31 May 2023
Ben Solomon, Managing Partner, Solomon, Cooperman, Recondo & Weiss
3 min read May 2023 — In an interview with Invest: Ben Solomon, managing partner of law firm Solomon, Cooperman, Recondo & Weiss, discussed how the firm is growing its practice, leveraging technology for efficiency and security, counseling the real estate industry, and some clients’ concerns. He also shared his thoughts on the legal sector’s role in ensuring responsible growth in the Miami area.
How is the firm leveraging technology?
Especially with COVID, everything moved online, particularly in law, including mediations, depositions, and court hearings. This change has been one of the most significant in the legal area. However, there is also a lot of convenience to it. For example, we can now do a hearing in an hour or less instead of going to court for half a day. Meetings with clients are also more convenient. Additionally, technology has improved efficiency and made the process smoother.
We are constantly increasing our cyber security levels, especially since we do a lot of wire transfers and transactions. We have put new policies and procedures in place and have a strong tech team to provide multiple layers of security over our servers and systems. With so many people still working remotely, it’s crucial to be able to use the internet reliably and safely to transfer data, money, and access records. Therefore, we have been investing a lot in improving our technology and security.
What are some of the biggest concerns among your clients?
We handle all types of real estate, and therefore, we are very tuned into the factors affecting our commercial developers, builders, and banks as well as the residential market and how sales are moving. The South Florida new-home luxury market has cooled off significantly over the last 6 to 12 months. However, there’s still a high demand from both domestic and international buyers. A lot of people from New York and South America have been moving to Florida since COVID. Nonetheless, interest rates, the stock market, and the economy in general, have been impacting many of our clients’ projects especially with regards to costs, materials, and lead times. We’re seeing lead times for projects increase, with equipment that would normally be available taking up to four months to order and there are also labor shortages, particularly in hospitality. The hospitality sector has rebounded strongly from the effects of COVID, but is having trouble with staffing and resources.
Nevertheless, we have a lot of new and very exciting projects coming out that are bigger, taller, and more grandiose than ever. Some of our clients are building 1 million- to 2-million-square-foot-plus projects with hotel and commercial components and we have multiple residential sector projects with towers exceeding 60, even 100 stories, in Miami. Although there is a lot of exciting stuff coming out, I think the market is cautious because of the current economy and mortgage rates in particular. Insurance is also a significant problem in South Florida, affecting clients, and we have seen insurance rates double, triple, and even quadruple, in some cases, in recent years. This has a deep impact on both the developer and consumer side. It’s a precarious situation and we’ll have to wait and see. However, South Florida continues to be at the forefront of a lot of exciting, new real estate developments.
What are some of the firm’s most exciting projects in the near future?
We have a lot of big and exciting projects in the pipeline. For example, I am creating a mixed-use project with 1,300 homes and 200,000 square feet of commercial space, along with other club and recreational amenities. We’re also working on a mixed-use residential condo tower with a Publix and a commercial condo, as well as retail. I am also working on a 60-story tower for a Turkish developer that will be the Downtown Miami Hilton and another residential tower in Miami that will be over 50 stories, with a hotel component and wellness concept. I think that’s one of the very encouraging things about South Florida, is we always continue to develop more exciting, bigger, better projects all the time.
What is your outlook for the firm and your top priorities for the next couple of years?
Our firm just celebrated its 18th year anniversary and has plans to expand. We just hired a new partner and two law clerks. We’re seeking additional attorneys with smaller books of business to come work with us to help expand their practice with ours. We have a very diverse real estate practice, including litigation, HOA/condo development, banking, transactions, hotels, apartment buildings, and other investor work. We’re always looking to cross-pollinate those departments and encourage clients who do transactional work with us to also consider using us for litigation or other services. We have been expanding methodically, with some of it being organic, which we’ve done over the years, and other times we look to add attorneys laterally. Our goal is to more than double the size of our firm over the next 5 years by diversifying further into other real estate practice areas, as well as corporate and tax.
As far as the legal climate in general, it’s difficult to say because there are so many different practice areas and some do well when others don’t. For example, bankruptcy attorneys are more likely to do better in the next year or two based on the economy compared to perhaps a year or two ago. Litigation is always busy, and our transactional attorneys are also handling significant volumes of work, however, our debt collection practice, for example, is slow. We have offsetting business models where even if one department is slower, other departments stay busy and pick up any slack. We constantly shift our focus to what the market is doing.
Overall, the lawyers I speak with feel that the legal profession is very healthy and, to some extent, recession-proof. However, real estate can very much be impacted by the economy, as we saw during COVID, which was probably the toughest two years in our firm’s history, in part due to the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures and the courts being closed. However, I believe the legal profession and the real estate market in South Florida are relatively healthy.