Herrick, Feinstein Latest Firm to Launch in Istanbul
New York's Herrick, Feinstein is expanding into new territory for the first time since 2000 by opening offices in Istanbul and Washington, D.C., that are intended to capitalize on the firm's years-long work for the Turkish government, as well as private- sector Turkish clients.
Neither of the new locations will be staffed by newly hired attorneys. Instead, Herrick—an 85-year-old firm that has stayed small throughout its history and counts 170 lawyers in New York, Newark, and Princeton—is calling on a team of its current partners to expand their existing practices into the new jurisdictions.
Herrick's ties to Turkey extend back to 1987, when the republic approached firm partners Lawrence Kaye and Howard Spiegler to help recover art and artifacts stolen from the country. At the time, Kaye and Spiegler had a burgeoning art restitution practice thanks in part to their successful representation of a German government–owned museum in a suit aimed at recovering a pair of Albrecht Dürer paintings from a Brooklyn man who had bought them in 1946.
The pair's first Turkish assignment lasted more than a decade and eventually led to the recovery of more than $50 million in antiquities, including 1,800 ancient Greek and Lycian coins owned by billionaire William Koch. Herrick's efforts on the matter led to more work for the Turkish government, and for local companies hoping to invest or do business in the United States.
Today, the Turkish practice is co-led by Kaye and Barbaros Karaahmet, a Turkish American who began his career at Herrick in 1995 and returned in 2011 after running his own firm for 10 years. Recent assignments include representing Turkish company The Gulaylar Group in its purchase of 12,000 square feet of retail space in New York's diamond district that will be used to create a jewelry exchange, and advising the Republic of Turkey in connection with the development and construction of a revamped Turkish center and consulate in midtown Manhattan across from the United Nations General Assembly.
Other clients represented by the firm's Turkish practice include Mavi Jeans and John Paul Ataker in the fashion industry and construction company Limak Holding.
Karaahmet will travel to the Istanbul office, located in the city's Trump Towers, every month, says Kaye, who will visit less frequently. The firm will be known locally as Herrick, Feinstein Danışmanlık Hizmetleri Avukatlık Ortaklığı, which translates to Herrick, Feinstein Consultancy Services Attorney Partnership. Because Turkish bar rules forbid foreign lawyers from practicing local law, Herrick will team up with various local firms when needs arise, Karaahmet says, including hiring his own father and sister, both of whom practice in the country.
Herrick's expansion comes after an off year that saw it land at 188th on The American Lawyer's most recent Am Law 200 rankings. The firm's gross revenue declined 6.3 percent in 2012, to $111.5 million, while its profits per equity partner plunged 23 percent, to $735,000. Herrick chairman Irwin Kishner told The American Lawyer earlier this year that the firm was still recovering from the recession and, unlike in 2011 and 2010, didn't have any big contingency fee awards to boost revenue.
Herrick partner Michael McMahon, a former New York congressman and ex–New York City Council member, will also play an integral role in both the Istanbul and D.C. offices. McMahon, who joined Herrick in April 2011 after losing a reelection bid to current U.S. Representative Michael Grimm, developed ties to Turkey through his roles on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Turkish Caucus.
Herrick's government relations practice—a group McMahon cochairs with Kevin Fullington, a former New York city attorney, and former U.S. Representative Elizabeth Holtzman—represents the entity recognized by Turkey alone as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a section of the island nation that remains embroiled in a long-running power struggle with the Republic of Cyprus. (McMahon, a Staten Island native, was in Azerbaijan monitoring that country's elections Wednesday as part of a volunteer coalition and was unavailable for comment.)
The D.C. office will also be staffed full-time by government relations specialist Daniel Hart, a former McMahon aide.
Several other Am Law 200 and U.K. firms have opened in Turkey in recent years in a bid to capitalize on the country's thriving economy, now the world's 17th-largest based on gross domestic product. Allen & Overy, Chadbourne & Parke, Clifford Chance, and DLA Piper all launched offices between 2010 and 2011, and Edwards Wildman Palmer officially opened its Istanbul outpost last month. White & Case blazed the large law firm trail into the country decades ago, opening in Istanbul as well as the country's capital, Ankara, in 1983.
Describing Turkey's role in the global economy, Karaahmet, who grew up there from age 6 through law school, says, "Turkey in the past didn’t want to be like the East, it wanted to be more like the West. It had an identity issue. Within the last government, the country realized you don’t have to be either. There’s a sweet spot, so to speak, between the two worlds."
This summer, Karaahmet and Kaye were in Istanbul finalizing details on the office launch when riots broke out in the city's Taksim Gezi Park. "It raised important issues," says Kaye, "But we were staying in a hotel and wouldn’t have known about it if not watching American TV. It was very contained, and business really went on as usual."
When advising clients both from the U.S. and Turkey, Karaahmet says the firm's role is as much about putting the clients at ease with the differing customs as providing the actual legal advice.
"Even though everybody speaks perfect English, there are stumbling blocks we help them avoid," he says, citing the occasional need to explain why it's okay that a multimillion-dollar deal is being executed with a four-page agreement. "We say, okay, don't worry about it, that's how the chips fall. That's our value add. We act like general counsel to most of our clients."