Hosted by Attorney Louis Goodman
Dec. 22, 2021

Michael Kaplen - Brooklyn Law

Michael Kaplen - Brooklyn Law

lovethylawyer.com

A transcript of this podcast is easily available at lovethylawyer.com.

Go to https://www.lovethylawyer.com/blog for transcripts.

Michael V. Kaplen, Esq.
De Caro & Kaplen, LLP
427 Bedford Road
Pleasantville, NY 10570
(914) 747 4410
 michael@brainlaw.com
www.brainlaw.com 

Michael V. Kaplen is a senior partner in the New York personal injury law firm, De Caro & Kaplen, LLP. His practice focuses on personal injury and medical malpractice with an emphasis on representing individuals who have sustained a traumatic or acquired brain injury and other catastrophic injuries. 

Michael is a Professorial Lecturer in Law at The George Washington University Law School where he teaches the only course in the nation devoted to traumatic brain injury law. 

He was an invited by President Obama to be a participant in the 2014, White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit and serves as a member of the American Academy of Neurology, Concussion Work Group. 

He served as the Co-Chair of the Tort Section of the New York County Lawyer’s Association and on the Board of Directors of Public Justice. Michael served as a member of the Medical Malpractice Screening Panel, New York State Appellate Division, First and Second Judicial Departments. 

Michael served as a vice president of the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers and a member of their board of directors. 

Besides his teaching responsibilities at The George Washington University Law School, he has taught courses in trial practice and medical malpractice at St. John's University School of Law and is Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Graduate School of Psychology, Touro College. He is a guest lecturer at The George Washington University School, Graduate School of Education and Human Development and a member of the Board of Advisors, The New York Traumatic Brain Injury Model System Program, Brain Injury Research Center of Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York. 

Michael has been selected a New York Super Lawyer for the last 14 years and named as one of the top 100 trial lawyers in New York State by the American Association of Trial Lawyers. 

Michael is a frequent national lecturer on brain injury advocacy.

His views and opinions are often sort by well-known news sources including, The New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, Gannet News Services, the New York Daily News, the National Law Journal, the New York Post, the Huffington Post, ABC News, CBS News, ESPN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC News. 

Michael is admitted to the bars of New York, Florida, and the District of Columbia. He is admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, 3rd Circuit and the District of Columbia; and the United States District Courts for the Southern, Eastern and North Districts of New York. 

Michael Kaplen
https://brainlaw.com/

 Louis Goodman
 www.louisgoodman.com
louisgoodman2010@gmail.com
510.582.9090
 
Musical theme by Joel Katz, Seaside Recording, Maui
Technical support: Bryan Matheson, Skyline Studios, Oakland
 
We'd love to hear from you.  Send us an email at louisgoodman2010@gmail.com. 

Please subscribe and listen. Then tell us who you want to hear and what areas of interest you’d like us to cover.
 

Louis Goodman

Attorney at Law

www.lovethylawyer.com

louisgoodman2010@gmail.com

 

Transcript

Louis Goodman  

Hello and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer will talk to real lawyers about their lives in and out of the practice of law, how they got to be lawyers, and what their experiences.  I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody's perfect. He is a senior partner at a New York personal injury law firm. He focuses on medical malpractice and traumatic brain injuries. He's been named as a New York Super Lawyer. He's taught and lectured at George Washington University School of Law in Washington, DC. He has appeared on most major TV news outlets, and has often been quoted in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Daily News. Michael Kaplen, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.

 

Michael Kaplen  

Thank you very much, Louis, and I look forward to our chat this evening.

 

Louis Goodman  

I do too. I love talking to a New York lawyer for a change.

 

Michael Kaplen  

Alright, just don't call me Vinny. Because you know, this is not my cousin Vinnie might sound like

 

Louis Goodman  

Where is your office located?

 

Michael Kaplen  

Right now my office is in Westchester County in a town called Pleasantville, we used to be in Manhattan. And then after the events of the World Trade Center, we were compelled to move because we're very close to that incident.

