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Robert Brown, LL.B. 1970
Partner ESOP Plus, Rochester, NY
Our law firm is one of a handful of highly specialized national boutiques firms that practice in the middle market Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) arena. We advise our clients about matters related to business succession and exit planning in addition to ESOPs.
We have three offices in Columbus, OH, Rochester NY and West Hartford CT, and we have seven lawyers. Our partners have equal votes and equal compensation. All of our lawyers are well known as national ESOP advisors.
We guide corporate and individual clients, their attorneys and other trusted advisors through the use of employee ownership and other strategies to create exit plans, succession plans and incentive compensation systems. We also represent lenders and independent fiduciaries in ESOP transactions. Unlike many of our middle market competitors, we are an “ESOP Plus” firm that will point clients toward outright sales, private equity infusions, management buyouts or other exit tools if an ESOP is not appropriate.
Our typical transaction size ranges between $5 million and $50 million, but we have represented clients in $100 million, $500 Million and $1.1 billion transactions in the last few years. Our subject matter expertise draws on tax, M&A and employee benefits law. For over 30 years I was a member of the executive committee of the Tax Section of the New York State Bar Association. Our lawyers are also members of The ESOP Association, the National Center for Employee Ownership and the Alliance of Merger and Acquisition Advisors (Mid Market Alliance) and the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel.
The bulk of our employee ownership practice is driven by the demography of the baby boom, so we are somewhat less affected by cyclical economic trends than are other merger and acquisition specialists. Our positioning as a small, low overhead boutique with deep subject matter expertise and experience gives us a competitive advantage over traditionally organized law firms. There are only a few large firms, including Morgan Lewis and McDermott Will that compete effectively in our space. We have worked on a number of transactions with those firms. Our ESOP Plus practice is described more fully at: www.esopplus.com.
For me and for my colleagues, living in relatively small cities with a sophisticated practice has meant travel. It has also meant that local participation in civic and professional activities is important to the economic development of our firm. I have been fortunate to be able to serve on the boards of the local public radio station, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and many other civic and social welfare organizations. I was chair of the Monroe County Democratic Committee and served eight years on the Rochester City School Board.
These opportunities for me and for our other lawyers have enabled us to have access to the financial, social and political circles that our local clients need. The size of our cities and the opportunity to make positive changes in the community also offer wonderful advantages to us individually by contributing to lifelong learning and continuous personal growth.
Stress in my life arises principally out of concern for whether I have done the best job for my clients. The relatively easy logistics of living in Rochester, West Hartford and Columbus allows our lawyers to juggle job, family, and other commitments with comparative ease. I spend 40 to 55 hours per week on matters related to our practice.
We earn an average partner compensation that is similar to that earned at other successful small firms in Western New York, central Connecticut and central Ohio. Our partner compensation is not high by absolute dollar comparison with the top compensation in New York or Washington, but it is comparable when adjusted for the relative cost of living. More importantly, we can preserve the lifestyle values that are important to us and to our families.
You owe it to yourself to consider smaller (I think Yale calls them “modest”) cities and a highly specialized boutique practice. You can be a big fish in a small pond, you can still participate in national and international practice areas and you can live a more rounded life than your classmates who work 2,500 billable hours per year in New York, Washington or London without any reasonable guarantee of job security.