Peter M. Friedman
Peter M. Friedman
Steven M. Elrod
Steven M. Elrod

A group of 10 attorneys are leaving Holland & Knight LLP’s municipal government practice to form a new boutique firm led by partners Steven M. Elrod and Peter M. Friedman.

The new firm, opened today as Elrod Friedman LLP, represents more than a dozen local government bodies and large real estate developers. It comprises all of the land use and local government attorneys at Holland & Knight’s Chicago office.

Elrod Friedman LLP office is located at 325 N. LaSalle St., Suite 450, and the firm is online at elrodfriedman.com.

Elrod served as executive partner of Holland & Knight for two stints, from 2003 to 2007 and again from 2009 through early 2019. He was additionally co-chairman of the firm’s national land use and government group.

Friedman was head of Holland & Knight’s Chicago government law and real estate practice since 2009.

“This was an opportunity for us to provide nimble, sophisticated legal counsel in a very efficient fashion,” Friedman said in an interview with the Daily Law Bulletin.

Both name partners said the impetus for the new firm came down to costs.

“The billing rate structure at Holland & Knight became a difficult hurdle for real estate developers and local governments,” Elrod said in an interview. “Our goal is to provide the same service at a more reasonable billing rate structure.”

Elrod said his former firm’s rate this year for public-sector clients was in the $800-per-hour range, while the new firm plans to charge closer to $300 per hour.

Real estate clients migrating with their lawyers to the new firm will also see a reduction in their current rates, Friedman said.

Holland & Knight has its roots in Florida. It has 25 U.S. offices and three abroad. According to data released last year by The American Lawyer, it had a headcount of 1,141 lawyers and reported more than $1.4 million profit per equity partner.

Here, in Chicago, Holland & Knight reported it had 73 attorneys in Chicago Lawyer magazine’s 2019 Largest Law Firms Survey, enough to place it in a tie for 49th largest in the state.

Leadership at Holland & Knight learned about the practice group’s plans about two weeks ago, Elrod said.

“They understand, from a pragmatic standpoint, the business case for the establishment of our new law firm,” he said.

Friedman described the departure as “entirely amicable.”

In a written statement, a Holland & Knight spokeswoman echoed that assessment: “Steve Elrod and Peter Friedman have long been recognized as pre-eminent in the field of local government, land use and zoning law in the Chicago area. We appreciate the contributions they have made to Holland & Knight. We wish them the best as they open their own firm to continue their practice.”

Elrod added that the new firm’s attorneys worked with Donald L. Mrozek at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP to navigate the process of leaving one firm and creating another.

In addition to the name partners, Elrod Friedman brought on as partners former Holland & Knight partner Hart M. Passman and Benjamin L. Schuster, who was a senior-level associate at the old firm.

The associates joining Elrod Friedman are Mark E. Burkland, Megan R. Cawley, Andrew N. Fiske, Brooke D. Lenneman, Jeffrey N. Monteleone and Stewart J. Weiss.

The firm announcement listed several local governments who have agreed to continue business with the lawyers and retain Elrod Friedman as village attorney or corporation counsel — pending board or council votes to make it official.

Among them, according to the firm’s announcement, are Arlington Heights, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Glencoe, Highland Park, Kenilworth, LaGrange, Lake Bluff, Lincolnwood, Northbrook and Winnetka, as well as other local units such as the Illinois Medical District Commission, the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System, the Park District of Oak Park and the Waukegan Port District.

In their interview, Elrod and Friedman identified several private-sector clients that have agreed to hire them: real estate giants Hines, Regency Centers Corp. and Glenstar Properties.

Elrod said his year as president of The Chicago Bar Association for its 2018-19 year offered him a new perspective on the industry. The time-intensive volunteer position exposed him to how other attorneys at firms of every size operate their practices.

“When you’re at a big firm, you live in a big firm bubble and everything is guided by American Lawyer statistics,” he said. “There’s other ways to practice law out there.”

The land-use practice group at Holland & Knight had its roots in another high-profile spinoff in the early 1980s, when Elrod was one of about 30 lawyers who left Ross Hardies to join what would become Burke Bosselman & Weaver.

Elrod first entered firm leadership at Burke Bosselman & Weaver and helped with that firm’s absorption into Holland & Knight in January 2000.