 

Louis Goodman  

How does being located in Westchester compare with being in Manhattan?

 

Michael Kaplen  

Well, I'd like to say that I'm a country lawyer now. But that's really not true. Although the pace up here is a lot slower. But at the same time, as we're talking lawyer to lawyer, I missed the camaraderie of being in the city with my colleagues, because there is a lot of back and forth that adds to the practice and my ability to properly represent my clients, and we just don't have that interaction up here in Westchester.

 

Louis Goodman  

I really understand that when I started this podcast, I did in large part because I wanted an opportunity to be able to talk to my colleagues.

 

Michael Kaplen  

Yes, I get it that's so important for us. 

 

Louis Goodman  

Describe your practice a little bit for us.

 

Michael Kaplen  

Well, it's an interesting practice as a personal injury practice. As you said, we have a good deal of clients that we represent who are victims of medical malpractice. We have a subspecialty in traumatic brain injuries. And it's so difficult for anybody from the outside looking at a person with a brain injury, to understand what happened to them.

 

Louis Goodman  

How long have you been practicing law?

 

Michael Kaplen  

I’ve been practicing now for 40 years and only doing personal injury and medical malpractice for that period of time. And only representing injured individuals.

 

Louis Goodman  

Where are you from originally?

 

Michael Kaplen  

I'm from Queens.

 

Louis Goodman  

Where'd you go to high school?

 

Michael Kaplen  

In Queens, Jamaica High School. That was an interesting experience that was many, many moons ago.   To make a high school at that period of time was a very interesting place to go to school is very overcrowded. In fact, they have four different sessions. It was a school that had a lot of issues to it. And in fact, they wouldn't even have a lunch period for the students because they were afraid to put so many students together in one place as to what might happen.

 

Louis Goodman  

Now ultimately graduated from Jamaica High School and went to college.

 

Michael Kaplen  

When I graduated from Jamaica High School and went on to NYU, where I pursued an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Economics. And then I went to Brooklyn Law School and after Brooklyn Law School, I went into private practice.

 

Louis Goodman  

Well, that is the classic route through the New York system of education in order to become a lawyer, isn't it?

 

Michael Kaplen  

It is, and it's a good route, and it's a good system. I got an excellent education at Brooklyn Law School and well versed in New York law and the practicalities of New York law. And I try to emulate that these days in my teaching responsibilities at the George Washington University Law School where I teach a course in Traumatic Brain Injury Law and I try to make it for my students as practical and real world as possible.

 

Louis Goodman  

Do you do those lectures live now or are they over zoom since COVID?

 

Michael Kaplen  

Louis, thank goodness we're back to doing it live. We did Zoom for a period of time while actually well of last year we did it by zoom. Every class was by zoom, but now we were back to teaching live which is so much better.

 

Louis Goodman  

And you travel down to Washington DC in order to teach?

 

Michael Kaplen  

I do I get on Amtrak every Monday morning and I return every Monday evening from DC.   It's a great thing I loved working on the train and you don't have that hassles that you have getting in and out of airports. Thank goodness.

 

Louis Goodman  

When did you first start thinking about being a lawyer?

 

Michael Kaplen  

I always was interested in courtrooms and the law. And I recall, even in high school, when I had some time, I would stop  in the courthouse in Kew Gardens, the criminal courthouse, just because I was fascinating in watching trials, you know, everything is open, you could just walk in, sit down. And I used to do that it just was something that has always been for whatever reason and interest of mine.

 

Louis Goodman  

So it was that experience of actually going to court and Kew Gardens that made you think, wow, you know, this looks really interesting. This is something that I'd like to do when I could do.

 

Michael Kaplen  

No, I gotta be honest with you. I started college thinking I was going to be a doctor, with a pre med course. And I realized, after two hours of chemistry, this was not going to work. And then I decided pre law is probably a little better for me. And that was the right decision.

