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BECKER & POLIAKOFF


Growing From Florida Roots


 Gary Poliakoff and Alan Becker

Forty years after its founding, Becker & Poliakoff is moving forward on a robust growth path. Last fall, the Fort Lauderdale-based firm added a new Florida office in Stuart, as well as nationally known intellectual property (IP) team in Northern Virginia.

“Businesses today are focusing on sustainable growth,” says Gary Rosen, managing shareholder and a board certified business litigation attorney. “They prefer to align themselves with law firms that have a similar philosophy and share those core values.”

That sense of teamwork — and the ability to offer business clients a “one-stop” solution — was one of the reasons Virginia patent attorney Richard C. Litman joined Becker & Poliakoff in October as managing shareholder of the firm’s new office near the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). “We have a well-integrated team of quality attorneys who are focused on serving our clients,” says Litman, citing former USPTO Director Richard J. Apley, who leads the office’s team of patent practitioners, and patent searchers, patent illustrators, technical specialists and client service managers. “There are great people throughout our firm who are really at the top of their game,” Litman adds.
 
In South Florida, the firm is also taking advantage of the region’s economic recovery to serve clients in its traditional fields of real estate and construction. “We are coordinating our practice groups to assist clients with land use, development, construction and litigation matters,” says shareholder Steven B. Lesser, who is board certified in construction law.

Lesser adds that the firm is moving aggressively into the public-private partnership (P3) arena. Led by partner Lee Weintraub and chief operating officer George Burgess, former Miami-Dade county manager, Becker & Poliakoff is gearing up to be a trusted advisor for public and private entities seeking P3 opportunities. The firm is also a founding member of the Florida Council for Public-Private Partnerships.

One of Lesser’s long-time clients is Swire Properties, which is beginning to develop the $1 billion mixed-use Brickell CitiCentre project in Miami. “Swire bought the property when the market was in the tank,” Lesser says. “Now you can see more apartment buildings and other projects sprouting up. By 2015, we will have real change in the real estate market.”

Founded on Community Association Law

Back in 1973, Miami attorneys Alan Becker and Gary Poliakoff founded a new firm that focused on condominium law. The two partners had met in law school but went separate ways after graduation. Poliakoff pursued a business career, while Becker served in the Florida Legislature as a state representative. The two reunited to assist the Miami Beach Tenants Association, a group of apartment dwellers fighting for their legal rights. “Alan was the driving force behind passage of the first condominium act in Florida,” says Rosen, who has been with the firm for 30 years. “We have continued that focus now for four decades.”

From a humble two-attorney office in Miami Beach representing condominium and homeowners associations, Becker and Poliakoff moved the firm to Fort Lauderdale in the early 1980s. Since then, Becker & Poliakoff has steadily added new practice areas and new offices. For its first 20 years, the firm grew exclusively in Florida, sending out shareholders to open new offices. “As the firm grew faster, and opened offices outside Florida, we were able to find top-quality attorneys with tremendous reputations who fit well with the firm’s culture,” says Rosen.

Today the firm has more than 160 attorneys, lobbyists and other professionals in 12 Florida offices, two offices in New Jersey, and offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Europe. A member of Legus, a national and global law firm network, Becker & Poliakoff’s practice areas include real estate transactions, construction, community associations, customs and international trade, litigation, corporate and securities, intellectual property and government law and lobbying.

“One of the reasons our firm is still going strong is a powerful team culture,” says Rosen. “We are not a group of lawyers who happen to be practicing under the same letterhead. We are one law firm, and the cohesion and collegiality and the enjoyment we get from practicing with each other is a very important part of our identity.”

Rosen adds that client expectations are becoming more and more rigorous in every field of law. “Clients demand top-notch attentive and constant service, so our attorneys are responsive and plugged in at all times,” he says. Noting that the firm has a 24/hour Client CARE Center, he adds, “Being a lawyer today is as far removed from a 9 to 5 job as you can imagine. Firms that stay ahead of the curve and communicate in everyway possible that they understand those demands and are eager to meet those demands are the ones that will succeed. Those that pull against that tide will disappear.”

Serving the Community

Through the years, Becker & Poliakoff attorneys and staffers have been actively engaged in civic, humanitarian and business organizations. The firm’s signature charity is Helping Hands, which grew out of Weintraub’s hospital experiences as a father whose infant had ocular cancer. Realizing that there are many families whose children are in the hospital during the holidays, Weintraub started a grassroots drive to collect toys for kids. “Now, virtually everyone in all our offices participates in Helping Hands, raising funds and visiting needy children in local hospitals,” Rosen says.

A longtime civic leader, Becker is the immediate past chair of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic development partnership and a board member of Enterprise Florida, the state’s public/private economic development organization. Firm members have been active in the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Florida Atlantic University Foundation, University of Florida Alumni, Kristi House, the Orange Bowl Committee and numerous other organizations.

Lesser is currently chair of The Florida Bar’s Construction Certification Committee and has held leadership roles in several American Bar Association (ABA) committees. “We encourage all attorneys to become involved in the Bar,” he says. “You learn from other lawyers, interact with them and develop your own skills.”

Lesser also emphasizes the importance of continuing education and maintaining a professional outlook. “We believe in educating our people and making them better lawyers and administrators,” he adds. “We want them to learn how to do team work and become better business people as well as hone their legal skills,” he says.

As Becker & Poliakoff looks to the future, Rosen predicts the firm will continue to grow steadily. “We tend to move carefully and be sure we’re heading in the right direction,” he says. Most importantly, we will continue to provide clients with the highest level of personalized legal service.”


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