Spotlight On: Kate Saft, Partner, Greenspoon Marder

Spotlight On: Kate Saft, Partner, Greenspoon Marder

By: Max – Crampton Thomas

2 min read March 2020 — As the epicenter of the tourism and hospitality industries, Orlando affords many opportunities for businesses within those sectors and also to the service businesses outside those sectors. During her discussion with Invest:, Kate Saft, a partner with Greenspoon Marder, spoke on the opportunities the Orlando area affords her firm, the benefits of technology and how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting business as usual. 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your firm? 

 We have seen consistent delays and pauses in our financing and real estate deals as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some clients are anxious to complete as many pending transactions as possible given the uncertainty of what is ahead.  Others are seeing deals in which they can be competitive in light of the interest rate drop. We do anticipate some logistical issues, particularly in-person closings, which is why online notarizations are helpful.


How does the Orlando region provide opportunity for the firm? 

Orlando is the epicenter for the tourism and hospitality industries, including, specifically, the timeshare industry. Our Orlando office focuses heavily on representing timeshare clients, hotel operators and real estate developers, and that representation has led to many legal opportunities for Greenspoon Marder. 

Within the hospitality industry there are a plethora of legal issues that arise, including real estate transactional matters, marketing matters, lending and securitization transactions, consumer litigation, employment litigation, commercial litigation, and regulatory matters under various state and federal acts, including but not limited to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Telephone  Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 

Our firm was founded with a focus on the core practice areas of real estate litigation. We have seen demand for those practices increase, not only throughout Central Florida but across the United States. We are pleased to be able to meet the needs and demands of our clients in these areas. We are consistently looking to expand our real estate, timeshare, corporate and litigation practice areas, not only in Orlando but on a national level, as well.


Is there any particular legislation that you are keeping a close eye on in 2020?

We are closely monitoring two Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) petitions pending in the Supreme Court that challenge the constitutionality of the TCPA. In particular, there is a petition pending that questions whether a single call necessarily results in injury that is concrete for the purposes of Article 3 standing and a petition that questions whether the restrictions on using an automated telephone dialing system or an artificial, pre-recorded voice violate the First Amendment. We are very interested in the results of these petitions and how they will affect our hospitality clients.


How does new technology benefit your practice and the legal sector overall? 

Technology makes it easier for us to connect with clients and reach potential new ones. All of our employees, from partners down to staff members, have access to virtual connections to safely access our clients’ information anytime and anywhere. We hold regular meetings through video conferences, sharing our expertise, so other attorneys are aware of the practice areas within our firm. In that way, we are able to utilize the specialties of all our attorneys to assist clients who present a diversified set of legal needs.

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Spotlight On: Alan Higbee, Managing Partner, Shutts & Bowen

Spotlight On: Alan Higbee, Managing Partner, Shutts & Bowen

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read January 2020 — Expertise on the local market is a must in the legal sector, especially within the competitive landscape of the Tampa Bay region. Understanding the nature of the business community within the region and the apparent challenges are keys to a successful practice. Shutts & Bowen law firm’s Managing Partner Alan Higbee discusses the benefits of having specialized practices in the Tampa Bay area, as well as how to deal with economic cycles and not lose talent in the process.



Why is Tampa Bay a good location for a firm such as Shutts & Bowen?


A full service firm like ours has experience in many areas, including some areas that are not necessarily customary for this market, such as our experience in international trade and transactions, experience with large industrial companies and experience representing large and small federal government contractors. Interestingly, the demand for these specialty practices is actually pretty high in this market. Such specialties have often been sourced from larger markets in the past. In our experience, businesses in this market are generally very happy to see that these specialty resources are available here to help and that they don’t have to look to other markets such as Washington, D.C., or New York.  For areas like federal government contractors, it makes sense to have that expertise here. I believe Florida is the third-largest market for federal contracting in the country and we are sitting outside the doors of MacDill Air Force Base, which has virtually every federal agency you can name, from all the defense agencies and divisions to the IRS. 


How does the firm take part in the business brought to the Tampa Bay Area by new companies and startups?


Startup businesses in the Tampa Bay area come in many varieties, but some of the most promising are often spinoffs: people who have had very successful careers in larger businesses and have decided to go out on their own. Many of these companies have a need for legal services in areas of high specialization, such as healthcare, technology and government contracting. We also see an awful lot of companies that are relocating some kind of division or business unit, or their entire U.S. operations, to this market and, candidly, besides being a pretty sophisticated business center, this area is also a pretty nice place to live.


