Real Estate Lawyer Uses Homey Setting For High-end Clients

Oct 15, 2001
The Miami Herald


Edition: Final
Section: Business Monday
Page: 20G

Heather Rutecki arrives at the new homes of her high end clientele with closing documents and a selection of gourmet tea. She is a real estate lawyer who makes house calls.

For six years, 34-year-old Rutecki has had an office on the 34th floor of the Bank of America building, where she subleases space from the law firm of Homer Bonner and Delgado. But these days, she rarely goes downtown. She just converted the dining room of her Fisher Island condo into an upscale home office where she serves clients on Christofle silver.

``What I do doesn't fit with the big firm partnership style where you have to be there from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.,'' Rutecki said. ``We have tea and a slice of pie and sign the documents. It's very personal and relaxed. Many live on Fisher Island so I'm meeting them as a neighbor and an attorney. When I go to their homes I bring chocolates and tea, and we sit in their liv- ing rooms and sign the documents.''

Her clients typically are buyers of homes that sell for an average of $2 million. ``They usually are waterfront homes that lend themselves to being beautiful places to gather,'' Rutecki said. ``When you meet with your lawyer what a better place than your new home.''

Rutecki said she becomes friends with many of her clients, and they tend to be repeat customers, swapping their luxury condos for even larger or more pricey homes.

``These are sophisticated buyers,'' Rutecki said. ``I spend less time explaining small details. These people have closed millions of dollars in property over the years and know why an appraisal is needed. So I can skip over that. They quickly look at the numbers. It's not a three-hour closing.''

Rutecki said her firm prepares days in advance and only awaits the bank package the day before the closing. At home, she uses a Citrex server to access her downtown office computer. The preparation makes it easier! to close wherever a client wants - she's even done one at a m! arina. H er clients have included NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who purchased an apartment in Portofino on Miami Beach, and Christian Castro, the popular Latin American singer, who purchased a home on Fisher Island.

Rutecki charges her clients on a sliding scale based on the price of the home, starting at $1,000. She also writes the title insurance, which earns her a lucrative fee based on the purchase price.

``I was interviewed by a large law firm, and it was my decision to stay on my own. I'm bringing in the revenue, but I don't fit the typical partnership mold. I'm out there where I need to be,'' she said. Last year, Rutecki closed on $50 million worth of property for clients.

``Instead of slaving away with small deals and killing myself to be perfect, I focused right away on the high-end client,'' she said.

Rutecki also supplements her income with real estate zoning work and litigation - defending real estate agents in professional! -practice claims.

After a slow summer, Rutecki said she's been busy in the last month. Sources say she's working on the sale of a Coral Gables home for more than $23 million, which would make it the highest price paid in Miami-Dade.

Though she couldn't give any specifics she said: ``It will close where my client wants.''

In just a few weeks, Neisen Kasdin retires as Miami Beach Mayor and becomes a full-time practicing attorney. Kasdin's term ends Nov. 14 and he has big plans for how he'll use his experience directing South Beach's revitalization. He's heading Gunster Yoakley's newly formed urban development group. Kasdin said he'll put together teams of attorneys at his firm to advise clients on how to get urban infill and redevelopment projects done. He'll also help clients respond to requests for proposals for development projects issued by cities or counties.

``A successful urban project requires a! certain approach,'' Kasdin said.

Under Kasdin, the group will push for more public private partnerships.

``There's a major role for government in incentiving development at this time. It's more important today than six months ago,'' Kasdin said. ``This is an opportunity to spread the gospel of what I've learned in Miami Beach to other cities.''

A Miami-Dade ordinance prohibits Kasdin from appearing before Miami Beach boards or agencies for two years. However, Kasdin said he's already working with a developer who is preparing a proposal for redeveloping the Munisport landfill, the city of North Miami's controversial former Superfund site. Lawyers in Kasdin's urban development group include Michael Goldstein in Miami; James Brindell, Gary Cole, Ernie Cox and Lisa Aiello in West Palm Beach; and Don Hall and Courtney Callahan in Fort Lauderdale. Also included is new hire, Christine Shen, from the San Francisco law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop. Shen had been part of the legal team for Pacific Bell Park, a priv! ately financed stadium for the San Francisco Giants. She also worked on the recent refinancing of Miami's First Union Financial Center. Shen's husband, Luis Berro, has joined Shook Hardy & Bacon in Miami as part of its international litigation team.

Attorneys Chris David and Michael Ehrenstein should have been on opposite sides of the table on Sept. 11. The two Miami lawyers had planned to depose a key witness in Portland, Ore., for a case involving an aircraft parts lease agreement. The trial had been postponed pending the deposition. But after flying all the way across the country independently, the two lawyers learned that the witness had canceled and left town, and that the Portland airport had been shut down because of the terrorist attacks. David, a partner in Hall, David and Joseph, and Ehrenstein, a partner in Kluger Peretz, Kaplan & Berlin, often wind up as adversaries on cases. This day, however, David h! ad reason to partner up with Ehrenstein, who had a hard-to-get! commodi ty - a rental car. Unsure when flights would resume, Ehrenstein offered David a ride in his rented Ford Focus, and the two set off on a four-day 3,400-mile journey back to Miami. Anxious to get home to their wives and children, the two men drove 16 hours a day to Salt Lake City, Topeka, Atlanta and finally Miami.

