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January 25, 2011 11:01 am

Proskauer Rose Goes West, Mayor Celebrates the Move

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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Incoming Proskauer Chairman, Partner and co-head of the Sports Law Group Joseph Leccese, the Honorable Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York, and Chairman Allen Fagin cut the ribbon to officially open the firm's new headquarters. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Michael Bloomberg joined outgoing Proskauer Chairman Allen Fagin and incoming Chairman Joseph Leccese January 19 – with His Honor, the Mayor, directing – “on the count of three – after all, I do this for a living” – to snip the symbolic blue ribbon officially marking the opening of the new offices of the prestigious law firm.  Proskauer Rose is the anchor tenant of Eleven Times Square, a building covering the block between Forty First and Forty Second Streets at Eighth Avenue.  It will occupy 14 floors – more than 400,000 square feet as it continues its tradition of Times Square residency.

Proskauer Rose LLP is among the largest American law firms and one of the top ten in New York City.  It offers a wide variety of legal services to major clients throughout the United States and the world. Unlike some of New York’s elite firms, it never relied on traditional ties to “old money” or big investment banks. Instead, Proskauer Rose grew and profited from service to corporations in areas as diverse as labor and employment law and immigration law.  It is active in sports management, representing the interests of owners of professional sports franchises, and is one of the few major firms with a healthcare practice. The firm also has wide experience in corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, real estate transactions, bankruptcy and reorganizations, taxation, litigation and dispute resolution, and intellectual property issues.

When it moved to 1585 Broadway in 1990, the firm was considered a Times Square “pioneer.”  Its newest move, even farther west, says Chairman Allen Fagin, signifies Proskauer Rose’s confidence in midtown Manhattan’s continuing expansion and extension to the Hudson.

Founded in 1875 by William R. Rose and Gideon Putzel (then, Rose & Putzel), Proskauer Rose LLP is among the largest American law firms.  Its 2008 billing is said to have been over $625 million.  Proskauer attorneys spend tens of thousands of hours doing pro bono legal work.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg congratulates Proskauer Rose Chairman Alan Fagin. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Historically, Proskauer Rose was known as a “Jewish” law firm.  It crossed many historic and cultural traditions in its hiring and business practices, and has deep roots in the Jewish community. During its first forty years, the firm’s partners were largely engaged in a personal, family, and real estate practice catering to Jewish families. Clients included businessmen engaged in such fields as textiles, breweries and distilleries, and cigars and cigarettes. Probably the most important early client was Henry Siegel, who established the large Siegel-Cooper department store at 620 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.

Putzel died in 1907 and was succeeded as partner by Benjamin Paskusz, who had joined the firm in 1898. After he dropped the “z” from his name, the firm became Rose & Paskus. By 1911, a second generation of Rose family lawyers was involved when Alfred L. Rose joined the firm. Rose & Paskus was general counsel to Gimbel Brothers Department Stores, and members of the Gimbel family. It also represented such noted theatrical producers of the era as Abraham Erlanger and Charles Frohman. The adoption of the federal income tax in 1913 gave Rose & Paskus a new line of business in which Paskus excelled. By 1915, the firm had clients in all major U.S. cities and also in a number of European cities. May Department Stores Company became a regular client in 1920.

By 1923, both partners of Rose & Paskus were deteriorating in health. Rose’s son, who became a partner in 1919, helped pick up the slack and recruited a close friend, Norman Goetz, who joined the firm as a partner in 1925. In-house lawyers Lawrence Coit, Sylvan Gotschal, and Walter Mendelsohn were also made partners in 1926. The younger Rose became a specialist in real estate, corporate, and probate law. Mendelsohn, who died in 1995 at the age of 98, was cited in his New York Times obituary as “a driving force in virtually every facet of the firm’s growth.

The 1930 addition of Joseph M. Proskauer, a Democratic Party stalwart, friend of politicians, state judge, civic and philanthropic personality, and major fund raiser for the state of Israel, moved the firm to a significantly more visible place.  He added a roster of clients including banks and brokers, international corporations, utilities and celebrities. Among these were Bethlehem Steel Company, Cities Services Company, National City Bank, Loew’s Inc., Radio Corporation of America, Union Carbide & Carbon Company, and Universal Pictures. Proskauer defended banks and stockbrokers in major liability cases and represented Warner Brothers Pictures Corp. and other companies against shareholder suits. He also served as counsel to public utilities that were opposing government actions deemed to unfavorably affect their interests.

The firm was renamed Proskauer, Rose, Goetz & Mendelsohn in 1942. Proskauer died in 1971, Goetz in 1972, and Rose in 1981. Proskauer, Rose, Goetz & Mendelsohn gained a new partner in 1954, when George M. Shapiro, counsel to Governor Thomas E. Dewey, left government service.  It became simply Proskauer Rose in 1997.  As it has since the 1930’s, the firm has close personal and professional ties to many elected officials, including several mayors of the City of New York: Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Mayor Edward Koch, and of course, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Proskauer Rose recently established a new-media practice, called iPractice, and is, in some cases, willing to take stock in a start-up company in place of fees, an unprecedented action for the firm. In a Crain’s Business article by Matthew Goldstein, Alan Jaffe, a former Proskauer Rose Chairman said “We have targeted this particular industry because of the potential it has for our corporation practice, and because we feel it is an industry that is indigenous to New York City.” Arnold Levine told Goldstein “I know some of our clients we are doing work for are not going to make it, but we’re hoping that there will be clients whose success more than outweighs those that don’t make it.”

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