Trendsetters - Sept. 2005
Chair, executive committee/ chair, financial services industry practice group / Shutts & Bowen
WHERE HE SPENT SUMMER VACATION: Sun Valley, Idaho
INTELLECTUAL HOBBY: Archaeology and Roman history
READING: The third volume of Edward Gibbons' "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." "I've forgotten the first two volumes. It's so delightful I intend to read it again."
LAW DEGREE AND MBA: 1968 from Cornell, one of the first joint law/MBA degree programsIf Florida becomes an international insurance center akin to Bermuda, credit Miami lawyer Bowman Brown. Brown, a financial services lawyer, was the key player in changing state law to allow offshore insurers to sell annuity and life insurance from Florida to non-U.S. residents.
While pondering how state banking law changes in 1978 made Miami a thriving international banking center, Brown came to think the same thing could happen with insurance. Four years ago he began pitching the Beacon Council, the Miami-Dade economic development group, and others for support. A subsequent Beacon Council study found the change could add $2.7 billion to Florida's economy. "Probably optimistic," says Brown, "but if the number is half that, it's a pretty big number."
Brown wrote drafts of the law and got the Department of Insurance to vet it. A final bill, a work of several hands, passed the Legislature unanimously. The law, which took effect July 1, is landmark legislation, unique in the nation, he says.
"Bowman was definitely the captain of the team," says Tom Cornish, CEO of Seitlin Insurance, who chaired the Beacon Council in 2001 when Brown brought up the idea.
Brown is a native New Yorker whose father, uncle and brother all are lawyers.
At a point when many begin to eye retirement, Brown says he has 20 years left and some more notions. "There's an awful lot that can be done to build on this in terms of enhancing Florida's position as a center for insurance activity in a safe and sound way. I have a couple ideas, but I haven't really vetted them with the industry at this point," he says. He isn't elaborating. He says he wants first to "make sure they're not crazy."
Making Things Happen
Albert Dotson Jr. drops dry one-liners before giving serious answers. His age? "I'm 32 and sticking to it." The amount of time spent on community work: "Twenty-four times seven is what?"
The last line is understandable for the 45-year-old Bilzin Sumberg land-use attorney. He's president-elect of the Orange Bowl Committee, chairs the boards of the Miami-Dade College Foundation, Overtown Youth Center and Atlanta-based 100 Black Men of America. He was a founder of the south Florida chapter.
ALBERT E. DOTSON JR.
Partner / Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod
FAMILY: Wife, Gail; daughter, Ashley, 9; and son, Albert III, 7
ONCE UPON A TIME: Dotson was a ball boy for the Atlanta Hawks NBA team.
MULTICULTURAL: Dotson studied at the Universidad de Granada and speaks Spanish.
A Detroit native who moved via Chicago and Atlanta to Florida when he was a high school junior (his father was one of the first African-Americans in certain managerial positions for Sears), Dotson interned as a Dartmouth undergraduate with the office of the Miami-Dade State Attorney. There, he says, he learned from attorneys Bob Josefsberg and Aaron Podhurst, now in private practice, "how compassion along with enforcement of the law can be married in a way I quite frankly did not appreciate before."
He studied law at Vanderbilt and has spent nearly his entire career with the same real estate group as it migrated from Fine Jacobson to Eckert Seamans to Bilzin, which he joined in 1998.
A highlight in Dotson's career came in the late 1990s representing the developer of the Miami site to which the U.S. Southern Command relocated from Panama. The deal had a major economic impact, had novel issues and required interaction with a number of notables and levels of government, he says.
In law and community work, the important thing is being in a talented organization, he says. "You can't be in a situation where you're the only person who can make things happen."
A Foot in the Door
Call it the Seinfeld theory of residuals and future business streams. The continuing payments to the comedian from reruns of the "show about nothing" is how lawyer Meenu Sasser made business concepts tangible for jurors in a complex telecom trial in March.
Shareholder / Gunster Yoakley & Stewart
WEST PALM BEACH
FAMILY: Husband, Tom; three children: Andrew, 4, Caroline, 2, Will, 1.
WHY COMMERCIAL LITIGATION: "With each case, I learn about a different industry," she says.Sasser at 34 is board certified in business litigation and AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer review rating awarded. This month marks a new milestone for her -- the launch of her program to increase the number of minority lawyers at Palm Beach County firms and courts. The Palm Beach County Bar Association program places at prominent firms and courts eight minority students from the top half of their classes at four south Florida law schools. Such students can succeed at big firms but lack the connections to get their foot in the door, she says.
Born in India and raised in suburban Washington, Sasser earned her bachelor's in biology. Her father, a chemistry Ph.D., wanted her to be a scientist. She enjoyed the college debate team, however, and chose law. At Gunster, she focuses on commercial litigation. "A lot of them are bet-the-company cases," she says.
Such was the case in the March telecom trial, in which Sasser and co-counsels Joseph Curley and Joe Santoro won $16.5 million for their clients. "The thing that was most intriguing to me was trying to make the case relatable to the jurors," Sasser says.