Seth M. Kaplowitz is an attorney and former real estate executive with an extensive background in real estate development and construction.
He was also founder and a managing member of Classic Homes Construction in New York, where he was responsible for development and construction of residential and commercial properties. Beginning in 2006 he spent several years in Asia developing real estate for Ecotech Design Build Asia Ltd., a Hong Kong company he founded in 2007. While based in Hong Kong his development projects spread to Shanghai, China, and Phuket, Thailand.
Shortly after returning from Asia in 2010, he joined the Solana Beach based Blumberg Law Group, LLP as a partner. In 2011, he was recruited to teach at the Fowler College of Business at San Diego State University on law-related topics. His specialty in law and teaching are real property law, construction law, domestic and international business transactions, and international cross-cultural negotiation.
Kaplowitz is a much sought after speaker, lecturer, and mentor who has brought his insight to businesses, law firms, and classrooms around the world.
MBM: What about your background gives you a unique edge with clients and students?
SETH: I lived in Asia and immersed myself in that culture. I do that wherever I travel. Learning the culture is key to understanding and being understood. I teach and interact with lawyers and their law firms all over the world. As a result, I have a global perspective on everything that I choose to be involved. I have an extensive background in numerous issues dealing with real estate development, construction, approval processes, and other legal aspects of real estate. I bring practical experience to the table when speaking, teaching, mentoring, or consulting with clients.
Of late, my favorite subjects to teach are international-cross-cultural negotiation, and international business law and transactions. In my opinion, we live in an interconnected world, and the sooner we embrace that fact, the better off we will be. I integrate that belief into everything that I do. As I mentioned earlier, people need to understand and function within different cultures in order to be accepted and successful. Cultural understanding in business, social relationships, teaching, mentoring, and speaking serves as the gateway to acceptance in any culture.
Residents of foreign nationals do not appreciate when other nationalities come to their country and expect that country to adapt to them. In my experience, I have found that type of attitude is a non-starter in virtually any country around the world. A lot of people who try to do business in other countries who fail to study the culture find themselves faced with a huge learning curve.
MBM: What initially compelled you towards construction and real estate, and how did that dovetail to teaching?
Seth: My first job, at fourteen, was at a lumber yard. I continued to work there over years. In time, I was sent out to construction sites. I began to learn the trades. I learned the construction business from the back end of a broomstick. I discovered that I had a creative mind, and real estate development and construction was the medium I chose to express those ideas. From there, I learned that when you do anything, one needs a very strong foundation in the subject matter. A building is not going to remain standing, if it does not have a strong foundation. I transferred that fact over to teaching and my legal practice.
I want my students and clients, or whoever I interact with, to have a strong foundation in the topic that is being discussed. Clients need to understand their options, and if they are not explained clearly, and understandably, they will not be able to make proper decisions. Students need the same.
Students should not be intimidated to express their opinions. Clients too should not be intimidated to ask questions or challenge their counsel. Stepping out of comfort zones is the way we all learn. From what I can tell, if someone does not challenge themselves, in all likelihood, those people will end up being conformists, and that is no way to be an individual.
MBM: When did you first know you wanted to teach?
Seth: The answer to that question is I don’t know. As I look back on it – of why I care so much about instructing people in a way they can best absorb the information comes from having some really talented instructors. You just knew when they stood in front of a class, or when you engaged them one-on-one in conversation, that they had a passion for what they taught. That type of passion is contagious. I knew then, that someday I wanted to teach.
MBM: So how would you best describe your lecturing style?
Seth: After going to school for so many years and having instructors talking at me, I changed that dynamic when I began to teach. I teach the way I wanted to be taught, not the way I was taught. I try and engage students and audiences by providing relevant information delivered in a conversational way.
There are times that you have no choice but to just do a lecture portion to bring everyone up to speed on a topic, but after that, I try to engage and encourage my students to pursue and expand their ideas. If they have an entrepreneurial spirit, they should absolutely explore the viability of their idea.
I teach my students that ‘failing’ in the traditional sense is not an option. Just because an idea didn’t pan out doesn’t mean that someone failed. It just means that their idea didn’t work the first time around. Success is a result of trial and error. Success requires patience, persistence, and perseverance. It is with that attitude that I mentor students and other clients to be the best they can be.
They should look to set themselves apart from the crowd. They shouldn’t feel that they have to adapt to the general thinking on any particular matter. They should experiment until they discover what works for them. That in itself takes hard and dedicated work.
Ron Blumberg has been practicing law in Solana Beach since 1992. Blumberg’s professional life has been devoted to representing individuals, families and small businesses for a wide range of legal needs.
