Solving Complex Business Problems
Patricia Lebow is known throughout Palm Beach County for her ability to solve complex problems. A strategist with almost 40 years of legal experience, Lebow has a broad base of clients who seek her advice on legal and business issues.
Problem solving requires an “understanding of people and situations in addition to specific legal expertise,” says Lebow, founding and managing partner for Broad and Cassel’s West Palm Beach Office. “I bring a practical approach to problem solving and believe my communication skills serve me well in explaining complicated matters to clients and providing assistance to get them to the finish line.”
In recognition of her skills and accomplishments in the region’s business community, the Sun Sentinel presented Lebow with its prestigious Excalibur Award as “Outstanding Business Leader of the Year” for Palm Beach County and the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches awarded Lebow the seminal Women in Leadership Award for the private sector.
“Patricia deals well with thorny issues, coming up with effective strategies,” says attorney Richard Comiter, senior partner at Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun in Palm Beach Gardens. “She is a quick study and knows how to get to the heart of the problem in many different practice areas.”
Comiter, who has known Lebow for more than 20 years, adds, “She also spends a lot of time in community service, and serves on a number of boards. She is well connected in Palm Beach County and knows how to get things done.”
Becoming a Journalist
|Patricia Lebow with her late husband Alan and daughter Amanda Lebow on a skiing trip.|
Growing up in Connecticut, Lebow was always interested in becoming a journalist. She was the editor of her high school newspaper and earned a degree in journalism from Boston University. After graduation, she spent a year in Europe, where she learned French and attended the Sorbonne. In 1970, she returned to New York, where she went to work for Fairchild Publications, covering stories for Footwear News, Women’s Wear Daily and W Magazine.
“I wanted to cover the courts as a reporter for the New York Times or The Washington Post, so I applied to law school to develop a special expertise as a writer,” she says. “I chose the University of Miami where I could enjoy the nice weather while getting a first rate education.”
In law school, Lebow started clerking for Neil Chonin, a personal injury trial lawyer in downtown Miami, who now runs Southern Legal Counsel, Inc. in Gainesville. “At that time, the major law firms in Miami did not hire women attorneys. Neil was open-minded and gave me an opportunity,” she says. He not only gave me my first job, but he really taught me how to practice law.
On May 10, 1974, Lebow was admitted to the Florida Bar. “I went right from my swearing in ceremony to a hearing,” she said. “So, I can literally say that I have been in the courtroom from the first day I was admitted to practice.”
Lebow also became active immediately in the Bar organizations, becoming the first woman to serve on the Board of Directors of the Dade County Bar Association and the first woman Board Member of the Young Lawyers Section of the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors. At the same time, Lebow was honing her trial skills. She became a partner in Chonin and Levey (her maiden name). “I enjoyed the creativity, the strategizing and the ability to be persuasive in the courtroom,” she says. “As a trial lawyer, you are orchestrating a performance from beginning to end to benefit your client.”
In 1976, following a mechanic’s lien case she had in Monroe County, she met Alvin Cassel, co-founder of Broad and Cassel. The firm made her an offer to join Broad and Cassel as its first female attorney. At that time, Broad and Cassel had one office in Bay Harbor Islands. “They trained me in commercial litigation and real estate,” Lebow says. “They were tough taskmasters, but I learned something new every day.”
Moving to Palm Beach County
Meanwhile, Lebow married her husband, Alan. Since they had a home in Palm Beach County, they decided to relocate there and Lebow considered applying for a job with the State Attorney’s office. Instead, Broad and Cassel offered to open a litigation office in West Palm Beach under Lebow’s direction. Thus, she began building a litigation practice in Palm Beach County. That was in November, 1983, a few months after Lebow had become board-certified as a civil trial attorney. “When we moved to Palm Beach County, I didn’t know anyone in the legal or business community, so it was really starting from scratch,” she says.
Lebow began doing plaintiff’s personal injury, construction defect litigation, and commercial litigation. “For the first 20 years of my career, I wanted to do anything that would put me in the courtroom; hearings, depositions and trials.” In 1990, Lebow received a call from a bank in California to handle a contested foreclosure in Palm Beach County. She assigned the file to her partner, Steve Ellison, who led the litigation with a team that ultimately took that case to the U. S. Supreme Court. “It was a seminal Truth in Lending Act (TILA) case,” she says. “Today, we have a great commercial contested foreclosure practice headed by Ellison that was really jump-started from that one case.
After the birth of her daughter Amanda in 1985, Lebow began moving away from litigation into transactional work. “That was another watershed moment for me,” she says. “I wanted to have more control over my schedule, so I did probate, estates and trust work — whatever my clients needed.”
For the past decade, Lebow has oriented her practice toward entrepreneurs, offering strategic advice and drawing on her own experiences. After all, she grew Broad and Cassel’s West Palm Beach office to nearly 30 lawyers at its peak in 2008, while helping the firm grow to eight offices and 175 attorneys statewide. Her brother John Levey is personal injury investigator and office manager in the West Palm Beach office. “I’m an entrepreneur myself, having started this office and built a strong team,” she says. “Four of my partners have been with me for more than 20 years. Cliff Hertz, who heads our real estate department, has been with me since the beginning.”
Lebow says there are four fundamental concepts needed to be successful as a lawyer/strategist. “Professional ethics comes first, she says, “followed by legal expertise. Then, you have to think about the business side for the client and manage the legal representation cost effectively for your firm.”
Creating a Public Charity
| Patricia Lebow with participants and supporters of her |
Kids’ Dreams charity.
When Lebow turned 60 in 2007, she and her husband, Alan, decided to undertake an effort to help underprivileged youth in Palm Beach County. As a former chair of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County and a Board Member of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, Lebow wanted to do something more “hands on” to support the community.
Together, the Lebows raised the initial $60,000 from family and friends and formed a 501C3 public charity which they named Kids’ Dreams, Inc. Through Kids’ Dreams, thousands of economically underprivileged youth have had the opportunity to participate in numerous activities including, Project Wild Science Fair at the Palm Beach Zoo, Literacy Days at the Norton Sculpture Gardens, First Tee, often while being mentored by members of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in an ongoing effort to end gang violence in Palm Beach County.
Within 18 months after launching Kids’ Dreams in 2009, Lebow lost her beloved husband, Alan. “He was my support system, coach and my biggest cheerleader,” Lebow says. “It was a life changing event.” In Alan’s memory, Kids’ Dreams sponsors The Kravis Center’s Annual Alan Lebow Awards for Excellence in Shakespearean Performance and provides scholarships to deserving young people.
Lebow enjoys spending time with her daughter Amanda, who works for Submarine Entertainment, a film sales and production company in New York. She also enjoys skiing in Utah, playing golf and traveling the world. Fluent in French and Spanish, Lebow is now studying Italian. “My parents live nearby in Jupiter,” she adds, noting that her father, Burt Levey, now 94, graduated from Alabama Law School.
On the professional side, Lebow enjoys mentoring young lawyers, but most of her time is spent finding solutions to her clients’ complex problems. Helping others attain their goals…that is what I have really enjoyed throughout my career.”
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