A law firm survived a scandal, not a pandemic – InsuranceNewsNet

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Ciklin Lubitz, once one of Palm Beach County the most formidable law firms, recently disbanded and its attorneys dispersed after the coronavirus pandemic stretched the firm’s ability to pay millions of dollars in office rent.

Last month, the company filed a Palm Beach County Circuit Court request for distribution of his assets to his creditors, including his former lessor, Vanderbilt Office Properties. The state petition is an alternative to a federal bankruptcy filing.

The move came as the company stopped paying $75,000 one month’s rent for its rented offices at the Northbridge Center in West palm beach.

Alan Ciklinthe firm’s former managing partner, said the law firm owed more than $6 million on a multi-year lease.

Ciklin said the 36-year-old company’s fortunes were strong through 2021 but began to falter in recent months, thanks to the lingering effects of the pandemic on operations and personnel. When the firm disbanded in May, it was down to just a dozen lawyers.

The firm’s dissolution marks the end of an era in the legal community, said Gregory Colmanformer president of the Florida Bar.

“It was a great race,” Ciklin said. “I don’t know if COVID made it easier to say goodbye, but all the signs pointed to it being time to transition.”

Ciklin, a former Lubitz law firm Palm Beach County power broker

Ciklin said Lubitz’s breakup is a quiet end to a once mighty company that survived the imprisonment of its founding partner, numerous real estate booms and busts, and periodic internal financial wrangles.

What began as a partnership in 1978 between former Palm Beach County Staff William Boose and Ciklin eventually became Boose, Casey, Ciklin, Lubitz, Martens, McBane & O’Connell, formed in 1985 after the merger of three law firms.

Boose, Casey continued to ride the real estate development waves of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

In the 1980s, he participated in the development of major projects, including PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens. In the 1990s, the company won the city of palm beach approval to become the past president that of Donald Trump Residence Mar-a-Lago in private social club.

More recently, the firm worked on the creation of the Palm Beaches Ballpark, where Washington nationals and Houston Astros play spring training games.

“There is no doubt that they were the most dominant law firm, certainly countywide, for their work on government issues, land use planning and zoning,” said Coleman, a West palm beach lawyer.

In the mid-1980s, Boose was also instrumental in the construction of the company’s longtime office building, the black glass complex known as the “Darth Vader” building in 515 N. Flagler Dr. At one point in 1998, the firm had as many as 30 lawyers and occupied almost three floors of the Northbridge Centre.

Government corruption probe brings down founding partner of law firm

But in 2007, Boose admitted to helping a former county commissioner hide profits from a land deal. The explosive scandal, part of a wide-ranging public corruption probe by federal investigators, led to the jailing of the former county commissioner Tony Masilotti. Boose also went to prison, spending 15 months in a federal cell.

Boose’s law firm survived the scandal but changed its name to Casey Ciklin. But more controversies followed, including the scrutiny of a later partner, Brian O’Connellfor his management of guardianship affairs.

In 2012, partner Pat Casey retired. The company changed its name to Ciklin, Lubitz & O’Connell.

Two years later, the company found itself the loser in a financial dispute with Casey, who received $2.2 million after a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge ruled he was entitled to a large pot of retirement money. The amount was later reduced by an appeals court to $511,200.

Over the years, other lawyers have come and gone, not always amicably.

At the time of the firm June 12 filing in court, financial lawsuits were pending with two former lawyers: O’Connell, who left in 2018, leading to another name’s withdrawal from the firm; and John Boykinleft in March.

But it was the pandemic that ultimately ended the company’s fortunes, Ciklin said.

With attorneys at the firm working primarily from home for the past two years, some attorneys have struggled to continue generating revenue, Ciklin said. After some lawyers retired during the pandemic, the firm also struggled to find new lawyers to fill positions, he said.

With its shortlist of lawyers and income, the firm was left to grapple with a lease for the entire 20th floor as well as part of the 4th floor.

The company tried unsuccessfully to reach a deal with the landlord to take less space or buy out his lease for a lesser amount, Ciklin said.

“We did like anyone would do and went to the owner and said, ‘Hey, that’s not sustainable for us. Here’s a bunch of choices,” Ciklin said.

But efforts to negotiate with Vanderbilt failed, and Ciklin said the company decided to break up.

A lawyer for Vanderbilt Office Properties declined to comment.

Partners confiscate assets to close Ciklin Lubitz law firm

By filing the assignment of benefits action last month, the three remaining partners waived $70,000 each in joint ventures. The partners also gave up their assets, including $2 million in incoming legal fees, $651,000 in a bank account, office furniture, two microwaves and various computers, according to court documents.

The filing does not stop the lawsuits, but it does mean that the only money left to recover is in the hands of the company’s designated assignee, the attorney. Ross Hartogwho will decide how much money each creditor will receive.

Tim O’Neilla lawyer for O’Connell, said his client is unlikely to recover all of the money he thinks he owes Ciklin Lubitz, but he will likely recover some of it.

While O’Connell was disappointed when the company dissolved and dumped its assets, O’Neill said O’Connell was not surprised as he saw the company’s workforce dwindle over time. time.

Boykin said he filed a lawsuit to establish his claim for $22,500.

“I will just be one of the creditors entitled to a proportionate share of the company’s assets if there isn’t enough money to pay all of the creditors,” Boykin said in an email. “Not a lot of money, but better than ‘a sharp stick in the eye!'”

On a more thoughtful note, Boykin added, “The firm has been a great place to work for over 36 years…but most law firms have a life cycle, and as we all age, the firm has also aged. So when the lawyers retired, so did the business.”

Some Ciklin Lubitz lawyers move on to larger firms, others

start your own shops

These days, former Ciklin Lubitz lawyers work in several law firms. Several, including Ciklin, went to the Jones Foster law firm in West palm beachwhile others landed at Nason Yeager law firm in Palm Beach Gardens. A few have also set up their own law firms.

Ciklin said he was busier than ever managing real estate matters at Jones Foster, and he said he appreciated not having to run a law firm.

“I can practice law and I don’t have to manage anyone or worry about finances,” he said.

Alexandra Clough is a business writer at palm beach postpart of the UNITED STATES TODAY Florida Network. You can reach her at [email protected]. Twitter: @acloughpbp.

Alexandra Clough

Journalist

palm beach post

UNITED STATES NETWORK TODAY

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