The Rest Is Not History: Scarinci Hollenbeck continues to innovate & drive development in the Meadowlands

Photo By Lexie Scelia

Among top law firms in the New Jersey Meadowlands region, Scarinci Hollenbeck maintains a unique prominence. Its  stellar reputation has everything to do with the firm’s well-established track record of identifying business voids, seizing opportunities and taking calculated risks to fill marketplace  needs—attributes deeply embedded in the firm’s 30 year history and especially notable in the firm’s current growth strategy.

The firm was born in the Meadowlands in 1988 during a period of great economic change and uncertainty.  Founders & Managing Partners Donald Scarinci and Kenneth J. Hollenbeck recognized tremendous potential for regional redevelopment in the Meadowlands, despite a common belief at the time that the area’s unique physical and regulatory environment would thwart any attempts at growth.

In fact, the firm saw in this challenge a huge untapped opportunity, knowing that prospective developers would require specific local knowledge and legal expertise in navigating the Meadowlands environment.

So the Scarinci Hollenbeck story began.

The rest is not history

Some might say the rest is history, with the firm playing a critical role in structuring, negotiating and managing many of the major development and redevelopment transactions that have produced the vibrant Meadowlands region we know today.

This is all very true. But the firm is just as savvy today in identifying both its clients’ most pressing business needs and untapped opportunities in the commercial marketplace and this proficiency is driving the firm’s continued innovation and growth—both for the Meadowlands region as well as for Scarinci Hollenbeck, as the firm celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Prioritizing the needs of clients

One of the current, rampant voids, according to Scarinci, is the disconnect between larger law firms and the needs and successes of their clients. Simply put, Scarinci says, mega firms continue to pump up their rates while being tone deaf to the more modest revenue growth or profitability of their clients’ revenues. This is not a model for long-term success.

“For this reason, continued growth of niche practice areas previously reserved for the National 250 law firms is a priority for Scarinci Hollenbeck. Each year, National 250 law firms proudly announce 8% to 15% increases in legal fees while the growth of their clients’ businesses remains flat to negative,” Scarinci says. “Similarly, National 250 firms herald the increasing salaries they pay for first year associates, which now exceed $190,000/year at some firms, and this has added to the disconnect between Big Law and the clients they service.”

Donald Scarinci, Managing Partner; Photo By Lexie Scelia

Scarinci Hollenbeck has been acutely aware of this trend, knowing that there are prospective clients out there looking for effective alternatives that can be attentive to client budgets, customize service offerings and deliver strong results.

Customizing a full-service platform

Scarinci Hollenbeck tailors the deployment of its resources to each client in a case-by-case manner that best suits the unique and varying needs of its client. The firm is able to do this because they have strategically staffed the niche practice areas most often required by business entities and the people who own and control them.

Additionally, the firm’s 70+ attorneys actively collaborate among practice groups and rely heavily on technology and the efficiencies it provides. The result is a full-service platform which allows the firm to handle the most complex and challenging projects that clients bring to the table. This is why Scarinci Hollenbeck—now with offices in New Jersey, New York, Washington D.C., and California—is a regional alternative to a National 250 law firm.

“The need for businesses to reduce costs, coupled with the blatant disregard by the National 250 firms to the needs of these businesses, have created opportunities for law firms in the 80 to 120 attorney size category,” says Scarinci. “Regional law firms of this size that can deliver quality legal work at a better price than National 250 firms have great opportunities in this market. Scarinci Hollenbeck has positioned itself to take advantage of these opportunities.”

Kenneth J. Hollenbeck, Managing Partner

Servicing an economy in motion

As the economy of New Jersey has evolved, Scarinci Hollenbeck has progressed to accommodate the changes. This has been accomplished by strategic growth in key practice areas that correspond to certain industries.

For instance, an increasing number of technology companies are making their way into the Meadowlands region, and with them come a number of legal issues that tend to arise with developing technology.

Acknowledging this, the firm has developed one of the region’s most highly-regarded Intellectual Property (“IP”) legal practice groups. They handle the full spectrum of IP matters, including trademarks, copyrights, patents, trade secrets and internet domain disputes. By ensuring that a client’s valuable IP is protected, the firm is able to develop lasting relationships with companies.

Furthermore, with the Meadowlands’ legacy as a sports and entertainment destination—an industry now extending beyond just the Meadowlands Sports & Entertainment Complex—Scarinci Hollenbeck has a growing Entertainment, Media and Sports Law Group. Its lawyers are well-versed in the unique issues and challenges facing those in the media industries, whether print, literary, music, television, motion picture, broadcast and cable television, radio or advertisement/branding.

ther areas of concentration include, but are not limited to, fine art and digital technologies.

As we have mentioned, seizing opportunities has long been a hallmark of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s growth strategy. So when medical cannabis was legalized in New Jersey—and as the recreational cannabis industry is becoming more a probability than a possibility—Scarinci Hollenbeck has become one of the first law firms in the state to establish a Cannabis Law practice group.

The Cannabis Law Group attorneys, led by Dan McKillop, have developed a thorough knowledge of existing current federal and state medical and adult-use cannabis law, as well as the proposed New Jersey cannabis legislation. The group has already represented clients seeking to obtain medical cannabis dispensary licenses, as well as those seeking to position themselves to take advantage of the emerging recreational industry regime. McKillop regularly authors articles and presents at business events regarding the emerging cannabis industry and he is a member of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association and an editor of the Cannabis Law Journal.