In the market for legal services, we also see an increasing need for trusted advisers. Lots of lawyers can tell you what the law is, but very few have the industry and business experience to also tell you what you probably should do and should not do. Lawyers who have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in a particular industry or business segment and can tell clients, “we’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends,” are extremely valuable to their clients and are in greater demand than ever before. 


What are the top challenges for the legal profession in the area?


The tightness of the labor pool is difficult, there is no question about that. It is certainly a major challenge for us. The other challenge is the general expansion of the needs of the market. We are becoming more sophisticated. When I moved here in 1980, the needs of this legal community were really pretty basic. In 2019, the businesses in this market are extremely sophisticated and that means their problems and issues are also very sophisticated. I think law firms generally need to consider developing or acquiring some of the specialty areas that are not necessarily indigenous to the Tampa Bay area. Acquiring such specialists can be hard. We have to go out and convince them that they will have enough work here.


How would a legal firm such as Shutts & Bowen deal with a potential economic downturn?


Things always happen in cycles. Like any business, we have to be prepared to handle those cycles. You have to position yourself to be adaptable and flexible, to learn to change what you are doing when necessary and to be able to pick up different kinds of work in the down cycle and be able to look outside your box to keep your talent busy. The down cycles are actually the best times to hire talent, because if your platform is doing well and you are able to find talent on other platforms that are doing well personally while their current platforms are struggling, you have a unique chance to capture that talent.


After every down cycle there is an up cycle. If you failed to keep your talent pool, and were not able to keep the collective resources and experience that you had, you start at a huge disadvantage when the market goes back up. On the other hand, if you are able to keep your talent pool intact through a down cycle, you generally have a huge advantage when the market recovers.


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Spotlight On: Bill Schifino, Tampa Office Managing Shareholder, Gunster

Spotlight On: Bill Schifino, Tampa Office Managing Shareholder, Gunster

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

  2 min read December 2019 — A greater number of law firms in the Tampa Bay market may be a concern to some but for firms in the Tampa Bay region, these new legal-focused businesses are welcomed. Bill Schifino, the managing shareholder for Gunster’s Tampa Office, believes there is plenty of work for quality law firms throughout the region and that the collaborative environment between the various firms in Tampa Bay is a benefit to both his office’s practice and its clients. 


 Do you believe there is enough work to meet the increased supply of law firms in the region?


There is plenty of legal work in Tampa Bay for quality law firms and competent lawyers. I have been in this marketplace for 33 years, and the way law firms interact with one another has relatively remained the same. The law firms in this region play well together, and we refer work back and forth to one another because we sometimes have inherent conflicts in our cases. For example, if there is a business litigation case that involves multiple parties and the lawyer can’t represent them all, that lawyer will call other lawyers who may have been on the other side in a similar case in the past but who are capable and competent. So while I may have a case where I’ll see a credible law firm on the other side, one day they may be joining with me to help defend another group on a different case. 


How does Gunster’s statewide presence benefit your clients? 


One of Gunster’s attractions for me was the fact that I can offer my clients statewide coverage in all of the key markets. When I have a client with an issue, whether it be in Fort Lauderdale, Miami or Jacksonville, we can make sure they are covered because we have 200-plus lawyers around the state. It also helps that we have some of the best and brightest lawyers Florida has to offer. If I have a client with an issue-based question, and I do not have the talent here in Tampa to address it, I can consult someone from one of our other offices who has expertise in this area. This is how we handle all of our clients’ needs. Gunster also is a big believer in their lawyers serving their community, which is why you will see the firm extremely active in our respective markets.


How important is being a steward of one’s community to the success of a law firm? 


A law firm cannot attract the right talent without a commitment to community service, service to the profession and pro bono work. It is critically important that we as professionals give back to those less fortunate. Within the Florida Bar, a big focus is access to justice. In the criminal justice system, if you’re indigent then you are constitutionally entitled to a public defender, but what if you are someone that just really cannot afford a lawyer and are on the cusp of being below the poverty level? What happens if that person all of a sudden has a traumatic event in their life, and cannot get free legal service? We need to address how we as a profession can make certain that those people are being taken care of. The Florida Bar works extremely hard at addressing this issue, along with lawyers providing millions of dollars in pro bono hours to those in need throughout their community.


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