April 24, 2014

Of Counsel

Mentoring program becomes a guiding principle for Miami law firm

Miami's Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen and Levine are using mentoring to grow the firm.

Art Levy | 1/18/2012
Abbey Kaplan
[Photo: Daniel Portnoy]

Abbey L. Kaplan, 61

Title: Founding partner, Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine

Specialty: Commercial and business tort cases

Rainmaker defined: "It's knowing when to fold and when to hold. It's knowing when to be politically correct. It's knowing when to be charming. It's knowing how to ask the right questions."

Quote: "People hire lawyers. We don't believe they hire law firms."

Three years ago, the partners at Miami's Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine began working on a growth plan. They weren't interested in rapid growth. Rather, they wanted their midsized firm to grow slowly.

"We decided the best way to grow the firm was organically, meaning from within rather than necessarily merging or bringing in laterals or bringing in another major rainmaker," says Abbey Kaplan, one of the partners. "We recognized that the greatest source of talent that we can grow is our own young lawyers."

To do that, the firm created a mentorship program that targets its 19 associate attorneys. The program is heavy on business development and marketing — skills that most of the attorneys didn't learn about in law school.

"This program has institutionalized the entrepreneurial spirit that attracted me here in the first place," says Larry Bassuk, an associate at the firm.

The associates spend time with a marketing consultant who helps them develop business and marketing plans. They get their own marketing budget, usually between $5,000 and $10,000, to host events and become better known in the community. The associates are encouraged to volunteer for charities, join non-profit boards, attend networking events and participate in social media marketing. They also get free access to the firm's public relations agency and marketing coordinators. Kaplan and other partners meet with the associates monthly to see how it's going —?and so far it seems to be going pretty well.

"As a fourth-year associate, I have seen my business grow exponentially," says Richard Segal, one of the participants. "Marketing is no longer a task for me. It is a part of who I am."

Kaplan says the program has given the younger lawyers the tools to land some significant cases. "We do complex business litigation, so it's not easy for someone right out of law school to get a case or two or more of complex litigation because many of those cases are going to the more senior lawyers in town. There have been a good half-dozen associates who have brought cases to the firm of the type that we want to handle."

There's no formula to determine which associates will become rainmakers — attorneys who have the ability to attract and keep clients. Kaplan acknowledges that "every business has farmers and hunters." But he says his firm considers rainmaker potential when interviewing job candidates. When reading a resume, for example, he looks at the bottom of the page first. That's where the applicants list their hobbies and interests and some of their accomplishments beyond where they ranked in their law school class. Some examples that get Kaplan's attention: An applicant who played college athletics. An applicant who has traveled extensively. An applicant who has been exposed to multiple cultures.

"Most of the young lawyers who come out of the law schools in Florida and elsewhere are bright, exceptionally bright," Kaplan says. "But we look for those who have created cultural capital. I call it emotional-quotient. We believe an excellent e-quotient will translate into attorneys who will be able to be excellent rainmakers as well as excellent lawyers. But understand something. We don't have anybody who is a rainmaker first and a lawyer second. We're lawyers first."

Tags: Politics & Law, Government/Politics & Law

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