Dan Baldwin 2013-12-04 11:25:48
SERVICE AND RESULTS IN BUSINESS LITIGATION “Our firm is all about delivering service and exceeding client expectations. In litigation, the outcome is what matters most. But diligently serving the client is the next most important task,” says Robert Burlington, partner and co-founder of Coffey Burlington, a Miami-based firm practicing business litigation. The firm celebrates 25 years in business this year. “Since the 1980s no community in America has been more dynamic than south Florida. For the legal profession, it means plenty of exciting opportunities as well as fascinating challenges,” says co-founder Kendall Coffey when reflecting on the firm’s place among Florida’s elite law firms. Coffey Burlington practice areas include general commercial and complex litigation, high net worth matrimonial and family litigation, mass torts and product liability, white collar crime and grand jury investigations. Coffey Burlington has built its business around the litigation and dispute resolution needs of the Florida and international business community. And, with an impressive blend of lawyers with five to 40 years of experience, the firm has the energy of a startup company. Ben Brodsky is a partner and has been with the firm since 2009. His practice covers all aspects of business, commercial and employment litigation. “Before joining Coffey Burlington, I worked for a big firm in New York and clerked for a federal judge,” Brodsky says. “During my interviews at the firm, I was impressed with the top tier clients the firm represents and I liked the fact that 60 percent of the lawyers here joined the firm aft er federal judicial clerkships throughout the United States. This firm is committed to creating opportunities for our younger partners and associates. It is incumbent on our more seasoned lawyers to mentor our younger lawyers. We are building our succession plan while the founders are in their early 60s and fully engaged.” STAYING TRUE TO THE VISION The business litigation focus of the firm is a function of the decade the two founders spent together as partners with one of the premier law firms in the world – Greenburg Traurig. The transition from partners to founders and owners was a natural expansion of what they had been trained to do in that organization. The two discussed the matter for three or four years before their initial informal discussions led to serious planning and then actually making the decision to form their own firm. A major factor in that decision was the direction in which their former firm was expanding. Burlington says, “We liked the idea of staying smaller. We very much enjoy the practice of law. We very much enjoy direct contact with sophisticated clients and we were committed to preserving that personal contact because it’s something we find very satisfying.” Coffey says the reason they took so long to make the transition was that they were very happy with their former firm, their positions, and responsibilities within it. They ultimately decided to leave not out of dissatisfaction, but because they felt they were capable, had enough of their own work, and enough of a following to launch a successful practice. “We wanted to be a little bit different and we wanted to limit our practice exclusively to business litigation and not be a full service law firm. We’ve stayed true to that for 25 years, although we have been approached many times by a number of very fine law firms to merge our practice with theirs. We’ve always declined because we are most comfortable remaining a litigation firm,” says Burlington. Burlington is the managing member of the firm and has 35 years of legal experience. He is consistently rated as one of Florida Trend Magazine’s Top Lawyers and Top 100 Super Lawyers, Best of the Best ratings. In 2012 he was inducted into the Legal Elite Hall of Fame. He has litigated and tried to completion a wide variety of jury and non-jury trials in state and federal courts. Case experience includes business torts, commercial and real estate contract disputes, securities transactions, class actions and many aspects of state and federal employment litigation. Coffey is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and currently the chair of the Southern District Conference, federal judicial nomination committee. He is recognized as one of Florida Trend magazine’s Top Lawyers, one of the Lawyers of the Year for 2000 by the National Law Journal, and was member of the Gore Legal Team in Election Recount 2000. He focuses his business practice on complex litigation at trial and appellate levels in state and federal courts. SERVING BUSINESS AND OTHER LAWYERS Coffey Burlington serves a variety of business and institutional clients including banks, developers, broker-dealers, major insurance companies, investors, contractors, law firms, accounting firms, Fortune 500 companies and local governments. Burlington says, “Florida is a veritable farmland of entrepreneurs. There are so many highly successful private businesses