In what could prove to be a bit of poetic justice, Jackson Lewis announced Wednesday that it is opening its 51st office in Puerto Rico, a place that some see as a strong contender to become this nation's 51st state.
And while the results of a plebiscite last year on the issue of whether the island commonwealth should pursue statehood were somewhat mixed, Jackson Lewis sees the office it plans to open in San Juan as having plenty of potential.
"A lot of our clients have facilities in Puerto Rico, so having an office there made sense," says Vincent Cino, a Morristown, New Jerseybased Jackson Lewis partner elected chair of the firm in December. "This had been in the works for about a year, but we really needed to find the right people."
Joining Jackson Lewis in San Juan to open the new office are partner Sara Colon-Acevedo and of counsel Juan Felipe Santos, two labor and employment lawyers previously with local firm Schuster Aguilo. (Jackson Lewis isn't the only Am Law 100 firm to recently make news in Puerto Rico: this month Steptoe & Johnson added the territory's former governor, Luis Fortuno, to its government affairs and public policy practice.)
In addition to helping the firm meet the needs of existing clients, Jackson Lewis envisions its San Juan office acting as a magnet for new clients and business opportunities in the Caribbean and Latin America. Cino explains that firms like hisa go-to shop for labor and employment litigationfind that it's more efficient to have offices in various locales across the country.
"Local lawyers better know opposing counsel, the judges, and certain jurisdictional differences," says Cino, recalling an experience trying a case back in the early nineties in Cheyenne, Wyoming. "Imagine me, Vinny from Jersey," he says with a laugh, noting that the movie My Cousin Vinny was out at the time.
Cino, who says he didn't don a cowboy hat for that trial, joined Jackson Lewis in 1990. Since then the firm has been on an expansion drive that has resulted in an increase in attorney head count from 350 in 2002 to roughly 650 last year. A week ago, Jackson Lewis opened an office in Grand Rapids after its hire of partner Timothy Ryan and of counsel Linda Ryan from local firm Kotz Sangster Wysocki.
Jackson Lewis, which last week named Joan Ackerstein to succeed Cino as the firm's national director of litigation, isn't the only labor and employment firm in growth mode. In January alone, rivals Fisher & Phillips, Ford & Harrison, and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart have all opened offices in new cities.
The Am Law Daily reported earlier this month on Ogletree's move into San Diego with the addition of former Fisher & Phillips partner Spencer Skeen, as well as the possibility that it will also be launching new locations in Seattle and China. For its part, Fisher & Phillips picked up former Squire Sanders partner Steven Loewengart, who will open a new office for the firm in Columbus. Ford & Harrison acquired five-lawyer Christine D. Hanley & Associates and in the process added an office in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Ogletree is not alone in responding to California's siren song. Arent Fox, for one, will open an office in San Francisco on May 1 by relocating some partners from other offices and luring at least one partner from a rival firm, according to sibling publication The Recorder. Duane Morris has also opened in Silicon Valley after hiring K&L Gates IP litigation partner Karineh Khachatourian, who will become her new firm's local managing partner.