Side businesses, new partners part of law firm's charge
By Ross Daly
Friday, July 20, 2007
Howard Fensterman tends toward metaphor when describing his law firm: golden goose, Three Musketeers, launch platform.
The firm aims at high profitability, in part through involvement in ancillary businesses, said Fensterman, managing partner of Lake Success-based Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Formato, Ferrara & Einiger LLP. In short, Abrams Fensterman is not just law anymore.
"We view the law firm as the golden goose, and see it as a platform to launch us into other businesses," he said.
The ancillary businesses include consulting firms and part-ownership of nursing homes. In addition to generating additional revenues, these side enterprises also provide work for the law practice, Fensterman noted. "The law firm serves as the platform for all these opportunities," he said.
The revenue from those businesses is shared by the partners - and not just the senior partners, Fensterman added. "I call it the 'Three Musketeers' theory," he said. "All for one and one for all."
The firm started in 2000 with 13 attorneys, and with coming additions will have 47 attorneys by August. Each year, Fensterman said, profitability and gross revenues have grown, and when a new partner comes into the firm, those with a stake in the program sell off a portion of their holdings.
That produces returns for them, as does the revenue that the new partners bring in.
Three big-name partners who recently joined the firm are Scott Einiger, Carolyn Reinach Wolf and Bruce Blakeman.
Before joining Abrams Fensterman in November, Einiger ran a five-attorney firm in Manhattan with a substantial practice representing physicians, so among other benefits, this acquisition gives Abrams Fensterman a Manhattan presence, where the firm now has seven attorneys.
Einiger has been instrumental in launching one of Abrams Fensterman's consulting businesses, HIRE. Einiger realized that many small and mid-size businesses don't have employment liability insurance, and so HIRE has developed a risk management program to allow firms to purchase lower-price insurance.
Wolf, who joined the firm in February from private practice, is also involved in developing Abrams Fensterman's consulting businesses. Dubbed by Fensterman "the preeminent mental health lawyer in the state," Wolf decided to develop programs to advise colleges on dealing with mental health risks - and she did it before the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech.
"She's been on top of this issue for a long time now," Fensterman said, noting mental health issues have increased significantly on campuses because new treatments and drugs have allowed people who previously might not have attended college to enroll.
Campus Behavioral Health Risk Consultants addresses the mental-health issues from a variety of perspectives, including legal, clinical and law enforcement. The business provides campuses education, training, program development and materials.
Blakeman is also looking at campuses, at least how they can identify and manage homeland security risks. The former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature was among the first to graduate from Long Island University with an advanced certificate in homeland security. As a commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Blakeman is vice chairman of the authority's security committee.
Blakeman joined the firm in March.
"I contacted Howard because I had heard from a number of people about the growth of the firm," he said, citing another bond he shares with his old friend: "We're both very political."
In 1998, Blakeman was the Republican candidate for New York State comptroller. He's currently working on the pending presidential campaign of former Sen. Fred Thompson.
So how does he feel working with a Democrat like Fensterman, the Long Island finance chairman for both Sen. Charles Schumer and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo?
"I'm trying to be more multicultural," Blakeman said. "Eisman was lonely."
That's Steven Eisman, the law firm's senior litigator and vice chairman of the Nassau County Republican Party.
"We're covering both sides of the aisle," Fensterman noted.