He has diverse experience in various transactional and litigation matters, concentrating primarily in the fields of business, commercial and general civil litigation.
In addition, he has handled and tried cases involving dissolution of long term marriages, professional negligence, product liability, personal injury, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, insurance subrogation, common carriers/transportation and fraud.
Blumberg successfully handled one of the first cases in the United States involving a unique cause of toxic shock syndrome. He also was lead counsel in a groundbreaking case in California dealing with individual homeowners’ liability in condominium litigation.
Blumberg’s focus is on finding innovative legal solutions which promotes creative advocacy for his clients to ensure the best possible results through the least disruptive process.
He is also an adjunct professor at California Western School of Law, as well as a lecturer at San Diego State University, College of Business Administration.
MBM; What positions you differently than most other law firms?
Ron: I think it probably is my approach more than it is any specific, substantive business concept. We have a tagline at our firm: “Innovative Legal Solutions” which guides our approach to lawyering.
My focus after all these years, as much as we litigate, is that most of our clients really prefer not to have to be spending lots of money litigating, and all the worry that goes with it.
We try to find solutions early. I try to bring people together. We try to get to the bottom of the dispute before they have to even be in litigation.
When I get the parties together – whether it is through counsel or without counsel – we have people start to think about the reality of the dispute. More times than not, the egos get set aside; the reality of what the alternative is becomes prominent. I try to bring that to all of my litigation relationships. It doesn’t always work, but at least it’s a starting place that is not acrimonious and not adversarial – even though by definition, litigation is adversarial.
I think it’s my approach to conflict resolution. It really is different than most hard-core, seasoned litigators would take.
I definitely conduct due diligence and learn every fact I can, get all the information I possibly can, all the documents and go over them with the client. We then, together, look at the benefits, look at what deficiencies we might have with our case, and then contact the other side.
Before we even file a lawsuit and start this really expensive discovery process, let’s sit down and talk about what the true conflict is all about. Can we find some ground to compromise? Can we find some way to solve what is currently – many times – an emotional dispute? Let’s put all that aside, look at the reality of what’s going to be, and let’s get something resolved before we even have to file lawsuits. So, the heavy lifting is done at the front end, before anything is ever even put into litigation.
I do think it is an approach that I don’t see very often.
MBM: What kind of reaction have you had from clients or other lawyers, from this approach?
Ron: The responses I get from other lawyers and insurance adjustors, and clients, and opposing parties is, “yeah, this was a good idea.”
I’ve had clients who’ve left other law firms - usually it’s because they don’t feel they are getting anywhere and are just spending lots of money. Then, we reevaluate and start a different approach. They are appreciative that it’s a different way to do it.
The problem, I think, is that in litigation if you are coming and thinking “let’s settle,” it’s an appearance of weakness. In our business, litigators are trying to leverage – let the other side think, “We will never settle. We are only going to go to trial, and we’re going to kick your butt in court.” They think that is going to maximize the threat, and the fear that gets into the other side. They think the other side is not going to want to do battle, and are then going to cave in and compromise. There is some truth in that. But if we do it at the front end, and exhaust every possibility, we always still have in our arsenal a lawsuit and litigation.
I think relationships, in our business, also very important. Trust is critical. If the other side doesn’t trust me, it’s going to be very difficult to find any kind of compromise solution.
Insurance adjustors – let’s just say we have a simple car accident and we aren’t even filing a law suit - just working with an insurance adjustor – they have to trust that what I’m saying is true. We will give everything we have, right at the front, and give our faults too. I’ll let them know “Here’s why I think a compromise makes sense.” I think it starts with trust.
MBM: What if someone really wants to litigate, and “maim and shame”?
Ron: In business disputes, if they understand how expensive it could be, and emotional it could be, and time consuming it could be, then it becomes a business decision on what they are supposed to do with it. But if somebody comes to me and says, “I want to use litigation as a hammer,” we evaluate it. I’ve turned cases down because I’m not going to take the case just to abuse somebody.
MBM: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Ron: What I’m most proud of, after thirty years, is having the opportunity where we can give really good legal attention, but we make the people feel like it’s not so bad. They have someone who is in their corner, who has their back, and who they end up liking. It’s not just me, it’s my staff too. My greatest accomplishment is the approach that we take, and the relationships we develop through our offices.
Dave Gordon has penned more than a thousand articles, and more than five hundred editorials, on every topic imaginable. He writes regularly on domestic and international politics, current events, culture, relationship issues, and much more.
He has spent time in the newsrooms of the Toronto Sun, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Baltimore Sun, National Post and eye Weekly.
BLUMBERG LAW GROUP LLP
137 North Acacia Avenue
Solana Beach, CA 92075