West Palm lawyer takes helm at Florida’s largest law firm

A West Palm Beach trial lawyer, David Spector, became chairman and CEO this month at Akerman LLP, one of the nation’s largest law firms.

Spector, 46, a Palm Beach County lawyer since he got his law degree at the University of Miami, said he hopes to continue the client-centered strategy that has seen the firm grow to more than 650 lawyers nationwide.

“Many people in the industry talk about disruption in law firm industry and how to overcome those disruptions. We think about the disruptions in our clients’ industries now, about what the changes there are going to be in the next phases of their lifespans, and about focusing our business around them rather than around our industry,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

Akerman, founded in Florida, is the biggest law firm in the state and 76th biggest in the U.S., by number of lawyers. The firm has 24 offices, including eight and its operations center in Florida. In 2016, the latest year for which figures were available, the firm reported net income of $127 million, on gross revenues of $349 million.

On a growth curve for at least a decade, within two weeks Akerman will announce acquisition of another firm in Texas, where it already has offices in four cities, Spector said. Another acquisition will come shortly thereafter in South Florida, “which we will be exceptionally proud of,” he said. “A great group of lawyers you will know.”

Spector earned his B.S. at Syracuse University in 1993, his J.D. at UM in 1996. He and his wife and four children live in Boynton Beach.

He litigates complex fraud schemes and unfair and deceptive practices on behalf of property and casualty and health insurers, financial institutions and self-insured retailers, according to the firm website. Before replacing Andrew Smulian at the firm’s helm, Spector founded Akerman’s Fraud and Recovery Practice Group, an team “dedicated to the investigation and eradication of fraud.”

Smulian, an urbane Yalie who spent a decade as chair and CEO, will remain a partner, focused on special projects.

Among Spector’s cases, he represented the nation’s largest property and casualty insurer in the first attempt by an insurer to sue a medical legal referral service for alleged fraudulent claims in violation of Florida self-referral laws. He defended an international law firm in a bench trial for alleged malpractice and fraud claims arising out of an oil and gas venture representation in which damages were claimed to be $1.15 billion.

Spector, speaking from Jacksonville and on his way to Houston and Chicago next week, said that as Akerman’s leader he expects to be traveling frequently but will maintain an office in West Palm Beach, splitting his South Florida time between there and the firm’s largest office, in Miami’s Brickell City Centre, where Smulian was headquartered.

He plans no strategic changes but will maintain the nimble footing of “a fifth generation law firm with first generation thinking,” he said. “We’ll continue our investment in technology and innovation, such as the use of data analytics to align our needs with those of our clients. We continue to see our core strengths in the middle market (of corporate work), and real estate and financial services.”

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