Kaufman & Canoles chairman William “Bill” Van Buren III turned to Raleigh Managing Director Frank Hirsch and members of his executive team as they inspected a sign in the lobby of the firm’s new Raleigh office. “It came out well, didn’t it?” said Van Buren.
The group then rounded the corner and surveyed 2000 square feet of spic-and-span new office space. “I’d feel good about having five to ten lawyers here by the end of the year,” said Hirsch. “It’s not a numbers game; it’s a quality game.”
Norfolk-based Kaufman & Canoles has 90 lawyers in its eight Virginia offices. Raleigh is the firm’s first outside the state.
“We think the port of Hampton Roads is a substantial engine of growth for the mid-Atlantic. With the new broadband connections to Europe coming into Virginia Beach and the proposed improvement of the Interstate 87 corridor, the opportunities for business connectivity between Raleigh and Norfolk are primed for growth,” said Van Buren. “With many of our clients beginning to do business in Raleigh, it only makes sense for us to expand here.”
“Our firm has a couple of key attributes,” said Van Buren. “One is connectivity to spheres of influence, whether political, business, academic, or institutional, and the other is an understanding of context that helps us achieve better results for our clients.
“Everybody in the firm is deeply rooted in their community and deeply connected in the spheres of influence in the communities they live in,” he added. “It’s one thing to come to work every day and go back home. It’s another to have your friends, your community work, and your civic life deeply integrated with your practice.
“You earn relationships by being honest, displaying integrity and supporting people in their endeavors. That connectivity helps drive results for our clients,” said Van Buren.
Through a similar network of connections, Kaufman & Canoles assists clients on the global stage through TerraLex, the largest voluntary association of independent law firms with members around the world. The firm was invited to join TerraLex in 2017.
“It allows us to handle clients in the mid-Atlantic that want to do business in Europe, Asia, Brazil or other parts of the world. We are able to access law firms that look a lot like us, have the same service mentality, the same rate structure, the same overhead structure, and the same focus on service delivery,” said Van Buren.
‘An Interesting Opportunity’
The health care industry is one of the firm’s sweet spots. “We have people that are very good at the regulatory and financial aspects of health care and have extensive experience at structuring complex healthcare joint ventures,” said Van Buren. “We do a significant amount of work for physicians including medical group integrations and private equity acquisitions of large medical groups.”
“We also represent a number of hospitals, particularly in the areas of risk management and medical malpractice defense,” explained Van Buren. “We’ve learned to help hospitals manage their medical staffs and their risk management profiles and to create compliance policies that help them avoid litigation.” The firm also handles matters for nursing homes, assisted living centers and continuing care retirement communities.
In addition to healthcare, attorneys in the Raleigh office will also focus on commercial banking, credit unions, commercial real estate, employment, environmental, eminent domain, and government contracts, among other practice areas.
High on the shopping list are attorneys to assist with capital formation and intellectual property protection for high-tech companies. “Anybody that’s in the entrepreneurial space and helping companies, not just the startups, but the ones who are in the next phase of funding and looking down the road toward doing an IPO or doing some type of a cash-out transaction,” said Hirsch.
The office plans to grow by adding laterals with ten plus years of experience looking for a different practice model than they are currently in. “For somebody who really wants to stay in touch with clients, stay local and deliver great service and who value great relationships, not only with their colleagues but with their clients, this is an interesting opportunity,” said Van Buren.
‘Work Hard, Play Hard’
“The five years of future growth for the Raleigh area has kind of already been written. It’s just a matter of trying to make sure we get in here, and take advantage of opportunities that come our way,” said Hirsch.
A picture of a Scottish golfer hangs next to his office door. The royal blue tie he is wearing has a tiny gold print of golfers. “It’s aspirational,” he joked as the rest of the room laughed.
“Work hard, play hard” has been my mantra for my whole life,” said Hirsch. “I always tell people that I recruit; one of my sayings is, ‘This isn’t a dress rehearsal. You need to live every day with excitement and blessing. You’ve got an opportunity to breathe deep and enjoy things, but also you work hard. We work in order to live; we don’t live in order to just work.”