With its status as the fourth largest US economy and third most populous state, Florida is coming to the fore as an appealing destination to practice for many lawyers.
Chambers Associate: What are the current key industry sectors for lawyers in Florida?
Brandon Faulkner: Industries that fuel the state’s economy include healthcare and life sciences, financial services, real estate and hospitality, construction, transportation, insurance, technology, and international trade.
To provide our clients with the breadth and depth of expertise needed to resolve complex issues, Holland & Knight maintains Industry Sector Groups. This firmwide initiative connects clients with multi-disciplinary teams of attorneys with specialized knowledge of key industries, including energy & natural resources, finance and financial services, healthcare & life sciences, real estate & hospitality, technology & telecommunications and transportation & infrastructure. It is not by chance that many of these areas overlap with Florida’s leading and growing industries.
CA: Which practice areas are currently thriving in the Florida legal market?
BF: During active economic periods, large law firms see significant levels of activity in corporate law, particularly private equity, securities, and mergers & acquisitions, as well as cross-border transactions, real estate and land use, litigation, international arbitration and dispute resolution, tax, and government and regulatory work. For an aspiring attorney seeking a varied and challenging career, Florida provides an array of practice areas traditionally offered in other major legal markets across the country.
"Florida’s population is growing at a pace faster than the majority of the US. This brings challenges and opportunities in terms of both a growing economy and evolving demographic."
CA: How has the Florida legal market evolved over the past five years?
BF: Florida’s population is growing at a pace faster than the majority of the US. This brings challenges and opportunities in terms of both a growing economy and evolving demographic. Technology has been a legal industry disruptor for several years, and is certain to continue in the future. Lawyers should rise to the challenge of meeting client expectations of providing reasoned answers to complex issues within a compressed period of time. Emerging technologies have provided firms an opportunity to automate traditionally commoditized or repetitive legal services.
In addition, clients who historically sought out a single full-service law firm for all of their legal needs, now have access to non-traditional legal services and data analytics in specialized settings.5 This increased competition has spurred law firms to pursue cutting-edge technology and even create their own proprietary, practice-centered solutions to bring value to clients. Our Innovation and Technology Committee has developed groundbreaking services that use blockchain technology, machine learning (AI), and automation to drive efficiency and quality in our legal services. This is especially important in Florida’s changing economy, where companies are continually seeking technological innovations, while expecting their law counsel to keep pace.
"As we see firms with national and international footprints continue to move into the Florida legal market, Florida has become increasingly more competitive in terms of obtaining and retaining new business and recruiting top legal talent."
CA: How would you describe the competition between firms in the Florida legal market?
BF: As we see firms with national and international footprints continue to move into the Florida legal market, Florida has become increasingly more competitive in terms of obtaining and retaining new business and recruiting top legal talent. 4 Holland & Knight traces its roots to Florida, where it continues to enjoy a strong reputation and brand as a top firm. The state’s growing economy and population will continue to drive greater competition as law firms recognize the opportunity Florida provides. In addition, clients have become comfortable with the ability of firms to provide services and expertise remotely and across geographies. Holland & Knight approaches client service with a one-firm approach. It is the norm, rather than the exception, for our attorneys to collaborate across offices and state lines to provide expertise wherever needed.
CA: What do you think the Florida legal market will look like in five years’ time?
BF: Florida is now the third most populous state and by 2030, 26 million will call Florida home. Miami will be considered a major legal market to the extent it is not already. Other major cities in Florida, including Tampa, Jacksonville, and Orlando will continue to expand already sizeable economies. Florida’s favorable income and business tax laws will incentivize large companies to relocate their headquarters to Florida, which will include their respective legal departments. We have already seen large financial institutions and banks move back-office and legal operations to Florida to take advantage of the favorable cost of living and tax laws. As companies continue to migrate to and grow in Florida, we expect that there will be further consolidation in the legal industry as medium-sized or regional firms merge or are acquired by large national and international firms who hope to develop a footprint in Florida. Holland & Knight maintains offices throughout the state of Florida in every major city. Each office provides representatives to participate in monthly conference calls as part of its Florida Initiative to ensure that Holland & Knight continues to excel in Florida’s changing legal landscape.
"As companies continue to migrate to and grow in Florida, we expect that there will be further consolidation in the legal industry as medium-sized or regional firms merge or are acquired by large national and international firms who hope to develop a footprint in Florida."
CA: What effects do you think Covid-19 will have on the Florida legal marketplace in both the short and long term?
BF: In the short term, the Florida legal marketplace, as well as the legal industry more broadly, will experience an uptick in practice areas involving government relations, administrative and regulatory law, healthcare, and labor & employment law. Companies and individuals are seeking guidance on benefits provided by the CARES Act, as well as compliance with national, state, and local guidance and regulations involving social distancing and stay-at-home orders. In addition, we expect that over the next few months there will be an increase in bankruptcy and workout practices as organizations may need to resort to the legal system to restructure and recoup financial losses. Privacy and data security lawyers will also be in high demand to help companies navigate this new virtual and digital world we are experiencing. Law firms, like many businesses, will have to take steps to mitigate against the sudden downturn in the economy. This may impact operations, marketing, compensation, and other law firm expenses.
In the longer term, many law firms have learned that they are able to successfully convert to a remote work environment on very short notice. Many of us will take another close look at how to meet our attorneys’ needs, particularly as it relates to infrastructure, digital and cloud services, remote capabilities, and other technologies that foster a flexible and resilient workplace.
"As we think about recruiting in the future, one of our biggest undertakings will be demystifying the stigma that you cannot have a similar legal career in Florida as you would in New York."
CA: What distinguishes the Florida market in comparison to other US legal markets?
BF: Florida is often perceived as a non-traditional legal market, and yet we are the 3rd largest state by population with the 4th largest economy. Florida, and in particular South Florida, is one of the fastest growing legal markets and one of the largest in the country. Over the last 15+ years, we have seen the number of Am Law 200 firms with offices in the Sunshine State nearly double 4, which is a testament to the growth of the region. As we think about recruiting in the future, one of our biggest undertakings will be demystifying the stigma that you cannot have a similar legal career in Florida as you would in New York. In fact, South Florida gives many lawyers who are interested in handling international deals and disputes a unique platform to build cross-border practices.
CA: What do you think are the main pull factors to the Florida market for law students and lateral talent?
BF: Our state bridges the gap between a great quality of life and a sophisticated work experience. Florida’s growth continues to draw more interesting and innovative work to Florida firms. As a result, candidates are attracted to a meaningful legal career located in a state that is known for great weather, recreation, and culture. And because there is no state income tax and an affordable cost of living, the hard work that attorneys put in at the office allows them to enjoy a great standard of living.