In the course of a decade, Greenberg Traurig has had the kind of growth usually reserved for businesses that sell oil or iPods. Revenues are up by more than 880 percent from 1996, and in 2006 they topped the billion-dollar mark. Profits per partner have soared from $480,000 to $1.2 million. The firm has opened 22 offices and added more than 1,400 attorneys. And it expects revenue to rise another 18-20 percent in 2007.
After years as a midmarket Florida player, Greenberg has amassed a national client list that includes Lowe’s Companies, Inc., The Related Companies, LP, and Alcoa Inc. Its real estate, entertainment, and litigation practices are humming. And it has snagged roles in high-profile transactions, such as representing MetLife, Inc., in its $5.4 billion sale of New York’s Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, the biggest deal ever for a single piece of American property.
It’s the kind of performance that would make any firm tout its business model. And that’s certainly the case with Greenberg. The firm highlights its management structure: the fact that it is run like a closely held corporation, with a strong chief executive who possesses almost unlimited authority to make decisions. Partners disdain the bureaucracy that’s part of committee-driven firms. They are in business to make money. And in that regard, partners-actually shareholders, in Greenberg’s case-are held to high standards. At the beginning of the year, they set targets for annual earnings, and the firm’s management tracks their progress. Meet the targets, and there are no questions asked. Slip, and management is on the phone.
One word is used more than any other by Greenberg lawyers to describe their firm: “entrepreneurial.” Want to expand a practice area? Forget putting together a detailed business plan, just be sure that the idea makes money. “The Greenberg Traurig mantra is . . . get out of the way and let people grow their practice with our support,” says Michael Lehr, managing partner of the Philadelphia office. Or as a former longtime partner puts it: “At other firms you have lawyers who engage in business; at Greenberg you have a lot of businessmen who practice law.”