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.

Daily Business Review: Social Science Looks to Demystify the Jury Selection Process

The use of jury consultants who use empirical analysis to find out how a firm’s case will play in front of a jury before a trial ever begins has become standard practice — especially in high-stakes litigation.

By Dylan Jackson | February 20, 2019 at 06:09 PM

Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 2.05.43 PMJury selection has long been a cryptic process, and every trial attorney has a juror war story and list of voir dire taboos.

Some have called it pure guesswork. Others have described it as a combination of psychology and the dark arts.

But Marjorie Sommer, co-founder of the Florida trial consulting firm Focus Litigation, believes lawyers have too many preconceptions about jury selection. She and her partner Geri Satin say the process need not be a mystery.

“It’s a numbers game,” Satin said.

Through qualitative and quantitative analysis (Satin has a doctorate degree in legal psychology from Florida International University) and with the help of a thousand focus groups, mock trials, and real-world verdicts, Sommer and Satin counsel law firms, companies and even government agencies about what type of jury could help their case.

Over the past two decades, the use of trial consultants has become ubiquitous in high-profile cases. In 1983, the American Society of Trial Consultants had less than 20 members. Today, the organization boasts nearly 300. While in its infancy, the industry was viewed with much skepticism. But as the digital era has matured, data analytics has grown more sophisticated, transforming jury consulting into a legal industry that is accepted and even embraced.

Much of their job, Satin said, is to demystify the jury selection process and use their combined 30 years of legal experience to provide actionable recommendations based on their findings…

“Here we are, all lawyers, and we’re trained on the legal issues. We’re not really trained on the social science part of it,” said Bruce Katzen, founding partner of Miami-based boutique litigation firm Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine. “It’s good to hear how ‘real people’ react.”

After both sides argue their case, the mock jury deliberations are recorded for analysis and a verdict is rendered. Satin and Sommer then compile a report that can run hundreds of pages, stuffed with recommendations, quantitative analysis that uses a juror’s responses to specific questions to correlate a verdict. Advice to clients could include formulating precise questions for voir dire, pointing out what juries perceived as weaknesses in a case, and highlighting the most effective visual aids.

But their job isn’t only about jury selection. Satin and Sommer say some of their biggest “wins” come before jury selection even begins. If an insurance company has $500 million in exposure, and the focus groups and mock juries are returning consistent findings against their client, they will advise the client to work on a settlement instead of recommending a trial. If the company settles for $50 million instead of losing big in the courtroom, Satin and Sommer see that as a victory.

“One of the most reliable things we give is a reality check,” Sommer said.

Read the full article in the Daily Business Review. 

 

Daily Business Review: Real Estate Agent Loses Job After Video Shows Her Mocking Gillum Supporters in Election Protest

Kluger Kaplan’s Michael Landen provides employment law insights in today’s Daily Business Review. 

Michael Landen_226 greyA United Realty Group Inc. real estate agent demonstrating with protesters calling for the firing of the Broward election supervisor is out of a job following a high-profile Twitter video.

Liliana Albarino-Olinick was fired Saturday as an independent contractor with Plantation-based United Realty after videos surfaced of her mocking and berating supporters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

Employment law attorneys said United Realty acted within its rights as an employer dealing with fallout from tight Florida elections that triggered automatic recounts in three statewide races, including Gillum’s run for governor…

Michael Landen, a partner at Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine in Miami, said there’s no reason United Realty couldn’t sever its relationship with the Olinicks since they were independent contractors.

Private employers dealing with contractors have the right to say, “You know what, we are not going to do business with that company. We don’t like what they stand for.”

Click here to read the full article.

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