July 17, 2023

Q&A: Fred Kaplan on Real Estate Law and The ADA’s Public Accommodation Provisions

Frederick “Fred” Kaplan is a business lawyer with broad expertise in all aspects of real estate law, including commercial real estate development, finance, leasing, construction, joint ventures, acquisitions/dispositions, and land use planning and development. He is also widely recognized as an authority in the public accommodation and real estate provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We spoke to him recently about his life and his practice.

Tell us a little about yourself, and how you got interested in practicing law.
I graduated high school a year early (I was young in my class), and got the idea to take a gap year in Europe. After much discussion, my parents consented, but they insisted I enroll in a university program. I found and was accepted to a program for foreign students at L’Universite de Montpellier in the south of France. It was a life-changing experience. I became semi-fluent in French and met people from all over the world, some of whom I’m still close with today.

Upon my return to the U.S., I enrolled at The George Washington University’s School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C. A highlight of my college experience was interning on Capitol Hill for Rep. Abner Mikva, at the time one of the leading liberal thought leaders in Congress. As graduation was approaching, I was considering graduate school in international relations and, possibly, a career in foreign service. My dad suggested I first get a law degree as a foundation before pursuing something in international relations. It was good advice and I’m glad I took it.

It’s somewhat ironic, because while I never returned to school to pursue a career in international relations, my law practice has allowed me to do work for clients, not only in all regions of the U.S., but as well in Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. It’s been extremely fulfilling.

I love being a lawyer, most especially, learning and understanding my clients’ businesses, being their trusted advisor, and helping them to solve their problems and achieve their business goals.

What first drew you to ADA law?
I started out as a litigator/real estate lawyer, but after three years I decided to focus exclusively on commercial real estate law. The firm I was with at the time happened to be the largest management labor relations firm in the country and, therefore, it was not surprising that the ADA was receiving a lot of attention at the firm when the legislation was introduced in Congress in the late 1980s. As the ADA was first winding its way through the House and Senate, one of my partners, a labor lawyer, came to me and mentioned there were a lot of “real estate provisions” in the bill. He said that no one at the firm had a handle on them. Would I be interested in “getting up to speed”? Of course I said yes. It was a wonderful opportunity that led to the development of an expertise and niche specialty for me in the public accommodation provisions of the ADA and in the ADA’s state and local counterpart disability rights laws.

KSV&P was acquired by MPS six months ago. What’s your view of things at this stage?
I can hardly believe it’s been six months already! Neither I nor my partners had any doubts about folding our small boutique law firm into MPS. For me, in particular, I knew and had worked with several of the lawyers here, and felt very comfortable with not only the quality of the lawyering at MPS but, as important, with the quality of the individual lawyers here. It’s a firm with sophisticated practices and tremendous integrity.

Anecdotally, within a couple of weeks of joining MPS, a Canadian client of mine needed assistance with a significant bankruptcy matter that had been recently filed in the Southern District of Florida. A sizable amount of this client’s legal work has historically been handled by a large, well known law firm. The client had called their “go-to” firm to ask for assistance with the particular bankruptcy matter, but didn’t hear back. Two weeks had gone by and they were getting anxious, so they called me to see if MPS could handle a Florida bankruptcy matter. Now if I had received this call just a few weeks earlier, I would have had to say no. But because we were already onboard with MPS, I was able, and more than happy, to refer them to Tim Brink, who not only has tremendous bankruptcy experience, but had substantial experience practicing before the bankruptcy court for the Southern District of Florida. In fact, quite fortuitously, Tim was in Florida when I reached out to him. Tim handled the matter beautifully and our client was extremely satisfied with the representation and the result.

This is only one of several similar incidents that have taken place within the past six months where we’ve been able to offer clients services we didn’t have previously, or a deeper bench for areas that are part of our normal practice. From my viewpoint, it’s been a great move for all parties and I couldn’t be more pleased.

What do you like to do when you are not lawyering?
My family and friends are very important to me, as are my clients, some of whom have been with me for 20, 30, even 40 years. Beyond that I like to work out and stay physically fit, travel abroad when I can, and I’m an avid reader, both fiction and non-fiction; I love to write as well and (sometimes to the dismay of my colleagues) am a big believer in, and adherent to, what Justice Louis D. Brandeis said about writing, “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.”

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