When Rob Insolia passed through the doors at 599 Lexington Avenue on October 20, 1997, it marked a small but significant milestone for Goodwin Procter in New York: the firm now had a place to call home. After being recruited by RE capital markets co-chair Gil Menna and making a “leap of faith” to build Goodwin’s presence in New York, Rob and a small team had spent the previous two months servicing clients and recruiting staff out of temporary space with rented office equipment. Now, with Goodwin’s name on the wall at 599 Lex, the serious business of building a New York practice could begin in earnest.
Over the past 15 years, the story of the office’s success has been a series of small milestones, like the one above, each effort building on the last.
The initial team included Rob as office chair and four lawyers and two staff members from his previous firm, O’Melveny & Myers. Intensive recruiting increased the attorney roster to 13 by the end of the first year, and other attorneys, including RE private investment funds co-chair John Ferguson, would join the team in subsequent months. Difficult yet ultimately rewarding, the early days at Goodwin New York featured attorneys and staff dedicated to an unenviable task – growing an office de novo in the toughest, most competitive market in the United States.
Building Critical Mass
A wave of laterals from two firms, arriving in 2000 and 2001, helped the office expand from its real estate capital markets and private equity roots and brought significant litigation, IP, tech and labor capabilities into the fold. Among those joining were current NY office chair Al Solecki, NY litigation leader David Hashmall, products liability chair Joanne Gray, Joe Siegelbaum and Jonathan Price. IP litigators Fred Rein and Ira Levy would follow, as would white collar crime chair Rich Strassberg.
According to Rob, the addition of each lateral partner in the office’s earlier years was huge: “Attracting laterals to the office was initially very difficult – you had to find the right people with the talent and cultural fit and they had to be entrepreneurial enough to want to invest with us based on a vision and belief in the overall strategy.”
Also critical in the early years were Goodwin attorneys relocating their practices to New York to help build the office. Ross Gillman, AJ Weidhaas and Jeff Simes, all arriving from the Boston office, would play key roles developing New York’s business law and litigation platforms. And two senior partners, Ed Glazer and the late Dick Floor, would provide critical contributions early on, spending significant time practicing in New York and helping the office find its footing.
In late 2003, Goodwin Procter made its first appearance on the New York Law Journal’s list of the largest law offices in the city, and the following year more than 90 attorneys were practicing out of 599 Lex, including many on additional floors added to the lease. Nothing, it seemed, could dampen the office’s momentum, including the historic Blackout of 2003, the country’s largest ever, which occurred nearly six years to the day the office opened and significantly affected the New York area. “I thought Rob forgot to pay the electric bill,” commented one partner.
Passing the Torch
After seven years of building Goodwin’s platform in New York, Rob returned to his RE capital markets practice (and became the office’s Business Law leader) and was succeeded by Al Solecki as office chair in October 2004. “Every individual who has anything to do with this office should take a lot of pride and satisfaction in our success,” said Rob, looking back on his tenure as chair. “At the same time we should not be complacent; we should never lose sight of the need to always be looking to the future.”
Al, fully embracing that sentiment, sought to guide the office to even greater heights as he settled into his new role: “I am confident that those who elect to accept this challenge will look back several years from now with satisfaction in knowing that they were on the ground level of building a truly world-class office within a world-class law firm.”
Over the next several years, many lateral partners would accept Al’s challenge and join the New York office. Litigators arriving included Mark Abate. On the business law side, Bill Weiss, RE finance chair Chris Price, NY business law leader Tom Meriam, Bruce Rader, Janet Andolina and Brian Hail all moved to Goodwin.
Homegrown talent would prove pivotal as well, as partner Bill Stern relocated to New York, and Goodwin lawyers Keith Zullow, Marta Delsignore, Stu Rosenthal, Jeff Klein and Jennifer Bralower joined the office’s partnership ranks.
At its 10th anniversary in August 2007, the New York office was bursting at the seams. Its 160 attorneys and 130 professional staff were straining the capacities of their space on four separate floors at 53rd and Lex. Relief, however, was in sight. Earlier that year the firm had committed to lease seven floors in the to-be-constructed New York Times Building near Times Square. Designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano and called “the city’s best skyscraper in 40 years,” the 52-story office tower opened in the fall of 2007, and completing the largest relocation in firm history, Goodwin moved in on May 12, 2008.
A Best Place to Work
Now with space befitting the powerhouse it was becoming, the New York office continued making a name for the firm in the world’s financial capital. The New York Law Journal identified Goodwin as one of the rare firms making significant strides in growing its presence in New York, listing it among the city’s top 25 firms with headquarters based elsewhere, and Crain’s New York Business named the office one of the “Best Places to Work in NYC” in 2009, an honor repeated the following two years.
These accolades, the impressive new office space and an expanding practice platform combined to attract an influx of lateral partners, bringing significant breadth and depth to an already impressive roster. Joining Goodwin after the office’s move to Manhattan’s West Side were business law attorneys Steve Davis, Peter LaVigne, Mark Schonberger, Ilan Nissan, Chris Nugent and Brynn Peltz. Arriving on the litigation side were Mark Holland and Bill Harrington.
These laterals would combine with an impressive group of Goodwin lawyers named to the partnership in New York in recent years: Tom Levato and Eric Willenbacher, and from Boston, partners Yoel Kranz and Daniel Roeser would relocate to establish New York practices as well.
A Top-Flight Practice
This impressive organic and lateral growth over the years has created a practice platform featuring significant strengths in all of the firm’s major practice groups. The story of the growth and success of the firm’s practice in New York epitomizes what Goodwin Procter is all about – committed and industrious people, tenacious in spirit, with an eye towards innovation and a willingness to work together to get things done.
After his first year as office chair, Rob, now Goodwin’s managing partner, described the office as “a tuft of grass on a windswept hill.” Today, thanks to the nurturing efforts of Rob, Al and the dedicated team in New York, the office has grown into a top-flight practice, offering first-rate legal services to a diverse and distinguished client roster.
Congratulations to the New York office on 15 years!