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The two largest law firms in the US specializing in Israeli companies have merged as the partners look to exploit the ever increasing activity of Israeli companies in the country.
Shiboleth, Yisraeli, Roberts & Zisman has joined up with Heiman Law Group to create a firm of 22 attorneys, with 13 coming from Shiboleth and nine from Heiman. The expanded firm has retained Shiboleth's offices on the 60th floor of the Empire State Building and Heiman Law Group founder Oren Heiman has become the managing partner. Shiboleth founder Amnon Shiboleth won't be involved in the day-to-day running of the firm but will still help formulate policy.
More than half of the attorneys are qualified to practice law in both Israel and the US, and most of them speak Hebrew fluently.
"This means that we have an Israeli culture and background, but practice American law in the professional, client-oriented environment customary in New York firms," said Heiman.
Many of the combined firm's clients are either Israeli companies doing business in the US or American companies doing business in Israel. Heiman brings about 200 small- and mid-size clients while Shiboleth bring "hundreds" of medium- and large-sized clients, including Dutch bank ABN Amro and Marriott Hotels.
The two firms knew each other well long before the merger, as Heiman worked at Shiboleth for four years before leaving to form his own firm, because he was told he wouldn't become a partner. However, the companies maintained their links and when Heiman was thinking about moving out of its offices - also in the Empire State Building - due to a lack of space, Shiboleth proposed the merger.
"We have been working side by side for the last four years and we have decided to break the walls and merge," Heiman said.
The new company, called Shiboleth, will look to increase its commercial-litigation business and its real-estate and securities departments in an attempt to attract the large number of Israeli public companies listed in the US.
"My estimate is that less than 10% of them are being represented by an Israeli law firm, because there is not an Israeli law firm big enough to deal with these companies. By merging two small companies into one mid-size firm we are hoping to provide publicly traded Israeli companies with a full area of services," said Heiman.
Shiboleth is also eyeing the increasing number of property deals that Israelis are carrying out.
"There are a lot of Israelis involved in real estate in New York. We know them but we weren't so keen on them because we didn't have the time. Now the two of us are together we think we can get clients like these," he said.
The merging firms have very different cultures, with Shiboleth's lawyers more experienced than those of Heiman, as exemplified by the ages of the two partners, 62 and 37, respectively. In addition, Heiman has expanded aggressively in the three-and-a-half years of its existence while Shiboleth, which was established in New York 29 years ago, has remained the same size for a while.
"Up till now Shiboleth has been against growth and has concentrated on becoming more professional. Amnon's business perspective has been to maintain a small firm and increase the quality," said Heiman
However, Shiboleth doesn't believe this will be a problem and support's plans to open an office in California in 2007.
"There is a certain culture gap. On the other hand, Oren worked for us and we know we can work together well. The fact that he is going after clients aggressively is a plus. He will do what he was doing before and we will do what we were doing before and we can do new things as well," said Shiboleth.