Daily Business Review: Litigator Todd Levine’s Passion for Music, Art, Math and Science Helps in the Courtroom

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By Lidia Dinkova

May 4, 2018

Litigator Todd Levine has all the professional background common among successful litigators: A law degree, years of experience, mentors who guided him when he embarked on his career and a dedication to the job.

But Levine has skills outside the legal field that he credits for his success as well.

Levine is an avid musician who has played guitar since he was about 10 years old, he said. He also draws, plays a bit bass guitar and some keyboards, and has a penchant for math and science.

This combination of creativity and a gift for exact sciences have allowed him a more “out-of-the-box” approach to litigation, he said.

Take as an example that time he was in a mediation, and the mediator walked in holding new evidence just presented by the other side that at first appeared to hurt Levine’s case.

But Levine turned things around, he said.

“I had never seen those documents before but I pulled the documents and, frankly I don’t remember what I saw in them but in a matter of five minutes … I found something in one of the documents. I was able to point to this particular aspect of the documents, and I said, ‘This is the reason I will win this case.’ And the mediator’s jaw dropped. He couldn’t believe that I came up with such a quick response that turned the tables on the other side so quickly. It was because I was able to see something the other side did not see,” Levine recalled.

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Daily Business Review: South Florida Midsize Law Firms Find Room for Fee Options

Daily Business Review

 

By Catherine Wilson

The buzz about alternative fee arrangements has gotten louder in recent years, and many midsize law firms in South Florida have carved out space for something other than the straight billable hour.

AJK High Resolution“It’s becoming more and more of a topic, especially in big commercial cases, where it really wasn’t before,” said Miami commercial litigator Alan Kluger, co-founder of the 32-attorney Kluger Kaplan. “Clients are more receptive than they used to be.

The field of possibilities is open on the client side.

“Every single client, with the exception of maybe the Fortune 50, are potential clients to do alternative fee agreements, and the main thing they tell you is the shifting of the risk solely from the client to the client and the lawyers makes them happy,” he said.

But opinion is split on the willingness of clients to switch away from billable hours to AFAs.

Gary Rosen, managing shareholder of the 92-attorney Becker & Poliakoff, said he attends a lot of professional conferences, and “there’s been a lot of talk about AFAs in the past 10 years generally.”

“In reality, AFAs have not grown as dramatically and have not become as significant a component of the overall legal landscape as many have predicted, and the reason is it’s not that lawyers are uncomfortable with it. For the most part, it’s clients who are uncomfortable with it,” he said. “Clients have shown a reticence to move much more significantly into the AFA environment.”

Clients like the idea of predictable legal fees, and alternative arrangements are keyed more to specific clients than practice areas, said real estate litigator Ryan Gesten of the 21-attorney Shapiro, Blasi, Wasserman & Hermann in Boca Raton.

“I’ve been practicing 17 years. I’ve handled 1,000 matters on contingency,” he said. When considering a request for alternative fees, “it’s almost like we know it when we see it.”

Attorneys at South Florida midsize firms said alternative fees represent as little as 10 percent of total revenue and as high as 80 percent of cases, with litigation being a common practice area for AFAs.

The types of cases most likely to foster alternative fees at Kluger’s litigation firm are third-party and bad faith insurance claims, legal malpractice claims and breach of warranty claims.

“Those cases get resolved because it’s money. It’s just money,” he said.

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Daily Business Review: Litigator Abbey Kaplan On How Finding Common Ground Has Built His Career

Daily Business Review

By Celia Ampel

Miami attorney Abbey Kaplan believes the “Real Housewives” series is “complete lunacy” — but he’s seen plenty of episodes.

Kaplan carved out time to watch the show when his pop-culture-loving daughter was a teenager so he would have an easier time connecting with her.

Abbey Kaplan“When I used to travel, as an example, I would always buy a People magazine so that when I came back, there would be things that I’d be able to have in common with her and could talk to her about,” Kaplan said.

The business litigator’s belief in finding common ground has helped him win over juries, forge relationships with opposing counsel and grow his 30-lawyer firm, Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine.

Kaplan did not always know he would be an attorney. Like many kids, he wanted to be a professional baseball player, like his idol Mickey Mantle. But at age 13, he was hit in the face with a tennis ball and became blind in his right eye. His dreams dashed, he realized he needed to start on a path toward a different career.