 

Louis Goodman  

What did your friends and family say when you told them you wanted to be a lawyer?

 

Michael Kaplen  

No problem. Nobody had any issue with that at all. So that was a good thing.

 

Louis Goodman  

Did you find a different being in Brooklyn going to school as opposed to being in Greenwich Village going to school?

 

Michael Kaplen  

Well, you know, law school is very different than going to college, you don't have the same time to play to engage in social activities was much more serious pursuit than college. My first legal job out of law school was with a prominent personal injury attorney. And I was very fortunate that I was able to go to court with him and prepare his cases for him and assist him in court. And it gave me just a fantastic experience in understanding trial practice. And working in the area of personal injury law, I got that job because I worked as a law clerk during my third year of law school there. But I just got hooked.

 

Louis Goodman  

When did you go and start practicing on your own? Opening  up your own firm?

 

Michael Kaplen  

So I left that  firm and I went into private practice, and I became of counsel to another law firm, just I noticed to start my practice. And that allowed me obviously to work on my own cases, and I had to work on their cases, as well. So I did that for a couple of years, and then I just branched out altogether on my own. I give people the opportunity to go up against major corporations, major hospitals, physicians, other entities to seek justice in a way that they normally will they, it would be impossible for them to get that justice, and I am speaking for someone who can't speak for themselves.

 

Louis Goodman  

If a young person was just coming out of law school, and why you let's say, would you recommend the law as a career?

 

Michael Kaplen  

Yes, I would.  The law obviously, changes over time, the whole field of trial practice has changed since I first started and will continue obviously to change with COVID and restrictions on courtroom access. So the area of trial practice might not be an appropriate area for anybody who is graduating from law school, or thinking about going to law school right now to be considering. But there always be trials and trial lawyers. But there are other areas of law, we as a society are getting older. And there's a whole field of elder law that has developed in order to record properly represent and provide counsel to people who are getting on and he is and whether it's with wills or with trusts on their behalf or working to make sure that their assets are protected for Medicaid and Medicare purposes. This is a phenomenal growth area that I urge my students to look at.

 

Louis Goodman  

How is actually practicing met are different from your expectations about it?

 

Michael Kaplen  

Well, you know, after 40 years of practicing law, I've learned that experience does have a major value. There is no substitute for experience. When you're young lawyer, you start out, you don't understand that you don't believe that. But it's true, experience is a valuable commodity, a valuable lesson and it's really great to have, but you can only have it after you've practiced for a period of time learning curve.

 

Louis Goodman  

Okay, so let me ask this is, is there anything that you know now that you really wish you knew before you started practicing law?

 

Michael Kaplen  

That's a great question. I will tell you that and tell your listeners that you always have to make time for yourself, for your family. And in the practice of law, it is a nerve wracking experience. It's filled with a lot of tension, many long hours, some aggravation at times and you have to give yourself a break and live a life as well. You can't be practicing law 24/7.

 

Louis Goodman  

What about the business of practicing law? How's that gone for you, you know, those of us who are in private practice, ultimately, we're lawyers, but we also are business people. And we're required to run a business law under practice law, how's that gone for you?

 

Michael Kaplen  

We've always kept our practice small, we have a small practice.  We were very careful on our overhead, we're very careful in the cases that we take. We are very careful in the number of employees that we have. So it enables me to practice lower, rather than running a big corporation. And I think that's important, because when you do that you're not practicing law anymore. You're just an administrator. So, in what I've done,  I've tried to allow myself while I have to be a businessman at times, of course, it is not become my life.

 

Louis Goodman  

What do you think's the best advice you've ever received?

 

Michael Kaplen  

Well, in my practice field, the best advice that I have received, and the best advice I can give young lawyers is always be yourself, number one. Number two, always be ethical, and follow ethical principles. And you could always ask yourself, just one question. Should I be doing this? Is this ethical? And just by raising that question, in your own mind, 99 out of 100 times, you've probably answered the question just by raising it in your mind. And don't allow a client to dictate to you to do something that you're not supposed to do. Because your reputation is everything that you have as an attorney, and you don't want to tarnish it.

