In the context of general U.S. population migrations both west and south, Miami has become the latest new city to attract offices of big law firms. Firms that have opened Miami offices in 2022 include Kirkland & Ellis, Winston & Strawn, and King & Spalding. These firms are joining an environment where other large law firms have long had a presence, such as Greenberg Traurig, Holland & Knight, and Akerman.
The influx is due in part to Wall Street firms moving some operations into south Florida, including financial firms Elliott Management Corp., Thoma Bravo, and Citadel. Tech companies also have found Florida an attractive destination, adding to Miami’s desirable client base for law firms.
Lawyers at some firms have been happy to relocate, while other firms have recruited existing Florida-based lawyers when staffing their new offices. However, a rate differential could compound the already aggressive war for legal talent. Wolters Kluwer collected rate data in 2021 that show non-litigation partners in Miami billing a median of $552 per hour. In the more typical legal markets of New York and Chicago, their counterparts were billing at medians of $1,175 and $886 per hour, respectively.
The number of lawyers in Florida increased by 19% from 2011 to 2021, which according to a 2021 American Bar Association Report made it the third-fastest growing state for the legal profession. However, Florida’s lawyer pool is still relatively small compared to other states.
While this lack of lawyers, among other factors, has deterred most major firms from opening offices in the state, a few large firms have tried Miami offices before, like Reed Smith and Polsinelli in the 2010s. But this new round of entrances could be the first signal of something bigger to come.
"You've seen other firms coming into this market, and the motivation for looking at this market, I think, has evolved, along with the market itself," said Enrique Martin, formerly of Jones Day, before he left to lead Winston & Strawn's new Miami office.
"It's not just about coming into the market to capture Latin American work anymore," Martin said. "It's about entering a city that's become an important financial hub."