From The Ground Up
Maurice and Ted Offit and Howard Kurman’s biggest concern 50 years ago was finding the perfect place to play ball or ride their bikes.
The furthest thing from this Pikesville trio’s mind was building a successful business together.
Today, that is a completely different story.
Maurice and Ted Offit, who are brothers, along with Kurman, a childhood friend, oversee more than 100 lawyers as part of the law firm of Offit/Kurman.
The firm, which earlier this year celebrated its 25th anniversary, has offices in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. It specializes in all aspects of business law, real estate, estate planning, health care, labor and employment, estate and trust administration and more.
The growth of the firm still amazes its founders; Maurice and Ted Offit opened a single office in Greenspring Station in 1987.
“We were in every class together for three years at Sudbrook Middle,” said Kurman, 63, a 1968 Milford Mill High School graduate. “Maurice, who is six years older than Ted, eventually went to Georgetown law school, and I went to Maryland law school. We went our separate ways and never really contemplated practicing law together.”
That all changed in 1989. At that time, Kurman was the labor counsel for The Baltimore Sun, which had just been purchased by Times Mirror. He felt the timing was perfect to go into private practice and reached out to the Offits to gauge their interest.
“Ted was over at my house and worried that The Sun as he knew it was changing,” said Maurice Offit, 63, a 1968 Pikesville High School graduate. “Our main concern wasn’t necessarily growth. It was just developing enough business to pay the bills, and we believed the partnership would work.”
The firm experienced modest growth over the next decade and in 1992 moved into an office at McDonogh Crossroads. By 2001, it had grown substantially and had 10 attorneys. The partners began to map out a plan to expand beyond Pikesville and its predominantly Jewish customer base.
Ted Offit, 57, a 1974 Pikesville High School graduate, said the plan was simple. They were going to expand the business by attracting veteran attorneys and through purchasing other like-minded firms.
“If we were going to grow, we needed to bring in experienced attorneys; we couldn’t afford to bring in a cadre of young lawyers right out of school because they don’t bring any business with them,” said Ted Offit, who received his law degree from the University of Baltimore.
Between 2001 and 2013, Offit/ Kurman brought in 90 additional attorneys and opened out-of-state offices in downtown Baltimore, Columbia, Frederick and Bethesda along with additional offices in Wilmington, Del., Philadelphia and Tysons Corner, Va.
Ted Offit said the growth strategy has paid off immeasurably, adding that the firm has made about eight acquisitions over the last decade.
“Instead of growing by clients, we grew by attorneys, and that strategy worked for us,” he said. “We’ve been looking for attorneys and firms that have our practice areas of expertise and litigation. … We have never put a cap on our growth plan. It was all about exploring opportunities and what made sense for business and for us.”
Kurman said their conservative growth strategy helped the firm weather the rough economic times during the recession; they grew the business during that time.
Kurman noted that having such a close relationship for 50 years — all three had their b’nai mitzvah at Beth El — worked to their benefit, as they discussed strategy and how to make smart decisions.
“It’s unusual for friends to go through a business cycle and not come out unscathed,” Kurman said. “There are often scars. We’ve had situations where we’ve had heated discussions, [but] we enter those talks with a single mind of looking for a way for the firm to grow.”
Kurman continued: “We trust each other implicitly, and when you have a trust in knowing someone for 50 years it establishes a real balance and stability that allows you to get through a growth phase like we have. I don’t know that there are that many firms that have grown like ours, where the founding partners have known each other for this long.”
Maurice Offit said he is extremely proud of how they built their business from the ground up and believes there is still room to grow in the years to come.
But only if the situation is right for everyone.
“It’s a nice story to tell, and we know it doesn’t happen for everyone,” he said. “Was there luck along the way? Probably. But unlike some law firms we had a vision and didn’t wait for something to happen. We had the goal to get out there, and that gave us an advantage.”
Ron Snyder is a local freelance writer.