What’s New for 2022? Alan Kluger and Abbey Kaplan Look Back at 2021 and Share What’s in Store for the New Year
By Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, P.L. December 14, 2021
As we near the end of the year and head into 2022, Kluger Kaplan reflects on how 2021 has shaped up. From litigation and business of law trends, firm growth, and the impacts of the pandemic, founding partners Alan Kluger and Abbey Kaplan discuss more and what we can expect heading into the new year:
Have you seen an increase in any types of litigation trends as a result of the pandemic this year?
Kluger: We’ve experienced an uptick in commercial and business litigation, especially with businesses that managed to perform well during the pandemic, such as warehousing and distribution companies. The same is happening in the real estate and construction industries due to the strong activity in South Florida’s market. When the tide is rising, there is typically litigation. For example, if you have rights to buy a business, and then all of a sudden the business is worth three times the amount of the strike price reached when you agreed to buy that business, you may get pushback from sellers, which inevitably leads to litigation.
Kaplan: We have multiple cases in the office that revolve around this trend, but many businesses are looking beyond litigation.
In my 46 years as a litigator and 30 years as a mediator, I’ve never seen such high demand for settling at the mediation table. During the pandemic, we saw a significant rise in the number of litigants and lawyers mediating cases because the courts were closed for so long, and they were not able to get a jury verdict. It is the primary alternative available to get their cases resolved more quickly. I believe there is such a backlog of getting through jury trials that this is going to continue.
I also think that mediations over Zoom will remain a trend. Virtual mediation avoids the harm that can come with angry adversaries sitting in the same room, but enables the parties to deal with their agenda in private. Avoiding the chest pounding and what could be a “closing argument” by counsel in an opening directed at the opposing party is more likely to allow litigants to find common ground.
What litigation trends do you see evolving in 2022?
Kluger: Real estate litigation will be robust, because of the sheer amount of transaction volume given that so many people and companies are relocating or expanding to Miami. As real estate prices rise, sellers are likely to look for ways to get out of deals and remarket their properties.
Kaplan: As Alan noted, many Sellers are trying to figure out a way to void their contracts because they believe they can get more money now. That is likely to continue. It is remarkable how many sellers are trying to take advantage of this increase for both commercial and residential properties.
Kluger: The hospitality industry is also booming in South Florida. We believe that developers are going to be buying, building and remodeling more hotels and properties. With that comes an increase in construction and commercial litigation. Another area where we are bound to see litigation is on the trusts and estates front. Changes in the tax code, coupled with a historic accumulation of wealth as the stock market soared over the past two years, is likely to open the door to new disputes involving families and businesses.
Can you talk about the firm’s expansion this year? What is driving this growth?
Kluger: This year, Kluger Kaplan added four new attorneys in response to the continued business momentum. This is mainly due to clients who are coming to us for cases outside of Florida because legal hearings and depositions have been on Zoom.
Last year, I tried a case remotely in Federal Court in Missouri for a client who had never hired us outside of Florida previously. Then they realized that cases were going to be litigated via Zoom, so they reached out to us. We thought they would go back to hiring local firms once the courts reopened, but they’re not. Clients are still coming to us to handle litigation outside of Florida even when it’s not necessarily on Zoom. That created an increased demand, from which we have benefitted.
Kaplan: There have been a lot of new business calls from people in other counties who would normally hear about the firm by word of mouth at in-person events, but who are now Googling to find litigation firms and they have found Kluger Kaplan. This has also led to an increase in demand. We expect to be up to about 35 lawyers next year.
Following Kluger Kaplan’s launch of the H.T. Smith Legal Studies Scholarship this year, have you seen other firms creating similar diversity initiatives? What is the firm’s timeframe for the scholarship in 2022?
Kluger: Once we launched the H.T. Smith Legal Studies Scholarship, other South Florida law firms have already come to us saying that they are planning to launch their own initiatives. This is a step in the right direction that the legal profession is taking to make sure that the industry is more inclusive and reflective of our community as a whole.
We plan to open applications for the 2022-2023 academic year in April 2022. Additionally, our 2021-2022 scholarship recipient, Briana Harris, will be joining Kluger Kaplan as a summer associate next summer.
What is Kluger Kaplan’s plans for returning to the office?
Kaplan: We are already back! We closed our office on March 11, 2020 and reopened on Nov. 1, 2021, once we believed it was safe to bring our team back. We celebrated with a full opening ceremony. About 80 percent of our staff was there – the others were in court hearings, meetings, or depositions, in-person like the old days! When I walked around the office that first day back, there was an incredible vibe. Everyone was thrilled to be back with their friends and colleagues.