So with all that time together did they settle the case?

``We started to discuss it,'' said David, ``but I realized there was not enough time even in four days to convince him he was wrong. We're still miles apart.'' Said Ehrenstein: ``We realized early on it wasn't going to be productive to argue about the case. He's paid to be an advocate for one side, and I'm paid to be an advocate for the opposite side. If it was just Chris and I we could resolve it, but it's not our money at issue.''

The lawyers said they developed a friendship and discussed several cases in common but resolved none. ``The only thing we resolved! is the Ford Focus is an uncomfortable car, and our county is enormous and beautiful,'' Ehrenstein said.

At a time when South Florida is reeling from the woes of the airline industry, the Miami law firm of Tew Cardenas has made a strategic move. The litigation firm known for its securities and bankruptcy expertise has hired an aviation expert.

William Burd, a former pilot and longtime aviation litigator, has joined and will expand the firm's aviation creditors' practice into a broad representation of airlines, aircraft manufacturers and insurers.

Tom Tew, senior partner of the firm, said Burd's addition should help service the anticipated increase of airline-related litigation. The firm had already been involved in some airline bankruptcies.

``With the problems at the airport and the fallout of collateral companies, it shows how important aviation is to Dade. We want to make sure our law firm expanded into such! a vital business segment,'' Tew said. Burd said he ! joined with Tew Cardenas after 12 years on his own because his large clients wanted more legal support than his small firm could provide. He's brought over four associates with him: John S. McPhee, Stuart I. Grossman, Charles L. Balli, and Maria Arias-Morgado. ``I wanted to be tied in with trial lawyers, which is hard to find these days,'' Burd said. ``There are many litigators that seldom get to trial.'' Burd's clients include United Airlines, Grupo Taca, AIG Aviation, Houston Casualty, Underwriters at Lloyds of London, Universal Loss Management. He handles litigation matters involving contract disputes, product disputes, maintenance issues and other general aviation issues. Entertainment conglomerate EMI/Virgin Records recently retained him in connection with the airplane accident in the Bahamas that resulted in the death of singer Aaliyah and eight others.

In addition to his aviation practice, Burd has a construction-litigation practice that will augment the firm's current construction-litigation practice.

Burd earned his law degree while working as a pilot for Eastern Airlines. Though he's been at large firms in the past, he had practiced at his own firm since 1989.

Forging north, Becker & Poliakoff has opened an office in Jacksonville with five litigators. The Fort Lauderdale firm says it moved into Northeast Florida by acquiring the small firm of Edwards Cohen Jacobs Haramas & Burnett. The attorneys are Kenneth Jacobs, Jason Burnett, Lee Haramis, Richard Plotkin and Debbie Winicki.

``They had a statewide practice they needed to service and we've always been interested in Jacksonville,'' said Susan Greene, Becker's marketing director. ``We feel really fortunate to have found lawyers with deep roots. This was the last place we weren't in in Florida.''

``These five attorneys will be the base for our further expansion in Jacksonville,'' said Gary Poliakoff, na! me partner.

In Tampa, Becker recently lost three lawyers to Ruden McClosky. However, its office there remains open with four lawyers. In Miami, Becker & Poliakoff has just added Marco Rubio, Florida's Majority Whip of the House of Representatives.

NURI VALLBONA/HERALD STAFF NEW VENUE: Heather Rutecki works out of the dining room of her Fisher Island condo instead of a downtown Miami high-rise office Heather Rutecki at her home (a) Memo: 
Copyright (c) 2001 The Miami Herald 
Record Number: 0110190288

Please read and agree to the following disclaimer: Thank you for your interest in our firm. The information contained on this Website contains statements, videos and other content about the type and quality of services offered by RUTECKI AND ASSOCIATES, P.A., as well as past results and testimonials about the firm. This information has not been reviewed or approved by the Florida Bar.
The facts and circumstances of your case may differ from the matters in which results and testimonials have been provided.
All results of cases handled by the firm are not provided and not all clients have given testimonials.
The results and testimonials provided are not necessarily representative of results obtained by the firm or of the experience of all clients or others with the firm. Every case is different, and each clients case must be evaluated and handled on its own merits.  

About Rutecki & Associates, P.A.

Rutecki & Associates, P.A. is a law firm made up of attorneys with individual and collective prestige. Located in the landmark Miami Tower for nearly two decades, Rutecki & Associates, P.A. enjoys cultivating strong personal relationships as well as elevating itself to be one of the most reputable private practices around. This allows Rutecki & Assocaites, P.A. to compete with even the largest law firms.

Learn More


Heather has represented me in multiple situations. I truly appreciate her willingness in advising me in regards to law firm management strategies. I would definitely recommend her due to her distinguished professionalism.

Jorge Rivera, Esq. -- Celebrity Lawyer

Go to top