Proskauer Rose's Florida Office: An Outstanding Past, A Bright Future

Friday, December 1, 2006 - 01:00

Editor: Mr. Gortz, please tell our readers something about your professional experience.

Gortz: I grew up on Long Island and attended Williams College, where I graduated summa cum laude, and then Yale Law School. I joined Proskauer directly upon graduation from law school and have been here my entire 36 year legal career, first in the firm's New York office and from 1977 to date as the head of our Florida office in Boca Raton. During that period of time I have been actively involved in firm management and I am currently serving a second three-year term on the firm's six- person Executive Committee.

Editor: How did you come to Proskauer Rose? What were the things that attracted you to the firm?

Gortz: While at Yale, I was fortunate to have interviewed with many of the most prominent law firms in New York and DC. Many of these firms had comparable practices. What I believe differentiates law firms, and what attracted me to Proskauer, was the warmth of its people and my sense of what I would call the Proskauer culture. It is difficult to judge a law firm on this basis as a law student, but looking back 36 years I can say without hesitation that I made the right decision. This is reinforced when I speak with lateral partner candidates who are unhappy with their firms and looking for something more in a law firm.

Editor: Please describe your practice. How has it evolved over the course of your career?

Gortz:I am Partner in the firm's Personal Planning Department. I regularly advise high net-worth clients in the areas of gift, estate and generation skipping tax planning and in the administration of complicated estates and trusts. I also have extensive experience in representing charitable organizations and have worked with public charities in dealing with their legal needs and in establishing planned giving programs.

Editor: You have been the head of Proskauer's Florida office since it was established almost 30 years ago. What prompted a firm historically associated with New York to take that step - opening a Florida office?

Gortz: The firm's Florida office was its first office established outside of New York. The initial decision to open the office in 1977 was because many of our clients were moving to Florida and we wanted to continue to represent families and businesses which we had represented for generations. From the very beginning, however, the majority of our business was from new clients, although our existing New York clients provided a strong foundation upon which to build the office.

Editor: How has the office grown over the years?

Gortz: The office has grown from a tiny outpost of one attorney to approximately 30 attorneys. The growth has been rather steady over the years, although the majority of our growth has taken place in the last 15.

Editor: Please tell us about the practice groups that are represented at the Boca Raton site.

Gortz: For starters, our personal planning practice is headed by myself and David Pratt but draws upon a century of experience. We represent retirees, entrepreneurs, executives, creative artists, investors and collectors. The breadth and depth of our practice, ultimately, is what sets us apart from other trusts and estate practitioners. We emphasize practical innovative programs designed to minimize estate, gift and generation skipping taxes, to effectuate succession planning, and to achieve our client's other objectives aiming all the while to keep tax and administrative costs at a minimum. We also represent clients who become entangled in trust and estate-related disputes privately and in court proceedings.

Our transactional practice covers corporate, securities, real estate and our lodging and gaming or hospitality practices.

With respect to real estate, our lawyers are active in acquisitions, dispositions, financings, leasing and development activities primarily of office, industrial, retail and other commercial properties; although we have been active in some large scale residential projects. Our clients include entrepreneurs, REITs, developers and major corporate entities. We have been particularly active in assisting corporations with their headquarters facilities. We deal with almost all issues relating to these activities, including 1031 issues, environmental issues, incentive issues and land use issues.

Our lodging and gaming practice group is headed by Andy Robins and represents operators and developers in connection with mixed use hotel and resort development throughout the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. The practice focuses on a wide range of real estate and hospitality industry products including traditional hotels, condominium hotels, fractional ownership, destination clubs and other forms of equity and non-equity clubs. The Boca Raton-based group has substantial experience in real estate development, sales and marketing and brand distribution issues and works closely with other Proskauer offices on operational issues, capital markets transactions and in connection with projects within the European Union, the Middle East and Asia. Typical clients include Rosewood Hotels, Hilton International, InterContinental Hotels Group, Sonesta Hotels, The Trump Organization, WCI Communities, Blackstone and The Patrinely Group.

Our corporate practice group handles corporate and other entity mergers, acquisitions, dispositions and related securities matters. We provide expertise in structuring and financing transactions. Our clients do not fit into any mold - they include entrepreneurs, institutions, hedge funds, major corporations and smaller corporations. We also provide advice as to reporting requirements. Currently we are assisting Office Depot dispose of its present headquarters and a nationally known school expand its operations.