in south Florida. It is really the profile client for us – entrepreneurs who have built a substantial business from scratch.” Susan Raffanello is a partner, who joined the firm in 2004. She represents clients in complex commercial litigation before state and federal trial and appellate courts, arbitration panels, mediators, and professional boards. According to Raffanello the firm earns a significant amount of business in referrals from other attorneys and law firms in Florida and from out of state. She credits the firm’s reputation. “It really speaks well of our firm that other lawyers think so highly of us and trust us with their clients,” she says. Experience and depth in high stakes litigation helps with referrals because lawyers elsewhere oft en have an important client who has a litigation need best handled by another firm. Either the referring lawyer or law firm cannot meet that need or may have a conflict of interest that cannot be overcome. Coffey Burlington receives referrals from lawyers in those situations who are looking to place their client with a high-quality business litigation firm. Knowing that Coffey Burlington is not going to do that client’s other work, helps strengthen the firm’s trusted reputation within the legal community. Gabriel Groisman joined the firm in 2006 and became a partner in 2012. He represents clients in disputes related to real estate, construction, trademark, copyright, defamation, breach of contract, employment and all types of business torts. Aft er 25 years in one location, the firm is moving to allow for expansion. Groisman says, “We need more room to work. We have the work to justify growth. The quality of lawyers available in south Florida is outstanding, so it’s a good time for us to grow by adding high-quality, experienced lawyers to our practice. We’ve made that decision and we’ll be moving just three blocks down the street by the end of March 2014.” A KNOWN QUANTITY One of the reasons for the firm’s longevity and its upcoming expansion is that it is a known quantity, say both Groisman and Brodsky. “We cheris hour reputation for excellence,” says Brodsky. “Being well regarded gets you a phone call and maybe an interview. We gladly provide references to prospective clients and that works in our favor. We focus on being exceptionally responsive and proactive in servicing our clients. I know we excel at service because clients tell us that and they remind us of how important it is to them. Th at is a dynamic that helps create separation between us and other terrific law firms.” A LAW FIRM IS LIKE A STARFISH “Law firms are like starfish,” Burlington says. “What do I mean by that? Starfish have a remarkable ability to regenerate their parts,” Burlington continues. “Law firms need to do that with new practice areas, technology and tech savvy lawyers. Law firms have to be prepared to regenerate and grow new skills and that’s always a challenge.” Burlington gives as an example the firm’s successful luring of Albert Caruana to the firm in January 2012. “Al Caruana is consistently ranked among the top five divorce lawyers in the United States. He is also a brilliant trial lawyer. “We reached for the stars to get Al to join us and he has made an incredible and positive impact on our practice, adding depth and an entirely new practice area,” beams Burlington. Raffanello believes the primary challenges and opportunities for attorneys and law firms serving the business community will be in the area of technology. She believes that technology has certainly enhanced almost every business that exists, but it has also placed extraordinary demands on those same businesses in terms of keeping current with technology and using it effectively. It is a crucial part of any successful law firm. “Law firms need to be able to spend money and devote resources to technology in a way that is unprecedented. Trying to assimilate that knowledge and use it to our advantage requires our lawyers to evolve and master more than just the law. Learning cutting edge tools and staying current with them is an ongoing challenge. Those lawyers who continue to keep up with technology will continue to stay ahead as opposed to lawyers who are resistant to or unwilling to embrace technology,” Raffanello says. DEDICATED TO THE COMMUNITY Coffey Burlington is committed not only to the success of its clients and its own well-being, but also to improving the quality of life of the community at large. Some of the programs and organizations the firm supports or serves include: First Tee, Junior Orange Bowl Sports Ability Games, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, AIPAC, City of Miami Persons with Disabilities Program, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Miami Transplant Foundation, American Jewish Committees, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Federal Bar Association, Dade County Bar Association, Cuban-American Bar Association, and University of Miami-Adjunct Faculty.
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