Rainmaker Q&A: Bilzin Sumberg's Stan Price

by Bilzin Sumberg

Originally Published in Law 360 - July 30, 2013.

Since his early career as an assistant county attorney for Miami-Dade County, Stanley B. Price, partner with Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP, has worked in the forefront of Florida land use law. He is consulted on the subjects of owners' and developers' rights and complex zoning and permitting issues. He chairs the firm's land use and government relations group.

In addition to representing clients in land use, Stan works with government and regulatory agencies, developers and landowners to examine, interpret and establish land use policy. He has served as special land use counsel to Florida municipalities and as the special magistrate in land use litigation for the Miami-Dade County and Orange County Circuit Courts. He has chaired the Building and Zoning Committee of the Miami Chamber of Commerce and many others.

Q: How did you become a rainmaker?

A: Experience, honesty, community involvement and good work have been the driving force behind my ability to generate new business.

The experience and contacts I gained during my time at the Miami-Dade County Attorney's Office handling major land use appeals and exposure to the premier land use attorneys in the southern Florida region helped connect me with new clients once I went into private practice.

The story of how I was able to bring in one of my first big clients is a testament to the importance of staying engaged in the community outside daily work and the value of delivering positive results. When I was teaching land use law at the University of Miami Graduate Law program, one of my students (after the semester) asked me to represent his company in the development of a 10-acre shopping center.

I took on the case and was able to help him successfully develop the property, and we successfully rezoned several 10-acre shopping centers. As a result of that case, he referred me to DeBartolo, the largest shopping center operator in the country at that time, which led to retention to rezone property in western Miami-Dade County known as the International Mall.

DeBartolo executives were working with one of the largest law firms in town. They had two questions for me at the initial phone interview: Who gets coffee for clients? And how many associates do you bring to meetings? After DeBartolo reviewed my prior casework and considered my answers to their questions (l would get them their coffee, and only one or two other people would attend our meetings), they hired me to represent the company.

I was able to represent DeBartolo in several projects after that first meeting, and it helped elevate my profile in the community to eventually make me a go-to land use attorney for residential and commercial real estate developers in the region for decades.

Q: How do you stay a rainmaker?

A: First and foremost, one must continue to deliver an excellent work product and results for the client. Former and current clients are the best marketers, and if they are happy, they will refer more business.

It is also important to stay in the public eye and become known as an expert in your field. I was an active member of the Builders Association of South Florida, now Florida Atlantic Building Association, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and many other organizations and was involved in the advocacy for and against policies that affect this region, all of Florida and the U.S.

In the process, I have been able to conduct presentations to numerous community and business leaders, write new legislation and be a part of the development practices that have and will shape our communities. I also taught for three years at the University of Miami, School of Law, in the graduate real estate program teaching land use law and planning and continue to lecture at the law school several times a year.

Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring rainmaker?

A: The best advice I can give to an aspiring rainmaker is to always do the best work and be attentive and sensitive to your clients' needs and desires. Success breeds success, and that means you always have to be on top of your game.

In addition, attorneys should stay involved in organizations related to their law practices. It is important for people to identify you as a leader in your profession through your achievements and community involvement combined. I have always prided myself as being totally devoted to my clients and to recommend specific strategies, which will inure to their best interests.

Q: Tell us a tale of landing a big client.

A: Burger King Corporation was searching for a high-profile attorney to represent the company and felt the senior partner at my firm during the time was a good fit because of his name recognition. They even built into their contract that he would have to present at all of their meetings. I was the lead attorney on the first case for this client, and after three meetings with the senior partner, they were not as concerned about whether he was present when we met.

We won a major victory related to the Burger King Corp. and afterwards continued on to win several other significant appellate cases. The work that I put in on that first case was a springboard for a long-term partnership with Burger King.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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