The Labor and Employment practice is headed by Allan Weitzman, a Florida Bar certified lawyer who has spent his entire 33 year career at Proskauer Rose. Over the years, the Boca Raton office has had a significant role in the development of the law under the federal discrimination laws. We are the "go to" lawyers when the Society of Human Resources Management needs an amicus brief written in major U.S. Supreme Court discrimination cases. Our office has also taken one of our own "non-compete" cases to the Supreme Court of Florida on behalf of Corporate Express.

Our Labor Department has represented many "national" clients over the years, including: Hess, Met Life, the National Hockey League, Prudential Securities, Barney's New York, IAC and its subsidiaries, (Home Shopping Network, Internet Shopping Network, Styleclick) and Medco Health Solutions.

Locally, the client base has included cases for: the Florida Marlins, Jarden Consumer Products (formerly Sunbeam), JJ Taylor (a beer distribution company), Wm. Thies (another beer distribution company), Nightingale Nurses (non-compete litigation), Sensormatic (now Tyco), Palm Beach Media Group, First Southern Bank, Lydian Bank, Boston Proper, Lan Chile Airlines, LRP Publications, and Office Depot.

Although the primary focus of the practice is the litigation of cases on behalf of these clients and others, Allan and his team are the trusted advisors to their clients on day-to-day employment and crisis counseling, including questions under all of the various labor and employment laws.

On the litigation side, our Florida practice headed by Matt Triggs is a broad commercial practice in which we represent a healthy mix of both local and national clients in a variety of disputes. We litigate in both state and federal courts throughout Florida, and we participate in all other forms of dispute resolution, whether arbitration or mediation. Our practice is quite diverse, as our litigated disputes include securities class actions, complex real estate and contract disputes, real property title matters, non-compete claims, business torts, franchise litigation, construction disputes, probate and guardianship disputes, broker-dealer arbitrations, and adversary proceedings in bankruptcy court.

In the healthcare area, the Boca Raton office works closely with the firm's New York- and DC-based healthcare groups, and specializes in structuring, negotiating, documenting and performing due diligence, including regulatory analysis, for corporate transactions, such as stock and asset purchase, mergers, restructurings and joint venture arrangements. We draft and negotiate managed care contracts, including third-party administrator agreements, pharmacy benefit agreements, provider agreements, and group insurance agreements on behalf of managed care entities, self-insured funds and employers. We also draft and negotiate facility and equipment leases, professional services agreements and other contractual arrangements on behalf of health care providers, and assist these clients with licensing and reimbursement issues.

Editor: How does the Boca Raton office fit into the firm-wide structure? Is the office able to draw upon the resources of the firm's other offices - in terms of expertise and personnel - in staffing its projects? And are you on call to support other offices?

Gortz: The Boca Raton office is well integrated with our other offices. All of our practice groups provide local expertise but have the option of relying upon and bringing to our clients the resources and depth of an international law firm of 700 lawyers. This is what we believe distinguishes our firm from our competition in Florida. I should add that from a management perspective we only open offices if there are strategic synergies which equate to one and one being greater than two. That has certainly been the case with our Florida office.

Editor: Please tell us about the Boca Raton office's pro bono and community activities. What kinds of activities do your lawyers engage in?

Gortz: The firm has a longstanding commitment to community service and pro bono work and strongly encourages all of our lawyers to actively participate in both areas. A number of our attorneys are on the boards of community and legal organizations, and I serve on the Board of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, its Foundation and the American Jewish Committee. With respect to pro bono, we receive referrals from the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, and many of our attorneys have signed up for the voluntary lawyer's project of the Southern District of Florida. In addition, a number of our attorneys devote time to voting rights matters working closely with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Pro bono work is valued by the firm, and that value is demonstrated by the fact that associates receive billable hour credit for working on pro bono matters regardless of the number of hours devoted to a particular project. Here in Florida, and throughout the firm, we view pro bono as not only our responsibility, but we believe it can meaningfully impact attorney development, morale and satisfaction.

Editor: What about the future? Where would you like the Boca Raton office to be in, say, five years?

Gortz: The future is bright for our Boca Raton office. In the last year alone. we added David Pratt and Andy Robins as lateral partners. We will continue to look to augment our core competencies by building laterally and from within. We have no set numerical goals for the number of attorneys we will add in five years but we will look for people and practices that add to and complement our core strengths or add strategic practice areas that will enable us to continue to provide our clients with the highest quality legal advice to service their expanding needs.

Please email the interviewee at agortz@proskauer.com with questions about this interview.