida, and they (Buchanan) are dominant in the Northeast. This would be like a barbell-shaped firm operating in some of the country's largest states. What this is all about is being better. If it were not, we would not do it.

Any idea when we might hear more news on this possible merger?

Nothing yet. We are working on our due diligence. There's more to come.

Comments
A look at new ships and trends in cruising for 2018

A look at new ships and trends in cruising for 2018

What’s new in cruising for 2018? As usual, there’s lots of razzle-dazzle — laser tag, water slides, zip lines and massive LED screens — along with a continued emphasis on healthy lifestyle options, from dining to fitness. But there are also changes u...
Published: 02/23/18

Long awaited Clearwater Beach garage bleeds money in its first year

CLEARWATER —City leaders discussed building a parking structure on north Clearwater Beach for more than 15 years before the seven-story Pelican Walk Parking Garage finally opened at the start of 2017.The city paid $11.3 million to own 450 of the deve...
Published: 02/23/18
Administrator Haley Loeun fired from CareerSource jobs centers

Administrator Haley Loeun fired from CareerSource jobs centers

Haley Loeun, a top aide to the embattled leader of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards, was fired Thursday from her $130,000-a-year position as business services director.Loeun came under criticism after the Tampa Bay Times reported that employ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands beats Wall Street forecasts

Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands beats Wall Street forecasts

TAMPA — Outback Steakhouse has been pressured to improve for awhile, but the restaurant chain isn’t cooked yet. In fact, a boost in Outback sales led its Tampa-based parent company to beat Wall Street expectations in its fourth quarter.Bloomin’ Brand...
Published: 02/22/18
Tampa Bay area’s population projected to grow to 3.1 million this year

Tampa Bay area’s population projected to grow to 3.1 million this year

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay area’s population, already the largest of any metropolitan area in the state, is projected to grow from 3 million last year to 3.1 million this year, and to 3.3 million over the next five years.That growth is expected to bring c...
Published: 02/22/18
Work finally starts on downtown St. Petersburg’s newest hotel

Work finally starts on downtown St. Petersburg’s newest hotel

ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly a decade after it was first proposed, a new boutique hotel in downtown St. Petersburg is finally under construction.Workers are preparing the foundation of the Galaxy, an 11-story, 92-room hotel at Third Avenue N and First Str...
Published: 02/22/18
Note to readers: About those annoying popups on your phones

Note to readers: About those annoying popups on your phones

Dear readers, I hope that you are able to see this and that a popup saying you’ve won a gift card hasn’t taken over your phone. We have heard from many of you that these popups are preventing you from reading our news coverage.We hate them as much as...
Published: 02/22/18
Saving trees a passion for some St. Petersburg neighborhood leaders

Saving trees a passion for some St. Petersburg neighborhood leaders

ST. PETERSBURGBeth Connor, a longtime neighborhood environmental advocate, is alarmed at what she views as the destruction of the city’s trees in the name of development.She points to at least three properties that have been scraped of trees in recen...
Published: 02/22/18
This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

FIELD OF GREEN: COLLARD FESTOn Saturday you can devote your whole day to the beauty of collard greens. Well, that’s the jumping off point. Collards are the "central ingredient" at the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival at St. Petersburg’s Historic Deuc...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18
CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CLEARWATER — The heads of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards will hold emergency meetings in the coming days to consider firing president and CEO Edward Peachey. Jack Geller, board chairman of CareerSource Pinellas, and Dick Peck, chair...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18