On a recent Friday, attorneys Adrian Rust, Ellsworth Summers and Michael Waskiewicz were closing out the week — and their time at Rogers Towers.
Less than 72 hours later, the three were shareholders opening the Jacksonville office of Burr & Forman.
“It was a whirlwind weekend,” said Rust, the Jacksonville office’s managing partner.
Burr & Forman has opened offices in Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale in recent years.
It specializes in health care, manufacturing, financial institutions and the restaurant industry.
Rust, Summers and Waskiewicz have lengthy backgrounds working with financial clients.
There was no break or easing-in period, though, for the three attorneys.
That Friday they notified Rogers Towers of their decision to leave.
The doors opened Monday in the 3000 suite of the Bank of America Tower.
Walking through the office, one would have a hard time seeing the transition was as fast-paced as it was.
“You wouldn’t think we opened Monday at 8 o’clock,” said Summers of their opening last week. “It’s been overwhelming in a wonderful way.”
They weren’t exactly just given keys to the office and left on their own.
Burr & Forman’s administrative team ensured the three lawyers, along with attorneys Robert Neilson and Armando Nozzolillo, aren’t bogged down with administrative work.
“These guys are here to practice law,” said William “Lee” Thuston, managing partner of the Birmingham, Ala., office.
That first day was filled with congratulatory emails and phone calls from friends, clients and other area attorneys — not to mention the job inquiries.
Many were surprised about the move, said Rust.
The seed for such a move actually was planted more than five years ago by clients.
Rust was with Rogers Towers for 20 years and Summers for 11, often lining up against Burr & Forman in cases. Waskiewicz had been with the firm for four years.
Casual conversations started and materialized over time, as is often the case when two sides are in contact with each other so long.
At one point, Summers said the two ended up on the same side of a case. Thirty- and 40-hour weeks can lead to quite a few casual conversations.
However, clients drive everything with Burr & Forman. And the clients said they needed a Jacksonville office, Thuston said.
Casual conversations ramped up in the final quarter of last year and Thuston said Rust and Summer fit the bill — existing partners gave them high marks and the experience in dealings with them over the years helped that cause.
And Rust said others were nudging him in the direction, too.
“When clients tell you to join another law firm … that’s something you take serious,” he said of the Rogers Towers clients.
And so the three made the move.
Rust said they worked with Rogers Towers in a “cordial and understanding manner,” but said the conversations were sensitive.
Burr & Forman has about 300 attorneys across its 10 offices, all in the Southeast. While the Jacksonville office has just three for the moment, Thuston said there is no definite number on how large the Jacksonville office would be. It will tick upward as the market dictates, he said.
Attorneys are interested.
The Birmingham office, Thuston said, received 20 unsolicited resumes right away. The Friday afternoon Rust and others moved in, there were two people who called before by 5 p.m. to inquire.
Those casual conversations, as Rust, Ellsworth and Waskiewicz know, sometimes can turn into something bigger.
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