Katie S. Phang Handles High-Stakes Commercial Disputes
You may have seen Katie S. Phang analyzing important legal cases on Fox News or Fox Business Network, or heard her on National Public Radio (NPR). But if you’re a litigator, you probably don’t want to meet her in court.
“I have no fear about going to trial,” she says. “Even if I expect a case to settle, I keep pushing forward, trying to get the best settlement for my client or taking the case to trial as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. That mindset makes a huge difference to the client.”
An experienced commercial litigator with more than 16 years of trial experience, Phang is a partner on Berger Singerman’s Dispute Resolution Team, where she represents a diverse group of clients in state and federal courts.
She is also an active leader in South Florida’s legal circles, serving as the chair of a Florida Bar grievance committee, president-elect of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, and a member of many other professional organizations.
“In a high-stakes case involving complex legal issues, multiple parties and all of their personalities, Katie’s legal skills, charm, and tenacity led us to a very favorable outcome,” says Frank Marro, president and CEO of Drever Capital Management, LLC. “She’s not afraid to go toe-to-toe with opposing counsel, inside or outside of the courtroom, and will drive the case to its best conclusion.”
Growing up in Miami
Born in New York, Phang lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with her parents, Dr. Michael and Jean Phang, and her brother, before her father accepted a position as professor and Vice-Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Miami. “I am a first-generation American,” she says. “My parents came from South Korea and I got the 100 percent work ethic genes right from the start.”
As a child, Phang was classically trained in piano and violin, and took lessons at the UM Frost School of Music. “I spent a lot of time on the Coral Gables campus, which has grown and changed so much through the years,” she says.
After high school, Phang headed to New Haven, Connecticut, as an undergraduate student at Yale University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in political science. She also enjoyed studying foreign languages, international relations and American government. While at Yale, she joined a collegiate a cappella singing group, which gave her more experience in getting up on stage in a room full of strangers.
Then, Phang returned to Miami and enrolled at the UM School of Law, taking as many courses as she could, while working several jobs as well. “As a law school student, I found I loved trial work and took part in many mock trials and moot court,” she says. “I relished the intensity of the preparation you put into a trial and the idea of presenting your case to the jury.”
Decades later as an adjunct professor at the law school, Phang says she tells her students that they have to have more than just technical proficiency and subject knowledge to be a good trial lawyer. “You have to make your case interesting and compelling to the jury,” she says.
Becoming a Prosecutor
From law school, Phang became a prosecutor on Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s team. She started trying misdemeanors and left several years later as a division chief, trying capital homicide cases. “At 29 I was trying life felonies, and the office really gave me great opportunities to grow as a lawyer,” she says. She later joined Broward State Attorney Michael J. Satz’s office in Fort Lauderdale.
In 2012, Phang co-founded Arrastia, Capote & Phang, LLP, a minority-owned law firm where she handled commercial litigation cases for major corporate clients, as well as small business owners and individuals.
On January 1, 2015, Phang joined Berger Singerman as the only female litigation partner in the Miami office. Her practice includes business torts, contract breaches, restrictive covenants and other commercial matters, assisting both local and national companies. Much of her caseload comes from referrals, she adds. She also mentors younger women litigation associates throughout the firm.
Recently, Phang represented a California-based hedge fund that provided the capital for Seasalt & Pepper, a restaurant on the Miami River. “The two principals were battling for control, and my client wanted to make sure they were paid back,” she says. “We ended up resolving the case and everyone was pleased with the result.”
Phang also has a busy marital law practice, assisting clients with significant business and property assets. “I also do some criminal defense, but I am very selective in those cases,” she says. “When someone’s liberty is at stake, you have to do everything you can to help your client.” She also serves as an expert witness on professional fees and costs.
With her background as a legal analyst for the media, Phang often advises her clients on the public relations aspects of high-profile cases. “All the tweets and posts on social media can create a PR nightmare for a client,” she says. “So, you have to have a plan to control the damage and activate it right from the start.” That is one of the lessons she will share with other attorneys in an upcoming presentation to the Dade County Bar Association on “Winning Your Case with the Media.”
While managing social media can be a difficult challenge, Phang says understanding how to look for information can also be helpful in building a case.
“I have been able to tear my opponents’ arguments apart based upon what they put on social media,” she says.
Becoming a Parent
Phang and her husband Jonathan S. Feldman, a litigator at Perlman, Bajandas, Yevoli & Albright, P.L ,have an 18-month-old daughter, Charlotte. As a professional woman who became a mom later in life, Phang says being a parent has given her a fresh perspective on her career. “I’ve learned to take a breath before I react,” she says. “Mindfulness is also important to me, and I try to stay in the present and focus on what’s in front of me, rather than getting ahead of myself.”
Phang says other women attorneys ask her how she can balance family and career. “I am blunt and tell them that you can’t do everything well, all of the time,” she says. “Some days I am a 150-percent Berger Singerman trial lawyer and may not even get to spend time with my daughter. On other days, my schedule permits me to leave early and relax with my family. Having a husband who’s a lawyer helps immensely because he understands the pressure of being a litigator.”
To unwind, Phang enjoys Pilates classes and playing on her grand piano, alone or with her young daughter. She also goes to classical music concerts, Miami City Ballet performances, and other cultural events.
Looking ahead, Phang says, “I’m hitting my sweet spot as a lawyer, and I want to keep building my business and diversifying my litigation practice. I also want to help grow Berger Singerman. We have 82 lawyers in four Florida offices and a great collaborative culture. I’m always learning something new and that keeps life interesting.”
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