Daily Business Review: Litigation Departments of the Year — Small Firms

By Catherine Wilson

Daily Business Review

The Daily Business Review is recognizing litigation departments at small law firms with fewer than 70 attorneys in Florida for their powerhouse practices as part of the annual Professional Excellence Awards.

Many firms have carved out courtroom specialties serving major clients and government agencies, and a select few have been chosen for their noteworthy litigation achievements in 2018.

Awards will be presented to the honorees at a recognition event set May 23 at the Rusty Pelican in Miami.

REAL ESTATE-SMALL FIRMS: KLUGER KAPLAN

The 10-year-old Kluger Kaplan litigation boutique distinguished itself in an assortment of hypertechnical real estate cases in 2018.

When the joint developers of the 19-unit boutique condominium at 300 Collins Ave. fought for control of the five-story building in Miami Beach’s resurrected South of Fifth neighborhood, Kluger Kaplan attorney Marko Cerenko succeeded in enforcing a buy-sell reverse option for his client, PSB Collins LLC, led by the Goldman Sachs’ youngest partner, Dhruv Piplani. Developer Jason Halpern’s JMH Development refused to surrender the property until Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas ruled for PSB last October.

Kluger Kaplan’s Alan Kluger and Josh Rubens, along with Todd Legon of Legon Fodiman, represented the minority owner of Miami Beach’s Seagull Hotel in obtaining a forced partition of the property and the $31 million sale of the beachfront hotel in January 2018 after 14 months of litigation.

The Third District Court of Appeal last August affirmed a decision in favor of Florida Pritikin Center LLC and its long-term lease at the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort. Kluger and Philippe Lieberman maintained soon-to-be President Donald Trump wrongly tried to force the center out of its leased space and out of business.

The appellate court last June also affirmed a decision favoring the sellers represented by Kluger and Ashley Frankel, along with Scott Kravetz of Duane Morris, in a $2.8 million home sale contract. The decision strictly upheld the termination provisions of the Florida Bar’s standard contract for real estate home purchases.

The founders of the 28-attorney Miami law firm sought to build a strong niche practice that would complement rather than compete with full-service firms. In the process, the firm has turned some previous adversaries into clients.

Best Lawyers, U.S. News & World Reports Ranks Kluger Kaplan Among Best Law Firms in 2019 Edition

BestLawyersLogo1

Best Lawyers and U.S. News & World Report have once again recognized Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine for its professionalism and integrity as a “Best Law Firm” for 2019.

Firms included in the 2019 Edition of “Best Law Firms” are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. It also honors firms who have made their mark on the legal profession and deliver high-quality legal services. Kluger Kaplan was ranked nationally in three practice areas and regionally in eight practice areas.

Below are the practice areas for which Kluger Kaplan was named a “Best Law Firm”:

National Tier 2

* Litigation- Mergers & Acquisitions

* Litigation- Real Estate

National Tier 3

* Commercial Litigation

Regional Tier 1

Miami

* Commercial Litigation

* Family Law

* Litigation- Real Estate

Minneapolis

* Eminent Domain and Condemnation Law

Regional Tier 2

Miami

* Litigation- Mergers & Acquisitions

Regional Tier 3

Miami

* Entertainment Law- Motion Pictures & Television

* Litigation- Banking & Finance

* Securities/Capital Markets Law

The Best Lawyers- U.S. News & World Report “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and assessment of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

For full details on our rankings, please visit Best Law Firms 2019.

Three Questions with Todd Levine

Todd LevineTodd A. Levine is a Founding Member at Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen and Levine. A highly experienced commercial litigator, Todd handles virtually all types of complex business disputes. His practice includes a strong focus on commercial real estate litigation, and he regularly represents real estate brokers, developers, lending institutions, buyers and sellers, investors, property managers, owners, contractors and subcontractors in disputes arising out of commercial real estate projects and transactions.

We recently sat down with Todd to discuss the changes in litigation over the last decade, the degree to which technology is shaping the practice and how his musical talents shape his everyday life.

We recently marked the 10-year anniversary of the financial crash on 2008 marking the beginning of the Great Recession. How has complex commercial litigation evolved over that time?

Whether the economy is in a recession or is exploding with growth, business disputes will always arise. The biggest difference between the litigation we see today and what we saw ten years ago is the type of disputes. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, we saw a lot of litigation over distressed assets, with individuals fighting for what was left over from the crash. In today’s more robust economy, we are seeing more ownership disputes as individuals seek a greater share of the profits.

