Saturday, May 26, 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
An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

It began, as so many plane debacles seem to, with strange sounds in the bathroom.They were the noises of Jason Felix, one of the passengers on Wednesday’s American Airlines flight out of Saint Croix, according to a FBI affidavit recounting events lea...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Is the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik the best owner in professional sports?

Is the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik the best owner in professional sports?

Hope of another Stanley Cup has dissolved, and soon the ice will follow. Yet even if sorrow is the price of devotion, the true hockey fans will still buy in when the next season comes around.That concept may not be unique to Tampa Bay, but it does se...
Published: 05/26/18
Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Last year three members of the 69ers Motorcycle Club gang were implicated in the execution of a rival gang leader in the middle of rush hour traffic in Pasco County.Now those three and two other 69ers members have been indicted on federal charges tha...
Published: 05/25/18
With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

TAMPA — Behind the construction walls near the carousel at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, hammers, saws and power drills made a racket in the blazing Friday heat. A raft full of 100-pound water jugs took test trips on the new Roaring Springs ride set ...
Published: 05/25/18
U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

LONDON — U.S. news outlets including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinel and The Arizona Daily Star abruptly blocked access to their websites from Europe on Friday, choosing to black out readers rather than comply with a ...
Published: 05/25/18
Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

TAMPA — Tampa Electric Co. is appealing a recent citation by federal regulators. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit the utility with a $76,050 fine and a "serious" violation in April following its investigation into an accident in ...
Published: 05/25/18
Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Don’t use the cruise control

Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Don’t use the cruise control

Associated PressDETROIT — Fiat Chrysler is recalling 4.8 million vehicles in the U.S. because in rare but terrifying circumstances, drivers may not be able to turn off the cruise control. The company is warning owners not to use cruise control until...
Published: 05/25/18
Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Associated PressFederal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Friday that the Fed’s independence from political pressure must be respected if it is to succeed in controlling inflation, maximizing employment and regulating the financial system. His re...
Published: 05/25/18
Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Tim Butler’s first car was a Ford Model A pick-up truck — a pearl fawn and cherry red pick-up he got his senior year in high school from his dad, who renovates antique cars. That’s why as Butler waited for a table at the Ford’...
Published: 05/25/18
St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

TAMPA — A St. Petersburg man was fined $507,513 and permanently barred from participating in the offering of a penny stock in a case involving a scheme to manipulate the price of Aureus, a penny stock company incorporated in Nevada, officials said Fr...
Published: 05/25/18