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Rochester Top 100: Law firm thrives as the industry changes

Rochester Business Journal
December 6, 2013

The only law firm to appear among the 2013 Rochester Top 100 companies, Davidson Fink LLP, prides itself on the array of services its 25 lawyers offer.
 
Like other local law firms, its growth over the past several years partly reflects corporate clients' increasing disenchantment with big-city, big-name firms' higher hourly rates, said Managing Partner Leslie Kernan Jr.
 
"Clients want more affordable services," Kernan said.
 
But what has more specifically put the general practice law firm in line to profit from businesses' increasing tendency to shop legal services, he believes, is Davidson Fink's success in attracting new talent.
 
Also fueling the firm's growth is its ability to employ its attorneys' skills using a team approach, Kernan added.
 
Recent additions to Davidson Fink's attorney roster include commercial litigator Andrew Burns and labor and employment attorney Jill Schultz, who joined as partners this year. Formerly partners with Nixon Peabody LLP in Rochester, Burns and Schultz had formed their own firm in 2007.
 
As the size of their cases increased, moving to a larger firm made sense. Davidson Fink, whose offices were several floors up from their offices in First Federal Plaza, made sense, Burns told the Rochester Business Journal earlier this year.
 
A substantial chunk of Davidson Fink's business comes from banking clients.
 
"We represent every major bank," said Gerald Davidson, founding partner and a former managing partner.
 
The firm's bank business got a boost several years ago when litigators David Rasmussen and Glenn Fjermedal moved to Davidson Fink from another Rochester firm, Kernan said.
 
Fjermedal, who concentrates on defending lenders and creditors in matters including Fair Credit Reporting Act and Fair Debt Collection Act claims, and Rasmussen, who has some two decades of experience representing creditors in bankruptcy cases, prominently count banks among their clients.
 
Other practice areas that have added substantially to Davidson Fink's recent growth include real estate law and personal injury law.
 
In the latter category, Kernan largely credits Paul Kelly. Formerly an attorney in the Monroe County Public Defender's Office, Kelly has been a Davidson Fink partner since 1985. He heads the firm's medical malpractice and personal injury group.
 
Davidson Fink's expansion in personal injury and medical malpractice law "reflects the fact that we provide high-quality services to both individuals and organizations alike," Kernan said.
 
Co-founded in 1968 as Beckerman & Davidson, the firm started out with four attorneys-Davidson, two associates and Gerald Beckerman, who is now a partner of Beckerman & Beckerman LLP in Rochester.
 
Thomas Fink, who concentrates on construction law and construction-related litigation, joined the firm soon after its founding.
 
Despite Davidson Fink's relatively small size, "we were a general practice firm from the start," Davidson said.
 
The firm grew steadily through several iterations and name changes, he said. Until its partners decided some four years ago to shorten its name to Davidson Fink, it was called Davidson, Fink, Kelly, Cook and Galbraith LLP.
 
The partners decided to shorten the name mostly because shorter names seemed to be a trend among law firms, Davidson said.
 
Robert Galbraith Jr., who heads the firm's real estate and default services practice groups, is still a partner. Stuart Cook is of counsel.
 
Davidson, who concentrates on matrimonial law, has eschewed courtroom work since the end of 2012, when he ostensibly retired.
 
"I still come in to the office every day," he said. "But I only work collaboratively with other attorneys now. I got tired of fighting with lawyers."
 
Since the end of last year, Davidson Fink has added some 30 staffers, increasing total employment to 100 from 72 at the end of 2012. Kernan sees more growth in the firm's future.
 
"We're always interested in looking for new opportunities, to expand and to bring in new attorneys either laterally or as associates," he said. "You need to continue to grow. Standing still is moving backward."


The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. This year's Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 6. For more information, go to rochesterbusinessalliance.com.
 
Davidson Fink LLP
General practice law firm
2013 ranking: 53
Founded: 1968
Top executive: Leslie Kernan Jr., managing partner
Location: Rochester
Website: davidsonfink.com

12/5/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.
 


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