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Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.

MIAMI-An Orlando-based law firm has opened its first Miami office in the 1221 Brickell building Downtown, while one of its original tenants may be moving to a newer structure a few blocks away in the next couple of years.

GrayRobinson has signed a long-term lease for 15,671 sf on the 16th floor at 1221 Brickell, with an option to take up the entire 16,500-sf floor in years to come. The firm currently has a 4,500-sf temporary office in the building, located between Brickell Avenue and Brickell Bay Drive.

Carter W. Hopkins Jr., a CB Richard Ellis VP representing GrayRobinson in the lease negotiation, tells GlobeSt.com the firm has sought to establish a presence in the Miami market after opening an office in Fort Lauderdale two years ago. He says law firms make up a substantial percentage of the tenant base in Downtown Miami’s Brickell office district, second only to financial services companies.

“The legal sector appears to be fairly healthy at this point,” Hopkins says, with law firms taking on most everything from real estate developments to loan workouts lately. “A good economy or a bad economy is better than a stagnant economy.”

With 10 offices and at least 200 attorneys throughout Florida, GrayRobinson provides legal services to Fortune 500 companies, lending institutions, developers and local and state governments. The firm currently has 10 attorneys at its Miami office.

GrayRobinson’s lease required flexibilities allowing for future growth while maintaining efficiency and cost-effectiveness, says Hopkins, who worked with CBRE associate Elizabeth McHugh in the negotiations. Grant Killingsworth of Jones Lang LaSalle represented building owner Blackstone/EOP.

As GrayRobinson moves into its space at 1221 Brickell, another law firm whose name adorns the building may be on its way out. Greenberg Traurig, one of the original tenants when the 27-story structure opened in 1986, has roughly two years remaining on its current lease and is evaluating office space options in the Downtown Miami market, says Hopkins, who is representing the firm.

Greenberg Traurig is considering proposals from two nearby buildings set to open in 2010 while negotiating a possible renewal of its current 160,000-sf space in 1221 Brickell, according to Hopkins. Last week, the Daily Business Review, a publication owned by ALM, parent organization of Real Estate Media, quoted anonymous sources as saying Greenberg Traurig has a “handshake deal” to prelease 125,000 sf in the 47-story Met 2 office building under construction on SE Second Avenue.

Jack Lowell, managing director of Flagler Real Estate Services/ONCOR International who is handling leasing at Met 2, would not comment about a possible lease deal with Greenberg Traurig. A spokeswoman for the law firm also declined to discuss current negotiations.

Even as Greenberg Traurig and other long-standing law firms in Downtown Miami weigh their options near the end of their leases, Hopkins emphasizes that it isn’t a given they will automatically jump to new office space. Although moving into smaller space helps offset higher-priced rents, and landlords are willing to offer incentives and breaks below the $40-per-sf asking threshold, he says the time and trouble of relocating must also be weighed.

“Law firms generally are reluctant to move because it is a costly process,” Hopkins says. “While there may be efficiencies gained, they don’t want to wait five or ten years for that payback.”

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