By Dan Roe | January 14, 2021 at 05:23 PM | LINK TO ARTICLE
Steven W. Zelkowitz, who has rejoined former colleagues at Spiritus Law, said, “Fox Rothschild is a great firm, but we couldn’t get the traction we hoped for in the Miami office.”
After spending the last two and a half years as managing partner of Fox Rothschild’s Miami office, Steven W. Zelkowitz has left for six-attorney regulatory boutique Spiritus Law.
Zelkowitz, who joins as managing partner of Spiritus Law, said he had aimed to grow Fox Rothschild’s Miami branch just like he did with a prior firm. But ultimately several partners left.
“We intended to grow the office to 35 or 50 attorneys and turn it into a full-service law office,” Zelkowitz said. “Fox Rothschild is a great firm, but we couldn’t get the traction we hoped for in the Miami office.”
Fox currently has 17 lawyers in Miami, according to the firm’s website. Michael Sastre, Aaron Epstein and Dania Saavedra left Fox Rothschild in mid-2020 to start their own law firm.
In a statement Thursday, Mark Morris, firmwide managing partner of Fox Rothschild, pointedly referred back to the role of leadership office. “Office managing partners at Fox Rothschild play a pivotal role in planning and executing the firm’s strategic initiatives, which include growing our geographic footprint in our existing locations. Our plans to grow our Miami office and attract talent remain unchanged.”
Zelkowitz, who focuses on complex real estate and financial services transactions, said the move to the Coral Gables-based boutique was motivated by the opportunity to reunite with a litigation team he’d worked with at GrayRobinson: Robert and Marbet Lewis, a married couple who are founding partners of Spiritus Law.
Zelkowitz began working with Robert and Marbet at GrayRobinson’s Fort Lauderdale office in 2005, the year it opened. The practice grew to 40 attorneys before moving to Brickell, where it added another 10 attorneys.
“We had a great synergy,” Zelkowitz said. “The triumvirate was something unique and special to the three of us.”
In 2013, a change in leadership at GrayRobinson caused Robert and Marbet to depart the firm, said Zelkowitz, who stayed on as the firm’s Miami managing shareholder until August 2018.
After stints at Akerman and Greenspoon Marder, the couple founded Spiritus Law in 2017. The Coral Gables-based boutique describes itself as an entrepreneurial regulatory and business compliance firm, working in highly regulated industries such as food, alcohol, entertainment, construction, and hospitality.
Zelkowitz said that his and Robert and Marbet’s practices complemented each other in the continuously active Miami real estate and hospitality markets.
“If a client was opening a hotel or a restaurant, Rob and Marbet would be able to do all of the licensing, permitting and zoning work to make that happen. I would do all of the leasing or acquisition work for a piece of property, including financing and closing loans,” Zelkowitz said. “It was an all-in-one package that we could offer clients.”
After reconnecting with Robert and Marbet at an event, the trio discussed reuniting.
“After talking about it over the years, finally the reunion came together,” Zelkowitz said. “We see ourselves as an ironclad triumvirate that’s going to be able to offer clients a myriad of services as a one-stop-shop for their business and transactional matters with respect to the hospitality and entertainment industries.”
Zelkowitz said the pandemic won’t stop demand in his practice for 2021. “Interest rates are really low, so banks are making loans for acquisitions and development is coming from places like New York, Canada, and Europe,” he said.
He cited the return of hospitality movie sectors such as movie theaters as those that will need assistance to become operational again.
He added that low-interest rates and availability of capital coincides with an asset sell-off driven by uncertainty over the Biden administration’s tax structure.
“It seems to us we’re going to be experiencing a growth spurt this coming year,” Zelkowitz said. “We see the necessity to increase our head count with both partners and associates to handle the work that’s going to be coming in.”
About Spiritus Law:
Spiritus Law is an entrepreneurial regulatory and business law firm focused on the representation of highly regulated industries by offering legal services in the areas of alcohol and tobacco law, federal, state and local regulatory and business licensing, hospitality law and licensing, commercial and residential development, land use and zoning, real estate transactions, government relations, banking and lending, general commercial retail including the retail sale of regulated products and public/private partnership transactions. The Firm is founded on traditional principles of client counseling and teamwork with a cutting-edge twist on regulatory innovation and modern problem-solving. Spiritus Law combines a unique blend of professionals, including attorneys, government consultants, licensing assistants and paralegals to assist its diverse clients. Our modern approach to transparent client representation and employee engagement defines our collaborative spirit and progressive energy.
Primary service areas include: Alcohol Licensing & Regulatory Compliance, Alcohol Production & Distribution Transactions, Financial Services, Food & Hospitality Industry Compliance, Infrastructure & Development, Public/Private Partnerships, Real Estate, Administrative Enforcement Defense. Our firm services an array of highly regulated industries, including alcohol producers, sports teams, hotels, restaurants, theme parks, movie theaters, grocery stores, liquor stores, bars, commercial developers, municipal governments, investment firms and individual investors, lending institutions, security service providers, firearms suppliers and more.