Miles & Stockbridge loses Levine to Piper

Top tax lawyer taking along many desirable clients

January 08, 2002|By Paul Adams | Paul Adams,SUN STAFF

Richard E. Levine, a top tax and real estate lawyer with a list of prominent Maryland clients, has left Baltimore law firm Miles & Stockbridge to become a partner with Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe, one of the largest full-service practices in the nation with 841 lawyers on staff.

Levine, 51, was with Miles & Stockbridge for 23 years, joining the firm in 1978 and becoming a partner in 1983.

His departure is expected to cost the 150-member firm considerable business, including clients such as MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate, Alex. Brown Investment Management, Continental Realty Corp. and Constellation Real Estate Inc., among other midsize companies in Levine's portfolio.

Levine declined to put a dollar figure on the business he is taking with him to Piper, but said he enjoyed his years at Miles & Stockbridge and that his departure was amicable.

"I was just one of 150 lawyers and they have plenty of highly qualified, excellent lawyers still there," he said. "So someone like me leaving won't have a major impact on that firm."

John Murray, president of Miles & Stockbridge, said it is common for lawyers to jump firms.

"Rich is an outstanding lawyer," Murray said.

"He had a great track record with Miles & Stockbridge, and no doubt he will continue to do so in his new role."

The American Lawyer magazine ranked Piper 29th on its 2001 list of the top 100 law firms in terms of gross revenue. Its lawyers average $475,000 per year in revenue, the trade magazine said in its July edition. Piper has offices in Baltimore, Washington, Chicago, New York, Dallas and Los Angeles, among other cities.

"Rich is a nationally recognized leader of the tax bar and brings us a tax and real estate practice that complements our strengths in this area," Francis B. Burch Jr., co-chairman of Piper, said in a statement.

It was the firm's national platform that attracted Levine.

"Piper has significant depth in the tax area so that I can confer with colleagues on sophisticated tax issues from wherever they are in the Piper network that otherwise wouldn't be available to me," Levine said.

Aside from the potential for a bigger paycheck, the opportunity to boost their profile and draw on national experts is what drives most lawyers to leave smaller, regional firms such as Miles & Stockbridge, said Michael Coleman, a Philadelphia-based legal recruiter and career consultant. Bigger firms often give lawyers a chance to do more sophisticated work for higher-visibility clients.

"I would say that, of the lawyers I represent in moving from one firm to another, many move because they see it as a career-advancing move to go to a bigger firm, a bigger brand name," he said.

Levine graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1968 and flirted with using his math skills to become an engineer.

He dropped those plans after completing his engineering degree and applying to the University of Maryland Law School, from which he graduated in 1975.

But he never lost his love for math, becoming a numbers-conscious tax and real estate lawyer.

Clients say Levine skillfully blends the roles of lawyer, confidant and adviser.

"The difference between him and other lawyers is that he will sort of lay out the options, but he will also suggest the option that makes the most sense and then he'll see it through," said Jack Luetkemeyer Jr., president of Continental Realty Corp., a commercial real estate firm.

"I talk to him twice a day. I just wouldn't do anything without talking to him."

When he isn't giving legal advice, Levine often plays keyboards for a local rock band, the Van Dykes. A fan of the group in the 1960s, Levine began sitting in on sessions after seeing the band at a party about five years ago.

Clients say they appreciate Levine's ability to have fun - even when giving legal advice. "We've always had the ability to laugh about things," said William Hunter Jr., an Eastern Shore developer and former owner of the Outer Banks brand of sports shirts. "All of the people I've ever met that Rich represents, we seem to all feel the same way about him."

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