Editor: Would each of you gentlemen tell our readers something about your professional experience?
Fitzgerald: I went to law school in Boston. I started my career in southern New Hampshire until I had the opportunity to work with one of Nixon Peabody's legacy firms, Peabody & Brown, in Boston. That involved a considerable volume of financial institutions litigation, which was a principal focus of my practice at the time. In the early 1990s, Peabody & Brown expanded its geographic footprint into the southern tier of New Hampshire and I was asked to help in that undertaking. We officially opened the Manchester office in 1992 with six lawyers.
From early on I worked regionally, and now nationally, on business litigation matters, primarily in corporate governance and in complex commercial litigation in the financial institutions area.
Taub: I grew up in South Africa and moved to the U.S. after my first year of college, finishing my undergraduate education at Boston University. I went to law school in Washington, DC. Following law school, I joined Peabody & Brown as a first-year associate. At the time, it was a mid-sized firm with an excellent reputation. I have seen the firm grow from about 70 lawyers at the time of my arrival to 700 attorneys today.
My practice is in the corporate area. I currently serve as the head of the Private Company Transactions Group, which consists of about 30 lawyers, most of whom are M&A practitioners at different Nixon Peabody offices across the country.
Editor: Please tell us about your respective practices. How have they evolved over the course of your careers?
Fitzgerald: In the area of complex commercial litigation which includes corporate governance litigation, my practice has evolved in the sense that the scope of the matters has gotten larger over time. As I mentioned, in the early 1990s much of my litigation work was connected to the failure of some of the largest financial institutions in the region, most of which were publicly held companies. That has given way to a rise in the frequency of litigation in connection with large but more closely held and privately funded companies in what we now call the private equity area. Shareholder, investor and debtor/creditor litigation over the past 15 years or so has grown substantially but most of it outside the traditional bankruptcy process. I think that growth is commensurate with the general economic expansion and in particular the enormous increase in money flowing from private equity sources.
Taub: From my perspective, much has changed in a short period of time. When I joined the firm, most of the companies we represented were regional in their reputation and reach. Today - and I am speaking of the Manchester office alone - we represent the largest privately held companies in New Hampshire, and I might add that these are national clients with nationally recognized brands. The client group also includes national clients without any particular connection to the New England region. They have an interest in Nixon Peabody's experience and expertise, but they do not have a concern as to where the firm is located. I am an example of an attorney who resides at the Manchester office and represents a national clientele.
A second major change concerns the speed of the transactions that we handle. Technology has had a major impact on how we conduct our practices.
Editor: Would you share with us the firm's strategy in opening an office in Manchester, New Hampshire?
Fitzgerald: Initially the Manchester office was a response to increased client work our firm was tasked with as a result of the failure of a number of financial institutions in the region in the early 1990s. The initial strategy was to build bankruptcy, commercial litigation and then our transactional practices around those economic events.
As the firm's business and transactional focus grew, our litigation practice played an increasingly important high level support role in that evolution which continues today.
To service a clientele that includes many of the most sophisticated corporate enterprises in the region, and, at the same time, to address the needs of an ever growing group of national clients, the Manchester office is required to recruit the very best legal talent. Thankfully we've been very successful in this principally because we represent to many young law school graduates and lateral hires an opportunity to practice at the very highest level in a national firm but in a smaller office setting and in a wonderful community. Few firms can offer that combination of features.
Editor: Please tell us about the office today.
Fitzgerald: We have more than 20 resident attorneys and are continuing to grow. We occupy two floors of about 25,000 square feet in a state-of-the-art facility with teleconferencing capability and connectivity across the entire firm and its client network. On any given day, a dozen lawyers from other firm offices may be in Manchester working on a variety of cases and transactions.
The key practice groups include our global finance group and the private company transactions group. We have a strong private equity practice, in particular our investment funds groups and a leveraged buyout group. All of the business groups are supported by a specialized practices business litigation group with a national practice centered on financial institutions litigation, corporate governance litigation and class actions. The group also has capability in the insurance and reinsurance area and in government investigations and white collar criminal matters. We also have an active and unique transactional practice in real estate, representing two of the leading national developers of resorts.
At our annual business retreat last month, we examined our 50 top clients. About 10 percent of that group is based or does most of its business in New England. Many of those clients are national players which happen to be located in New Hampshire. Several are clients we represent nationally with no particular nexus to New England.
Editor: Please tell us about some of the awards that the Manchester office has received in recent years.
Fitzgerald: In the 1990s a number of national firms attempted to establish offices in New Hampshire and failed. We managed to get it right. One contributing factor is because Nixon Peabody became very involved in the community. As a consequence, we have been the recipient of some noteworthy awards. In 2001, the Manchester office was selected by Business NH Magazine and the regional Chamber of Commerce Executives as the 2001 Business of the Year. In 2005 we were presented with that year's Business in the Arts Award. Last year we were the recipient of Best Practices Award by the New Hampshire Cultural Diversity Awareness Council for our efforts to promote cultural awareness and diversity in the workplace. We take a great deal of pride in these awards, but the activities that have led to this recognition are part of a firm-wide culture at Nixon Peabody. Of course, our firm was named one of Fortune Magazine's 100 Best Places To Work for the second year in a row.
Editor: Speaking of the community, describe your community involvement.
Taub: Both Kevin and I have served as President of the Manchester Bar Association. I currently serve on the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement of New Hampshire, which is the local chapter of a national organization, and on the governing board of the Greater Manchester YMCA. In the past, I have served on the governing board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Manchester. Kevin's involvement in community and non-profit activities is equally extensive. Among the organizations in which other lawyers are involved are the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association and the Manchester Boys and Girls Club.
Fitzgerald: Along these lines, we have supported a growing focus on pro bono activities, both regionally and nationally. One of our partners, Jamie Hage, has been selected by the New Hampshire Bar Association and the New Hampshire Supreme Court to serve on multiple task forces focusing on providing legal services to the poor. He is also serving on the New Hampshire Bar Foundation, which has provided more than $20 million to support non-profit organizations in the state.
Editor: As law firms enter the global arena, a continuing constant is the importance of client relationships to any firm's success. Nixon Peabody is a national firm with a presence in major metropolitan areas but a presence in smaller markets as well - Manchester is a good example. How do the firm's clients benefit from such a structure?
Fitzgerald: Having a presence in regional markets such as New Hampshire and upstate New York has given Nixon Peabody the ability to deliver the very best in legal services at very competitive pricing.
A second benefit to the client derives from the quality of the lawyers providing those services. I mentioned our recruiting efforts. We are able to recruit very highly qualified lawyers to join the Manchester office because we are in a position to enable them to live in a place that matches their desired lifestyle while practicing at a national level.
Taub: In addition, we have all seen situations where a local client thinks it imperative to go to a national market for the requisite expertise. Our experience, however, is that if the client knows that that expertise is available locally, they will choose it every time. Because of Nixon Peabody's national reputation, our office continues to win more engagements at the local level.
Editor: Nixon Peabody has a reputation for assisting companies through the entire business cycle - from start-up to IPO. How does the Manchester office contribute to the success of this type of service?
Taub: We have a number of lawyers who have a lot of experience dealing with start-up clients and the issues that they face. As a result of Nixon Peabody's national platform, we have lawyers who have worked with national clients that have gone public. Not all of the requisite expertise may reside in our Manchester office, but we have the ability to call upon the resources of the entire firm in addressing, say, a sophisticated securities or ERISA issue. We work seamlessly across any number of firm offices on a given project.