He worked his way through college and law school as a women’s shoe salesman, chatting up people from all different walks of life — including his future wife, attorney Alyne Wrubel Kaplan. Those years taught him the importance of being able to connect with any type of person.

“You have the size fives and you have the size tens,” he said. “You have the women who want to spend a lot of money and the women who can’t spend a lot of money.”

It’s not always easy to meet people on their level, Kaplan said, particularly when you represent business clients who jurors might struggle to relate with. In 1991, Kaplan felt stuck as he prepared to ask for punitive damages in a trademark infringement case.

“I was really struggling with how do you reach common ground with a jury on punitive damages?” he said. “How do you explain to them what it means to punish somebody in the business sense?”

He consulted with his law partner, Alan Kluger, who suggested quoting Exodus 22:1: “If a man steals an ox … and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen.”

It worked. The jury awarded $10 million, including $4 million in punitive damages. Although the verdict was later overturned, the moment stuck with Kaplan as a lesson on how to connect with a jury.

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Daily Business Review: Litigation Funding Changes Legal Landscape for Boutique and Small Firms

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By Monika Gonzalez Mesa

The growth of litigation funding has widened the pool of law firms that can take on big cases, but their increasing popularity means boutique firms that have traditionally landed multimillion-dollar lawsuits by taking them on contingency or offering alternative fee arrangements are now taking a hit…

While boutique firms may feel that third-party funders are undercutting their business, smaller firms that once could not take on big-ticket cases are now able to compete. With the help of third-party funders, they can handle more multi-million dollar lawsuits than they would have otherwise.

“The pool of lawyers available to try a case expands because young lawyers who otherwise could not afford to take the case on contingency can now get funding,” said Alan Kluger, a founding member of Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine. “That’s good. It gives clients a bigger pool of lawyers to choose from. The good lawyers are going to get a lot of work.”

Kluger said his firm does not use third-party litigation funding because it has more than enough work and can take the cases it likes on contingency on its own. Several other managing partners of large firms said they don’t use third-party funding either. But a few said they have used them on occasion as part of an alternative fee arrangement.

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Daily Business Review: Elder-Abuse Plaintiffs Attorneys Weigh In After Nursing Home Deaths

Daily Business Review
By: Celia Ampel
Daily Business Review
September 15, 2017

Elder-law attorneys were quick to weigh in Thursday on the legal implications of eight deaths at a Hollywood nursing home following a loss of air conditioning during Hurricane Irma.

Any need for regulatory reform will be determined by the facts as they emerge, said Fort Lauderdale attorney Jonathan Gdanski of Schlesinger Law Offices. Key questions, he said, would include the following: What steps, if any, were taken to transport nursing home residents? Was the facility monitoring the deterioration of patients over time? And what plans were in place to help those who needed assistance the most?

“?Some of the most basic facts still need to be determined, yet what is already known seems to present a clear picture of absolute, complete, reprehensible conduct, which resulted in death,” said Gdanski, a plaintiffs lawyer focused on catastrophic personal injury and medical malpractice.

Meanwhile, he said, “the large majority” of caregivers across the state appear to have been adequately cautious in the face of the storm.

More than 150 residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were evacuated to hospitals Wednesday. Three people were already dead when first responders arrived, and five more died that afternoon. Gov. Rick Scott called the deaths “unfathomable,” and state and local authorities have started a criminal investigation.

The nursing home’s administrator, Jorge Carballo, said in a statement that the facility was “cooperating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome.”

Broward County reported the nursing home told officials Tuesday the air conditioning was out but did not request help, according to the Associated Press. The facility complied with a state law requiring an evacuation plan and hurricane drills.

“I have been litigating nursing abuse cases throughout Florida for years and this is the worst case I have seen,” said Fort Lauderdale attorney Marcus Susen of Koch Parafinczuk Wolf Susen.

The Hollywood nursing home seems to be an outlier rather than an example of a systemic problem, said Miami attorney Bruce Katzen of Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine.

“I believe our existing regulatory scheme is sufficient to administer nursing home and rehabilitation facilities,” said Katzen, whose practice includes elder abuse cases. “However, the existing regulatory system needs to be enforced. This facility apparently had a long list of violations.”

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