Interview with Miami Attorney, Todd Levine: Advice on Seeking a Commercial Litigator
Todd Levine is an experienced commercial litigator and a founding member at Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen, & Levine, P.L. in Miami, Florida. With a strong background in commercial real estate litigation and over twenty-five years in practice, he has handled a wide variety of complex business disputes in industries including sports and entertainment. He often works with property managers, property buyers and sellers, investors, contractors and more on cases dealing with commercial real estate projects and transactions. He has also handled cases that involve financial investment partnerships and specialized finance arrangements.
He focuses on developing an independent strategy with his clients’ goals in mind as he combines his outside loves of art, music, and science with his law practice. As a musician and art lover, Levine finds ways to incorporate his creativity and analytical skills when taking on new clients and cases. This may involve developing a specific legal argument to give clarity on an otherwise confusing subject, or it may involve finding one individual piece of evidence that results in making or breaking the case.
After graduating in 1991 from the University of Florida Levine College of Law, he went on to be recognized in several well known publications, lists, and won many awards including Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, Super Lawyers Business Edition, Florida Trend Magazine, the Daily Business Review, South Florida Business Journal, and the South Florida Legal Guide.
As a founding member at Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, P.L., Levine has consistently immersed himself in the goals of his clients in an effort to find a winning strategy. Many of his clients are surprised to hear about his outside talents as a musician and art fan, but it has come in handy in the courtroom. His perspective as an innovator has assisted in his ability to find key information and to consider new ideas other litigators may bypass.
We sat down with Todd Levine recently to inquire specifically about commercial litigation and when someone may want to seek a professional when dealing with a complicated case. He shared some helpful advice! He explained what commercial litigation is, along with how to use mediation and Arbitration, and shared some information on his law firm.
How can a commercial litigator help?
“While I understand it’s not something people enjoy talking about, legal disputes are going to pop up from time to time in the business world. There are a number of ways to go about solving business disputes, but having an experienced commercial litigator is the best way to handle the challenge.
My name is Todd Levine and I am a founding member of Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen, and Levine, P.L. I hope to provide people and businesses in this situation with the right information to make smart choices. Whether you are prosecuting or defending, the right experienced commercial litigator will get things going in the correct direction.
There are many different types of business disputes and, like more typical disagreements or fights, disputes can be settled in a variety of ways. An experienced commercial litigator can find the most appropriate method and speed up the process.
What Do Commercial Litigators Do Exactly?
“Lawyer talk” can be a bit confusing, so someone involved in a business dispute might not know exactly what service a litigator provides. Before even appearing in front of a judge, it is my job to analyze your claims and defenses, and develop strategies to enhance your bargaining power and litigation leverage. Ideally, everyone would love to resolve a business dispute without needing to step into a courtroom. Resolutions are not always reached quickly, so experience in the courtroom is invaluable.
Commercial litigation differs slightly from the broader label of civil litigation. If businesses or companies are involved in some type of dispute, it usually is labeled as commercial litigation. The process and stages are mostly the same, but because businesses are involved, and the quantity of potential evidence can be staggering, commercial litigation is generally more complex. The entire process with commercial litigation tends to take longer due to the complexity of each case. This is especially true if it is a class action or multi-district litigation.
Mapping out a strategy from the beginning is usually the best way to handle complex commercial litigation. Not only is research and planning extremely important to me, but so is working with others and preserving all information that might become relevant during the case.
What are Mediation and Arbitration? How are they different?
Because I am a lawyer, many might think that I do all my work in the courtroom. However, mediation and arbitration are often preferable alternative dispute resolution methods. The biggest payoff for a business dispute being resolved outside the courtroom is that it is often less expensive than traditional litigation. This is a major factor, specifically for smaller businesses that might not have the finances to handle drawn-out litigation.
Medication is a voluntary, non-binding process, pursuant to which a neutral mediator helps the parties reach a mutually acceptable resolution. The mediator facilitates a compromise based on information to which he is privy, but which he may not necessarily share with the opposing side. This depends on whether the side providing that information has authorized the mediator to share the information or not. The benefit of mediation, which often takes place before or during litigation or arbitration proceedings, is that the parties have control over the outcome of their case. Mediation is the only dispute resolution process where that holds true. As a result, the majority of cases settle during mediation. Moreover, mediation is privileged and confidential. This promotes the freedom to present your positions without fear that something you say during mediation can be used against you later.
Arbitration is a process where the parties often select their own arbitrator, or panel of arbitrators, to rule on their dispute. Arbitration can be binding or non-binding, depending on what the parties have agreed upon and whether there are any applicable statutes. Arbitration allows the parties to be a bit more flexible. Flexibility can manifest itself in matters such as the amount of time spent on the dispute, how strictly enforced legal procedures and discovery will be during the proceedings, and when and where the hearings and final “trial” will take place. There are also limited rights of appeal applied in many cases. With a better chance at initial success due to a favorable setup, time can be reduced quite a bit, resulting in savings for the client. Almost all arbitration proceedings are private. That means less publicity, less damage to reputation, and, most times, a smoother process in general. This is a huge benefit for well-known clients and businesses looking to avoid the public eye.
Arbitration and/or mediation are not always the answer though, as there are some drawbacks. Usually, they are not as thorough as a commercial litigation. Payouts also cannot be enforced without official court proceedings. Furthermore, one party to a dispute cannot force another to mediate or arbitrate, unless they have already contractually obligated themselves to do so, or unless they are compelled to do so by a court. Even though both parties usually agree to accept the decisions beforehand, in the case of non-binding mediation or arbitration, there is always a chance that a losing party might refuse to voluntarily accept the decision in the end.