Handbook for success: literally

Another key area for growth has been in the firm’s Labor & Employment practice group, especially with recent laws passed regarding employee handbooks, paid sick leave, discrimination and job applications.

Many businesses may not realize that not updating handbooks and HR materials to incorporate legally compliant policies will leave them open to liabilities and legal turmoil.

“Handbooks are frequently given a half-hearted start only to be left in the dust of neglect by the many changes in the law. In some cases, having a handbook that incorrectly states the law is worse than no handbook at all,” said Gary S. Young, Partner & Chair of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Employee Benefits & ERISA practice group. “These recent law changes only underscore the need for review and revision of the handbooks followed by regular meetings with employees to teach and discuss the covered subjects.”

Still developing & redeveloping

Not surprisingly, transactions in real estate development and redevelopment still account for the majority of the firm’s portfolio. Some key New Jersey projects that the firm has recently handled include:

  • the Koppers Coke site in Kearny: under redevelopment to host 2 million sq. ft. of port support warehouses.
  • the former Fairmount Chemical site: redeveloped with a 750,000 warehouse.
  • the former Sherwin Williams paint factory in Newark: redeveloped with a 350,000 sq. ft. warehouse.
  • the former Pitt CONSOL (DuPont) site in Newark: redeveloped with an 800,000 sq. ft. warehouse and port support facility.
  • Phase 3 of Pier Village: under construction in Long Branch.
  • the initial site plan approvals for the redevelopment and repurposing of the Monmouth Mall.
  • the Sears Site in Watchung: under redevelopment with Seritage into shops, restaurants and a 10 screen Cinemax movie theatre.

“In essence, our firm has been involved in the management, redevelopment and/or remediation of approximately 4 million sq. ft. of port-related warehouses,” says Theodore A. Schwartz, Partner in Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Environmental & Land Use group.

Anticipating challenges & mitigating roadblocks

The laws affecting construction, development and land use continue to evolve and with those changes arise challenges for anyone looking to engage in developing real estate.

“The most pressing challenge facing businesses is getting through the multi-agency permitting and approval process for any type of residential,  commercial or industrial development on a reasonably timely basis and without threat of litigation from objector groups,” says Patrick J. McNamara, Partner in Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Environmental & Land Use group.

Thanks to 30 years of experience in the Meadowlands, the Scarinci Hollenbeck name stands as an authority on navigating the legal and intricacies of real estate acquisition, development, entitlement and disposition, which can be numerous and demanding in the Meadowlands and around the state.

“Businesses face regulatory hurdles at the local and state level. Due to the lack of so called ‘clean sites’ in the North Jersey economic region, it is very costly to develop real estate from an environmental remediation perspective. With the myriad number of regulatory hurdles, there is a shortfall in associated government responses,” explains Schwartz.

Nevertheless, the firm is ready to take on these challenges according to Hollenbeck: “Collectively, our realty asset and environmental land use teams can handle—or have handled—all the intricacies of the redevelopment process. Our clients benefit from that breadth of experience, which spans the entire spectrum of industrial, infrastructure, commercial and multifamily uses. Our lawyers are able to anticipate challenges in the development process and resolve them before they become roadblocks. Whether we are assisting a client with a project in the Meadowlands, in the inner cities, and on the Gold Coast, there is virtually no legal issue that might arise that one or more of our attorneys has not had experience resolving in the past.”

The Meadowlands Chamber to Honor Theodore A. Schwartz

Of note, the Meadowlands Chamber has announced that it will honor Schwartz at its Annual Legacy Awards Reception on October 11.

The Meadowlands Chamber will honor Partner Theodore A. Schwartz at its Annual Legacy Awards Gala on October 11. Photo By Lexie Scelia

Schwartz is a pioneer in the field of Environmental Law and has made his mark on the Meadowlands story. His legal career spans over 50 years and during that time he has become one of New Jersey’s most prominent environmental law attorneys—with many achievements to his name.

From 1965 to 1970, he was a Deputy Attorney General for the State of New Jersey, where he acted as Chief of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Pollution. His responsibilities centered on the enforcement of the state’s pollution control laws through administrative and civil proceedings. His creative approach to environmental enforcement earned him a national reputation.

Schwartz spearheaded the creation of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and had a hand in the development of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. He also authored numerous environmental laws and regulations, including the New Jersey Air Pollution Control Act, which became a national model for environmental regulatory programs in all areas of the environment.

On the national level, Schwartz was a legal advisor to numerous state and federal agencies for environmental regulatory matters. In recognition of his environmental credentials, President Carter appointed him as a Commissioner to the National Alcohol Fuels Commission, where his role was to analyze the development of alternative fuel sources.

More information about the Meadowlands Chamber’s Annual Legacy Awards Reception can be found at www.meadowlands.org

Looking to the Future

Scarinci Hollenbeck has evolved and changed in significant ways over its lifetime, expanding its practice areas, adaptively shifting its industry focus and broadening its geographic coverage. But there is also so much that has remained the same, with the firm still looking for opportunities in every challenge and filling voids in the marketplace. The firm continues to make its mark on the Meadowlands and beyond, offering their proven expertise and experience to businesses that are developing and redeveloping the area.

With this dedication, the rest is not history. The best is yet to come.

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Meadowlands USA

Meadowlands USA

Meadowlands USA is a North Jersey regional publication that reaches people who live and work in and around the Meadowlands (including the Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Passaic County corridor), as well as visitors to our region. The blog edition is updated regularly and the print edition is released six times a year.

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