Experienced Team Delivers ‘Big Firm’ Legal Service
|Seated, Thomas Lehman, Stephanie Reed Traband and David Levine;|
Standing, Stuart I. Grossman, Lawrence Kellogg and Jeffrey Schneider
Whether recovering funds for creditors in high-profile bankruptcy cases, arbitrating international disputes or advising financial institutions, the attorneys at Levine Kellogg Lehman Schneider + Grossman LLP (LKLSG) consistently show that a mid-size firm can handle large, complex matters.
“We take pride in providing ‘big firm’ service in a cost-efficient manner, while solving complicated business and financial issues,” says David M. Levine, a senior partner in the 16-attorney Miami firm. “Our clients include many large institutions that recognize the advantages of working with a small, highly experienced team. With LKLSG, what you see is what you get. You don’t have to worry about explaining your position to some attorney you have never met.”
LKLSG was founded in January 2010 by Levine, Lawrence A. Kellogg, Thomas R. Lehman, Jeffrey C. Schneider, and Stuart I. Grossman — five veteran South Florida attorneys who had worked together for decades. “We wanted to establish a firm based upon dedication, hard work, collegiality and efficiency that always put our clients’ needs first,” says Schneider, who serves as LKLSG’s managing partner. “We are not just partners, but also friends. Our doors are always open to our younger associates, and we listen to their ideas.”
In the past six years, LKLSG’s practice areas have evolved, in keeping with the changing South Florida economy. Long-known for its bankruptcy, receivership and complex trial work — as well as securities and class-actions — the firm’s scope of services has expanded to include employment-related matters, real estate, construction, condominium, insurance and professional malpractice.
While LKLSG is best known for its litigation practices, its attorneys also do transactional work. For instance, Grossman represents one of the largest acquirers of land in Palm Beach County, and Lehman has represented financial institutions and assisted investors in the acquisition of loan portfolios and transfers of real estate assets. As Lehman says, “We enjoy developing creative strategies to help our clients achieve their business and financial goals.”
The Five Founders
All of the name partners have been fortunate enough to be nationally recognized in their key practice areas.
A trial lawyer for 35 years, Kellogg focuses his practice on complex litigation and arbitration matters. He has represented well-known brands like Walt Disney Company, ABC, Inc., Nationsbank, Proctor and Gamble, and Smuckers, Inc., and tried numerous jury and non-jury cases in state, federal and bankruptcy courts, as well as arbitration forums. He also handles securities litigation, as well as probate cases, such as representing the widows of owners of a professional football franchises.
“To be an effective trial lawyer, you have to take complex concepts and explain them to a jury,” Kellogg says. “As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about complicated topics like interest rate swaps and reverse repurchase agreements so I could explain our client’s position to a jury. For me, that’s the best part of trying a case.”
In 2013, Kellogg served as lead counsel in securing a $7.8 million class action settlement on behalf of a group of defrauded investors from Latin America who lost money in the largest Bernie Madoff feeder fund. The class was the first group of the fund’s investors who lost money in the Madoff scandal to receive compensation via litigation in the U.S.
“When a massive fraud by a U.S. citizen affects thousands of people around the world, a fair and equitable settlement is clearly in the public interest,” says Kellogg. “This is how class actions are supposed to work. By moving quickly and efficiently, our team accomplished an important goal for our clients, who had no other opportunity for recovery.”
Grossman focuses his practice on real estate, and complex commercial and civil litigation, including labor and employment matters. For instance, he represented Fidelity National Title Insurance Company in several complicated mortgage fraud cases in Florida.
“As the South Florida real estate market has recovered, my practice has diversified,” Grossman says. “It’s grown to include not just distressed properties and loans, but a nice mix of litigation and transactional matters.”
As co-chair of the firm’s Bankruptcy and Receivership Groups, Levine has handled loan and business workouts, business and bankruptcy reorganizations, and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal and state enforcement proceedings. He is also a receiver in federal district court.
“Even though pure bankruptcy work has slowed down here, we are handling significant bankruptcy and receivership matters outside South Florida,” Levine says. “I also continue to counsel both large and small institutional clients in financial matters.”
Lehman is the other co-chair of the firm’s Bankruptcy Group, focusing on bankruptcy, insolvency, and business law matters. ”In response to our robust local economy during the last several years, I have also broadened my practice to include construction, real estate and insurance coverage litigation and transactional work.” he says. “However, we are starting to see some signs of softness in the South Florida real estate market now. I expect we will see more litigation involving buyers’ remorse in the coming year and other litigation over sales that failed to close and we are well positioned to help clients on these matters”
Schneider, who also co-chairs the Receivership Group, is a trial lawyer whose practice focuses on complex commercial litigation and international arbitration.
“I have been trying high-risk cases for more than 20 years,” he says. “More recently, I’ve handled more international arbitration disputes, but that’s only because arbitrations are on an uptick. I have seen that trend shift over the years as well.”
Growing the Firm
Soon after its founding, LKLSG began adding new associates and partners to its team. “When we formed the firm, we wanted to have a succession plan in place,” says Levine. “I believe it’s very important for any law firm to bring in ‘fresh blood.’ New attorneys can make substantial contributions, while learning and enhancing their skills.”
For example, partner Jason Kellogg was co-counsel with Tom Lehman in a complex construction defect trial on behalf of a South Beach condominium developer against a large Portuguese contractor and its American subsidiary. After a two-week trial, Kellogg obtained a $3.2 million judgment for the client..
When Stephanie Reed Traband decided to leave her prior firm in 2012, she looked carefully at her career options. “I wanted to go to a firm where I respected the partners both personally and professionally,” she says. “My first — and only — call was to LKLSG, and since joining LKLSG, my respect for their abilities has continued to grow.
Today, Traband is an equity partner who focuses her practice on commercial litigation and enforcing creditors’ rights, and also handles appellate and international matters. After a week-long trial, she recently obtained a multimillion dollar judgment against a well-known Miami real estate professional and was asked to write an amicus brief on behalf of government service entities regarding Florida mortgage practices. She is a leader in the International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA), and often lectures on various litigation-related topics around the globe.
“I like the fact that our younger attorneys work on complex matters right from the start,” says Traband. “One LKLSG associate who passed the bar two months ago is already arguing motions in court. You don’t have to wait a decade to get that hands-on experience.”
While LKLSG has been presented with opportunities to open new offices and add new teams of attorneys, Schneider says there are no plans to change the boutique firm’s business model. “We will continue to add good people, but we won’t ever be a big firm. We have a great culture that allows us to balance our work and our personal lives. We enjoy practicing together and we intend to keep right on doing that.”
South Florida Legal Guide 2016 Edition