Of course, sometimes disputes just can’t be handled that way. That is when things do head to, or remain in, litigation. Exploring all possible options can pay off in many ways, but the courts exist for disputes that simply can’t be solved through alternative methods.
Why Should someone pick you, Todd Levine of Kluger Kaplan?
As a founding member at Kluger Kaplan, you can trust me, when it comes to complex commercial litigation. I’ve handled a variety of disputes, giving me knowledge and experience that are difficult to find elsewhere. The focus of my practice is complex commercial litigation, with an emphasis on real estate disputes. I also handle litigation in the entertainment and sports industries, as well as the construction and health industries, among other complex commercial disputes.
Below is a list of five reasons why I stand out from others. There is no cookie cutter way to go about litigation of any kind, so my unique, out-of-the-box methods are welcomed by most.
- Experience – There is no doubt that experience in any field helps, but something as intricate as commercial litigation is not an easy process by any means. Sure, there is a chance someone can find the right fit for them using a litigation team that has little to no experience, but with more than 25 years of experience, I have seen a lot. I am constantly referencing specific methods or techniques I’ve achieved success with in the past to apply my experiences to new situations.
- Research – Proper preparation is one of the biggest keys to success during the litigation process. I often get involved with my clients well before a business dispute pops up. That initial research and preparation can really pay off. It also allows me to counsel my clients on certain decisions to avoid problems in the future. It is important to be ahead of the game, and all lawyers at Kluger Kaplan take pride in making sure they do enough preparation and research to have a solid litigation position.
- Adaptability – It is important to take things and learn from every single business dispute I have worked on, but there will always be differences. There is no such thing as one simple formula for each issue. That is why you will see the names Todd Levine and Kluger Kaplan attached to a wide array of different clients. My adaptability, in particular, is something in which I take a lot of pride. It goes back to a lot of research initiatives to be familiar with each case, but when new pieces of information are thrown in, thinking on the fly (and quickly) is important.
- Long-Term Relationships – Since my name, Todd Levine of Kluger Kaplan, means everything as far as success in the industry is concerned, building long-term relationships with businesses and individuals will always be extremely important to me. The same goes for all of the other attorneys at Kluger Kaplan. While our clients certainly come to us during a crisis, they are comforted by the fact that they have trusted counsel with whom they can consult at any time.
- Future Dispute Avoidance – Business disputes are something everyone would love to avoid, but the reality is that if it happens once, it can happen again. We develop preventative measures to do whatever possible to keep this from happening, and I feel it is extremely important to teach my clients how to help avoid disputes in the future.
Can you tell us more about your education, and some of the awards you’ve been recognized for?
I attended the University of Florida for both my undergraduate degree and for law school. I graduated with High Honors with a B.S.B.A. in Finance in 1988, then was immediately accepted into the Levin College of Law, graduating with honors in 1991.
In my years of practicing law, I have received many awards. I have been honored in consecutive years as one of the “Best Lawyers in America,” according to U.S. News and World Report for the litigation-real estate. I have also been repeatedly recognized as “Legal Elite” by Florida Trend magazine, as a “Super Lawyer” by the Florida Super Lawyers Magazine, and as a “Top Lawyer” by the South Florida Legal Guide. Alan Kluger, Abbey Kaplan, Steve Silverman, Bruce Katzen, and others affiliated with Kluger Kaplan have also been recognized.
How do your outside interests contribute to work?
A few years ago, I assessed my life outside of work. I realized that many of my hobbies have a positive impact on my litigation work at Kluger Kaplan. Critical thinking is crucial in the world of law, but creativity and thinking outside the box are just as important. I truly believe my passion for the arts has helped me in a number of instances in the courtroom and in mediation.
I first got into music when I was 10 years old and learned how to play guitar. I eventually learned bass and keyboard as well, and my talent for music is still as strong as ever. I am not looking to quit my day job and make a final push for a worldwide tour, but my appreciation for art and my passion for drawing is something that brings me joy away from the office as well.
I believe that the creative side of my mind in music and art has had a major impact on my success, as my creativity enables me to bring something unique to the table as a skilled commercial litigator. Simply put, Todd Levine the musician elevates Todd Levine the complex commercial litigator more than one might think. Musicians and artists also have to think on their feet, much like I do in the courtroom or during depositions, mediation, or arbitration. If a new piece of evidence is provided, it must be dealt with appropriately. Sometimes, having the proper amount of creativity pays off when others might find themselves at a roadblock. I believe that having a mind that works in different ways allows me to handle anything thrown my way because I can and do approach problems from several angles.
Additional Final Thoughts
No one wants a business dispute to drag on, so the common suggestion is for a person to act on an issue as soon as possible. The search can be a bit daunting at first, but there are tools for people to find local options quickly and easily. Those in the South Florida area can count on me and Kluger Kaplan to provide a modern approach to resolving a challenging situation. Being able to use all the data strategically and creatively is what I feel sets me and Kluger Kaplan apart. I feel that it is important when involved in a business dispute to stay calm and let the professionals handle the work. By finding the right fit, the process can usually be a lot less painful.
About Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen, Levine, P.L.
The law firm of Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen, and Levine, P.L. has been serving not only South Florida, but the entire United States for years, specializing in complex, high-stake disputes. Focusing on sophisticated and complex cases ranging from business and corporate litigation to sports and entertainment law, the firm has a variety of lawyers who specialize in a wide array of scenarios. Kluger Kaplan’s attorneys have been lead counsel in trials in federal and state courts, as well as arbitrations and mediations, all across the United States. The firm focuses on developing long-term relationships with clients. The founding members of Kluger Kaplan are Alan Kluger, Abbey Kaplan, Steve Silverman, Bruce Katzen, Todd Levine, Jason Marks, Philippe Lieberman, and Michael Perse.”