By Don Knox and Matt Masich, LAW WEEK COLORADO
Shareholders of the venerable 50-year-old Denver law firm Isaacson Rosenbaum will meet tonight to discuss the firm’s future after a number of high-profile attorney departures, some occurring as recently as the past two weeks.
The shareholder meeting, which begins at 5 p.m., comes amid the possibility that the mid-size firm may wind down its operations, although no decision has been made, and the shareholders could decide to continue operations. If Isaacson were to close, it would be the largest law firm to shut down in Denver since Gorsuch Kirgis dissolved in 2003.
Like many Colorado and U.S. law firms, Isaacson has weathered an historically tough market for legal services since 2008. On the same day as Isaacson’s planned shareholder meeting, the much-larger law firm Holme Roberts & Owen trimmed its workforce for a second time this year.
The firm last year considered merging with Ryley Carlock & Applewhite, but the negotiations weren’t consummated.
Isaacson has been stung by the slow-to-recover economy, the attorney defections and by its 34,000-square-foot lease on the 18th floor of the former Mountain Bell building at 1001 17th St. The lease, negotiated just before the global economic crisis of late 2008, locked the firm’s shareholders into relatively expensive, albeit modern and energy-efficient offices, even as commercial rents plunged.
A person with familiarity with Isaacson’s lease said the firm’s shareholders didn’t sign personal pledges to pay the lease, meaning the firm may be able to get out of the obligation by shutting down.
Miller Global Properties LLC is the building’s owner.
Attorney departures from the firm since November have included shareholders Mark Grueskin, Byeongsook Seo and Neil Oberfeld and, more recently, announced departures by shareholders Theresa Corrada, Ed Ramey and Cara Lawrence. As of last week, the firm had 24 shareholders.
Corrada, as reported earlier today by Law Week, is moving to Lapin & Lapin. Ramey and Lawrence are joining the Lower Downtown law firm Heizer Paul.
Charles Rosenbaum established the firm in 1961. According to a history of the firm, when Rosenbaum first entered the Denver courts as a young Jewish attorney in the early 1920s, he could only try a case if he hired a Ku Klux Klan lawyer as co-counsel. “Thankfully, Rosenbaum persevered in that difficult legal climate,” the history reads.
The firm was launched as Isaacson Rosenbaum Goldberg and Miller following the merger of Lou Isaacson’s firm Isaacson and Pfeiffer with a law firm started by Denver real-estate baron Myron “Mickey” Miller. In 2004, The Colorado Lawyer recognized Isaacson as one of its “Six of the Greatest.”
With 38 attorneys, Isaacson ranked No. 20 in November on Law Week Colorado’s list of the 200 largest Colorado law firms. Baker & Hostetler and Kennedy Childs & Fogg tied for No. 18 with 39 attorneys, and Messner and Reeves ranked No. 21 with 36 attorneys.