There is a consistent buzz about how technology has and will continue to transform the legal profession. How has technology impacted your practice and where do you see it moving forward?

Over the last 20 years technology has improved our lawyers’ efficiency and productivity, allowing us to enhance our client service and more effectively analyze cases. The technology resources we use allow our litigators to find relevant case law in state, federal and international court, enabling us to more efficiently locate and discern necessary legal precedent. We also use tools that allow attorneys to better manage a large amount of document-based evidence, by creating a searchable database. Before these tools were available, it took litigators weeks or even months to go through the relevant case law, statutes and numerous documents in a case. Further, the attorney might have been only able to view a document once or twice before going to trial. Our lawyers can now comb through documents more efficiently and have more intimate knowledge of their contents.

However, while technology has streamlined the legal research and discovery process, artificial intelligence isn’t going to be a replacement for the trial attorney. Litigants still need to rely on the experience and expertise of their attorneys. For instance, a jury of human peers are not going to listen to two computers argue with each other about whose side makes more sense.

The Daily Business Review recently ran a profile on you about how your musical talents shaped your legal career. How has being an avid musician shaped your life in and out of the courtroom?

I’ve played the guitar since I was 10-years-old, along with playing some keyboard. Coupled with my analytical skills, my musical background has allowed me to tap into my creative side for clients and develop out-of-the-box approaches to solving complex problems. In my personal life, I have been fortunate to share my enthusiasm with my sons, who are both talented musicians and play guitar, bass and piano, and produce their own original compositions

The Real Deal: Trump Doral to pay tenant’s legal fees tied to lease dispute

Doral resort will have to pay more than $2.5M in legal bills.

Trump National Doral Miami is running up an expensive tab in a long-running legal war it’s losing against Florida Pritikin Center, a rehabilitation spa leasing space at the luxury resort.

On Wednesday, the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed a 2017 final judgement ruling by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jose Rodriguez against Trump Endeavor 12, the entity that owns the Doral golf resort managed by Donald Trump Jr…

…By the time the bills are tallied up, Trump Endeavor will have to pay more than $2.5 million in attorney fees in its failed bid to evict the spa from a 40,000-square-foot-space at Trump Doral, said Pritikin’s lawyer, Philippe Lieberman, a partner with the Miami firm Kluger Kaplan Silverman Katzen and Levine.

“The exact amount will be determined by Judge Rodriguez in the next couple of months,” Lieberman said. “Our client is very happy. He is looking forward to putting this behind him and recovering his legal fees from Trump.”

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Trump Endeavor attorney Bruce Rogow did not respond to a request for comment.

Pritikin sued Trump Endeavor in June 2015, alleging breach of contract. According to court documents, Pritikin had a lease with the prior owner dating back to 2009 that was still in effect when Trump Endeavor purchased the golf resort in bankruptcy court three years later. The company affirmed the lease and Pritikin was forced to remain while the Trumps renovated the property, the lawsuit states.

“At that point, the property was in disrepair and bad condition,” Lieberman said. “Trump would not reduce the rent or allow Pritikin out of the lease. When the lease was up for renewal, it coincided with when construction was coming to a close. Trump wanted to bully us off the property.”

Pritikin’s lawsuit claims that Trump tried to increase a special room rate for Pritikin clients by 583 percent, would not replace worn-out refrigeration units in the spa, attempted to reject the tenant’s option to extend the lease until 2019 and tried to improperly terminate the agreement. “We resisted,” Lieberman said. “We pushed back.”

In February 2015, Rodriguez granted Pritikin declaratory relief, which forced Trump Endeavor to honor the lease, as well as decrease its clients’ room rates by 15 percent. The developer won a subsequent appeal to the Third District Court, which sent it back to Rodriguez to provide a better explanation as to why he ruled in Pritikin’s favor, Lieberman said.

“He did that in 38-page judgement filed in June 2017,” Lieberman said. “Trump appealed that judgement and the appellate court ruled in Pritikin’s favor this Wednesday.”

Read the full story in The Real Deal. 

DBR: Lawyers See Boom in Construction Practice

A total of $723 million in contracts for future commercial and residential construction were awarded in South Florida in June, up 101 percent from $360 million in the same month a year before, according to Dodge Research Analytics.  Kluger Kaplan founding member Alan Kluger spoke to John Pacenti of the Daily Business Review about what this construction boom means for litigation.

“It’s what I call good-economy construction litigation, meaning that things are being built and they are selling,” said Kluger.  “We are in a boom. There is no doubt about it.”

View the entire article here.