New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide




In Real Estate Law, the Big Fish Keep Eating the Little Fish

New York City

Big Fish
Jan. 24, 2017

A trend that gained momentum last year shows no signs of slowing: smallish New York law firms, including ones that represent co-ops and condos, are being absorbed into larger firms that have more diverse staffs and broader geographic reach.

The latest instance of a big fish eating a smaller fish is the announcement that, as of Feb. 1, Atlanta-based Smith Gambrell & Russell’s 45-member New York office will absorb the firm of Balber Pickard Maldonado & Van Der Tuin, including its seven-member Cooperative and Condominium Practice Group. Meanwhile, The New York Law Journal reports that Herrick Feinstein, a prominent New York real estate firm, is in talks to combine with Crowell & Moring, a Washington, D.C., firm about three times its size. 

The Law Journal has called 2016 the “tipping point” for law firm mergers. Smaller New York firms, according to the Journal, “are coming to the conclusion they may not have what it takes to achieve aspirations – or survive – on their own.” Driving this conclusion are such factors as geographic reach, resources to invest in top associates, and strength across multiple practice areas, not just a few niches.

Last summer, for instance, the nine-member firm Schechter & Brucker merged with the larger Montgomery McCracken to form one of the city’s largest co-op and condo firms. Also last summer, the 10-member boutique firm of Rosen Livingston & Cholst, which represents more than 200 co-ops, condos and homeowner associations in the New York area, was absorbed by the 80-member national firm of Anderson Kill, which specializes in insurance coverage disputes.

“There’s an immediate synergy,” Bruce Cholst, a partner in Rosen Livingston & Cholst, told Habitat at the time of the merger. “For instance, Anderson Kill’s strength is insurance recovery, and we very often have insurance issues with our clients. I’m looking forward to what will no doubt be a big change.”

On Monday, some six months after the merger went through, Cholst added, “The merger has played out even better than we expected because in addition to their expertise in insurance recovery, Anderson Kill enhances our capacity in litigation, trust and estates, bankruptcy, and labor law. All of which affect co-ops and condos.”

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