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Robert Traurig, who helped build one of the world’s largest law firms, dies at 93

Robert Traurig helped build one of the largest law firms in the world and, in so doing, swept Miami-Dade County upward.

Brickell Avenue skyscrapers. Open-air malls like Cocowalk in Coconut Grove. Residential communities on the edge of the Everglades. Traurig was the expert zoning lawyer whom developers relied on when they envisioned expanding the region and knew that they would be facing opposition. Traurig’s influence with politicians, fellow attorneys and business leaders made him a formidable ally.

Traurig, who died on Tuesday in Miami at 93, his home since he was 8, leaves a legacy of law smarts and community leadership.

He founded the law firm of Greenberg Traurig in 1968 with Melvin Greenberg and Larry Hoffman. Traurig was the real estate lawyer, Greenberg practiced tax law, Hoffman, the corporate law expert. The firm now numbers 1,750 attorneys and lobbyists in 36 locations worldwide, including 29 in the United States. The firm also has branches in Europe, Israel, Latin America and Asia.

The firm also has a downtown Tampa location.

Three Jewish men who felt they didn’t fit in with Miami’s corporate law practices built a firm renowned for its diversity. The firm is ranked No. 1 among Am Law 100 firms based on the number of Hispanic-American attorneys and second based on number of African-American partners and Hispanic-American partners on The Minority Law Journal’s diversity scorecard in 2013, and has a No. 2 ranking for female partner numbers, according to the National Law Journal in 2013.

"The vision was not an overly ambitious one. We wanted to be very good attorneys and do high quality work in South Florida and never believed we would be a large firm," said Hoffman. But after a few years, the firm took off. People on both sides of the bench noticed the work and Greenberg Traurig expanded.

"Bob was always a very important part of that. He probably had the widest array of people who respect him of anybody," Hoffman said.

And that description applies to competitors and opposing counsel in court.

"I’ve known him for 50 years and Robert is probably one of the great citizens of the last half-century in the Miami-Dade community," said attorney Aaron Podhurst, firm president of Podhurst Orseck, a lead counsel for the victims of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 that crashed in the Everglades in 1972.

"Not only a fabulous lawyer who built a great firm, but probably the outstanding zoning lawyer in his time in the last half of the 20th century. He had a profound effect on zoning. He was admired by everybody: lawyers, commissioners, the politicians, he had many friends and he was loved. I can’t think of any person I knew that was more loved than he was," Podhurst said.

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Staff writer Malena Carollo contributed to this report.

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