Mrachek, Fitzgerald, Rose, Konopka, Thomas & Weiss, P.A.
A Litigation Boutique
In 2000, seven West Palm Beach attorneys left Gunster Yoakley & Stewart to launch their own firm. Today, Mrachek, Fitzgerald, Rose, Konopka, Thomas & Weiss, P.A. is a well-recognized litigation boutique focused on the needs of commercial and individual clients.
“When we left, we felt that we would have more independence, less conflicts and greater control of our cases,” says L. Louis Mrachek, shareholder and founding member of the firm. “We had two thoughts when we formed the firm. First, we wanted to combine the writing and research skills of a large firm with the trial and courtroom skills of a small firm. Plenty of firms can write and research and plenty of other firms can try cases. Very few of them do both well in the commercial context.”
|L. Louis Mrachek|
Secondly, Mrachek says the firm’s attorneys wanted to focus on personalized client attention, whether the client was a corporation or an individual. “We do not randomly assign lawyers to cases,” he says. “We talk with the clients about how they want their cases staffed and we listen to our clients. We do not send statements out to clients with names on those statements that the clients have never heard before. We answer our own telephones, if we are at our desks. We place our own calls. We don’t leave clients sitting in the foyer. Everything we do is client focused. These concepts have served us well.”
Mrachek adds that there is one final guiding principle for the firm. “Our clients, unless they explicitly tell us differently, want their affairs kept private and their litigation victories or defeats kept confidential,” he says. “That principle obviously puts us at a disadvantage in competing with the large publicity departments of other law firms, but we think that is better for us in the long term and always better for our clients.”
The firm focuses on business litigation matters, contract disputes, construction litigation, securities litigation, securities arbitration, professional malpractice, employment and trade secret litigation, intellectual property, class action, and probate, trusts and estates litigation. The firm does no transactional work and does not do any personal injury, medical malpractice, domestic relations or white collar defense. It is a pure commercial litigation firm.
Most of the firm’s work is on an hourly fee basis, but the firm considers contingency cases and in recent years has been quite successful in those cases, particularly in the areas of security and professional malpractice.
Some of the firm’s named shareholders — Mrachek, Roy E. Fitzgerald, Alan Rose and Scott Konopka — have practiced together for more than 23 years. Among them, Mrachek Fitzgerald and Rose are certified by the Florida Bar in Business Litigation Law. In addition, Mrachek is certified in Civil Trial Law and in Business Bankruptcy Law by the American Bankruptcy Board of Certification. Both Mrachek and Fitzgerald are fellows in the American College of Trial Lawyers. “We believe that professional certifications are important because they show that we routinely try cases. We pride ourselves on being focused, efficient, and prepared, on those occasions when a trial is necessary,” says Fitzgerald. “Since our founding, we have been and intend to remain, first and foremost, trial lawyers.”
The firm now has 12 attorneys, ten in the West Palm Beach office on Flagler Drive and two in the Stuart office, which is managed by Konopka.
Focusing on Outcomes
As a trial attorney, Mrachek says the key to a successful outcome is strategic thinking, right from the start. “While 97 percent of cases settle, we want to maximize the settlement value for our clients,” he says. “That means using our experience and imagination to anticipate or forecast what the trial will look like. That includes thinking about the facts, the witnesses, and overall strength of the case.”
Mrachek notes that the firm represents a number of law firms in professional malpractice cases, partnership dissolutions and other legal matters. “Last year, Alan and I handled a professional malpractice case representing the Southeast Volusia Hospital District and obtained a prompt settlement. That settlement would not have been possible without a lot of pre-filing thought and the development of a viable damages theory.”
One of the advantages to being a litigation boutique is the ability to take on cases without having to deal with firm-wide conflicts of interest, says Mrachek. “We litigate all the time with national financial institutions, but we also defend them as well,” he says. “For example, we are now representing a bank in a shareholder dispute.”
The firm’s attorneys represent clients in bankruptcy courts and arbitration proceedings, as well as in trial courts throughout South Florida. “We routinely handle cases in Miami and Fort Lauderdale,” says Mrachek, who has practiced in West Palm Beach since 1976. He came here to live after serving as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he was defense counsel in military trials. “I gained my initial trial experience doing criminal work,” he says. “Then I spent two years handling civil litigation for the U.S. Railway Association, the nonprofit that formed Conrail in the 1970s. I hated the cold weather and came to Florida, where I’ve practiced ever since.”
The firm’s attorneys are actively involved in their community, volunteering their time for a variety of civic and charitable causes. In addition, every Friday is “jeans day” at the firm, where everyone can wear denim if they donate to the Susan Komen Foundation, which raises funds for breast cancer research.
“Our firm has a very egalitarian and decentralized culture,” adds Mrachek. “We hardly ever have meetings because we talk through the issues that confront us, in the hall or coffee room. We try to have staff meetings once a month. But one of the advantages to a small firm is that we can set policies and change courses quickly without the need of a lot of study time, reflection, or committee work.”
A Growing Practice
In the past few months, the firm has gone through a growth spurt, adding three new attorneys to its team: Shareholders Gregory S. Weiss and Daniel A. Thomas, and associate Lauren S. Fallick. “When we began looking to grow our firm, Greg and Dan were at the top of our list. They both have well-earned reputations as courtroom advocates and, more importantly, are attorneys who demonstrate the highest standards of ethics,” says Rose. “We feel very lucky to have lawyers as talented as Greg, Dan and Lauren joining our firm.”
Weiss, whose practice focuses on business and select class action litigation, rejoined the firm after five years with Leopold Law, P.A. He currently serves as class counsel in a $24 million settlement for South Florida homeowners affected by Chinese drywall, the first such settlement to provide a full remediation in a multi-unit building with mixed drywall. Like Mrachek, Weiss began practicing law trying court martials in the military. He is the immediate past president of the Martin County Bar Association.
Thomas is an experienced trial attorney, whose practice includes complex commercial and construction litigation, construction claims counseling, and contract and business disputes. Board certified in construction law by the Florida Bar, Thomas recently completed a nine-week jury trial in an $11 million construction defect case.
Fallick focuses her practice in business and commercial, construction and insurance coverage litigation, as well as professional liability actions. She is also involved in Connect Florida’s Statewide Leadership Institute, the Emerging Leadership Program of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, and the Palm Beach County Bar Association.
South Florida Legal Guide 2014 Edition
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