Spotlight On: Roberto Pupo, Chair – Latin America Practice Group, Holland & Knight

Spotlight On: Roberto Pupo, Chair – Latin America Practice Group, Holland & Knight

2022-12-13T12:27:00-05:00December 13th, 2022|Accounting, Miami, Professional Services, Spotlight On|

2 min read December 2022 Holland & Knight is one of the largest law firms in Florida and the U.S., but it continues to strive for growth. “The last eight to ten years have been extraordinary for the firm and we plan to stay on the same trajectory going forward,” Roberto Pupo, chair of the firm’s Latin America practice group, told Invest:. He also discussed the firm’s differentiators in the Miami region and its most active practice areas.

What have been the major highlights or milestones for the firm during the last year?

Last year, Holland & Knight had a very active year as we merged with a Texas firm, Thompson & Knight, and added 270 lawyers. That merger allowed us to grow in strategic markets and in terms of expertise. We are now the 6th largest law firm in the Texas market and among the top three in Florida, which is promising as those are two of the fastest-growing states in the country. We’ve also added critical areas of expertise, in particular on the renewable and alternative energy front. Those are areas that we’ve been trying to add to what is already a very strong national energy team. We have a large lobbying team in Washington, D.C. along with our regulatory team. We also have transactional energy lawyers all across the United States, and by adding Texas with its broad energy expertise we’ve become one of the top firms in that segment. 

On the Latin America front, the addition of the Thompson & Knight lawyers created significant bench strength to our Mexico operations through the addition of an office in Monterrey, and by expanding an important skill set on the energy front to our Mexico City office. 

We are also growing in the healthcare sector. I’m a mergers and acquisitions attorney with a large focus on domestic healthcare deals, in addition to the work that I do cross-border in Latin America. 

Those are all areas in which the firm is focused on growing and we have continued to add significant assets to those industry sector groups.

What would you say distinguishes Holland Knight from other firms in the area? 

The best thing about Holland & Knight is its culture. Our culture is completely integrated as we’re able to work across offices and that culture is fostered structurally, from the way that we run the firm’s administration directly to the way that our lawyers are compensated. Our values are evident at every level because they are part of the fabric of the firm at its very heart. 

In Holland & Knight’s current configuration, we emphasize teamwork, community service and devotion to the profession. In its current composition, the firm was founded in the mid- to late ’60s by lawyers in Florida who were very forward thinking, and since then devotion to our clients has been and continues to be paramount. As such, we don’t have profit centers, we don’t have silos and we don’t compensate lawyers on that basis. We go strictly by productivity and the ability to serve clients. For example, if a lawyer brings a case in, if there is anyone at the firm who can do that work better than the lawyer who brought the matter, it goes to the lawyer who can do it the best. That’s where the client benefits the most. That is part of the firm’s culture and we’ve been able to attract top-notch talent as a result. 

What areas have been the most active for your firm?

Many areas have been active, including M&A and private equity transactions, financing work and other transactional matters, but we have also seen significant activity in our litigation and government work.

In South Florida, tech is one area where Holland & Knight has been very active and we have seen significant activity. We are working with both investors who are investing in tech companies, and representing some of the tech companies that are undergoing different rounds of financing. 

We have also been very active in the creation of various kinds of private equity funds. There are funds to invest in real estate as a result of the large influx of foreign investors who typically start with real estate investments, or private equity funds that invest in operating companies. We work with all kinds of hedge funds and private equity funds. We have a very large private equity team, among the largest in the Southeast, and we’ve been able to accompany many of our clients in that regard. 

On the Latin America front, many successful individuals are creating important business centers in South Florida for themselves, their family groups or businesses, which is then solidifying the reputation of the region as a financial center. A lot of Latin American families and businesses come to do business and invest, so we’ve been helping them to structure a lot of their investments in the United States, as well as expand in different markets throughout the country.

What is the firm’s strategy to recruit and retain talent?

Holland & Knight has successfully been balancing the return to work by creating and accepting a new order where we offer significant flexibility to our lawyers and staff. Traffic in South Florida is a challenge. There are many who feel that they are more productive if they’re not in the office all the time. Flexibility and culture have been key in retaining our folks and we’ve had a lot of luck. We don’t get to 193 lawyers in Miami without doing a ton of hiring and we haven’t suffered a lot of attrition. We’ve found a good balance to make sure we protect our culture and our core values, while allowing our people to explore what type of work-from-home schedule works best for them.

What is the biggest challenge that the firm is facing? 

The biggest challenge Holland & Knight faces is the competition for human capital. The pandemic made location somewhat optional and discretional, particularly for lawyers, so we have to compete in that arena. Talent competition is a big deal. 

As an organization and an employer in South Florida, cost of living is something that we have to deal with every day. It’s a long-term concern as the housing costs are getting away from a segment of the people that we employ and need in the organization. 

There are some potential economic headwinds, but we’re encouraged by the direction of Miami and the growth of the market.

What is your outlook for the near term and what are your top priorities? 

Holland & Knight’s goal is to continue growing in key markets and key industry sectors, bringing more expertise to our clients. We want to continue being a law firm that can reach just about any location in the country and provide top-quality legal services to our clients. Our national footprint is extremely important to us. It’s a difference-maker. We have about 30 offices nationwide and I think that number will continue to grow. There are very few large financial markets where we’re not present. The last eight to ten years have been extraordinary for the firm and we plan to stay on the same trajectory going forward. 

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