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The Morristown law firm McElroy Deutsch Mulvaney & Carpenter has acquired a 49 percent stake in the Hispanic-owned law firm Espinosa & Espinosa, in hopes of fostering greater diversity in New Jersey's legal community.

McElroy Deutsch, the seventh-largest law firm in the state by gross revenue, bought the ownership interest in the small, Weehawken-based firm last month for an undisclosed amount.

McElroy Deutsch, which grossed $76 million in revenue last year, according to the New Jersey Law Journal, will take a portion of Espinosa & Espinosa's profits and has agreed to upgrade the smaller firm's computer system, provide training for its staff and help in recruiting, said Edward B. Deutsch, managing partner of McElroy Deutsch, which employs 230 lawyers. Also, Espinosa & Espinosa can call upon the larger firm's lawyers to help on larger cases. Espinosa & Espinosa specializes in commercial transactions and commercial litigation.

"If substantial litigation comes in that needs 10 lawyers and they can provide five, we can provide the other five," Deutsch said. McElroy Deutsch has offices in Ridgewood and Newark, as well as Philadelphia, Denver and New York City.

Some major law firms, including Day Pitney in Florham Park, have formed loose strategic alliances with small, minority--owned firms to show their support for diversity.

Deutsch said he believes his firm is the first in New Jersey to take an equity stake in a minority-owned firm.

As Espinosa & Espinosa increases its staff in the coming years, "our participation will wane," Deutsch said.

Espinosa & Espinosa has served many small and medium-sized Hispanic--owned business in northern New Jersey since principal Juan Espinosa's Cuban emigre father launched the firm in 1975.

But like most minority-owned firms, Espinosa, with 11 attorneys, is too small on its own to be in the running for big contracts with Fortune 500 companies.

"You have to be big to get big cases," Espinosa said.

Nonetheless, opportunities for minority-owned firms to land big contracts have been on the rise since a document titled "Call to Action: Diversity in the Legal Profession" was circulated in 2004 by Rick Palmore, general counsel for Sara Lee Corp.

The document calls upon U.S. corporate legal departments to boost minority representation on their staffs and to use diversity as a criteria when hiring outside law firms.

More than 100 corporations have signed on.


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