 

Louis Goodman  

If a young person just starting out practicing law, were asking you for advice, is that the advice that you would give them? Or do you have some other bit of advice that would go on top of that?

 

Michael Kaplen  

I would give them that advice. And I would tell them in my practice area and personal injury because we work on a contingency basis. Sometimes the best answer is to say no to a case. Because if you don't like a case, from day one, you're going to like it a lot less three years down the road when you have to go to court to try the case.

 

Louis Goodman  

What if anything, would you change about the way the legal system works?

 

Michael Kaplen  

Well, the legal system, right now has gone haywire. And in many respects, lawyers have become just billing machines. And it's really not practicing law and representing people or corporations anymore. They're just timekeepers, which is not a good thing. 

 

Louis Goodman  

Have you written or published anything of note that you could share with us?

 

Michael Kaplen  

Well, I have published many articles in the field of traumatic brain injury law are represented individuals with brain injury. I've published articles in medical publications as well on the legal aspects of traumatic brain injury. We're writing a textbook right now for law school students  in the area of traumatic brain injury.

 

Louis Goodman  

I'm going to shift gears here a little bit, Michael, what's your family life like? And how has the practice of law fit into that?

 

Michael Kaplen  

Well, I have a great family. I have two lovely children. I have a son who's an attorney as well, he does not do the same work that I do. He practices energy law in Washington, DC. I have a daughter who is a teacher in the New York City public school system. I have a great family. We are all very close.

 

Louis Goodman  

How about some travel experience? Have you traveled anywhere that you found interesting? 

 

Michael Kaplen  

Well, yes. We always like to take trips in the family. We're always going on vacations to different parts of the world. We've been to China, we've been to Southeast Asia. We've been to India. We've been to Cuba. We've been all around the Caribbean.   Family loves to ski, so we've been ski areas all around the world. We've been in just about every major European city. At times, we find that valuable for ourselves, my wife and myself as well as to do it when my children were young, we will go together. I really liked Cuba. I was fascinated by Cuba. You can look back in time. You were back in 1962 1963. With the vehicles with the buildings. It's just a fascinating thing to see. And the people are genuinely warm and friendly. The cuisine is excellent. And of course you get a great cigar there as well. That was one of the most favorite trips I've ever had.

 

Louis Goodman  

How about recreational pursuits? What sort of things do you do to kind of clear your head after a day or a week of practicing law?

 

Michael Kaplen  

So that's a good question because I just recently moved into New York City. And just last week, you know what I did, I bought a bicycle and a new helmet,  we can't forget that. And I've now taken up riding.  This past Saturday, I had a great  beautiful sunny day, and I was just riding around Central Park all afternoon. And I tell you what, I saw parts of Central Park that I didn't even know existed.

 

Louis Goodman  

Now bicycle is a great means to seeing the world that seems to me on a bicycle that you're moving at just the right speed, walking is sometimes a little too slow and boring. And if you're in a car, you zip past things a little too quickly. But on a bicycle, that's just sort of the right speed. And it's easy to stop and get off and look around.  

 What sort of things keep you up at night?

 

Michael Kaplen  

You know, right now, the politics of this country is keeping me up at night.   We’re at difficult place, I don't want to go into a political discussion with you. But  I think we're at a crossroads in American democracy. We're in a crossroads when it comes to this pandemic. And people who refuse to wear masks, refuse to get inoculated and exposing everybody else. To a very serious illness.

 

Louis Goodman  

How do you define success?

 

Michael Kaplen  

You have to be happy and what you do, has to be happy in your life. And then that success.

 

Louis Goodman  

Let's say you came into some real money, $3/$4 billion. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?

 

Michael Kaplen  

I don't know. But I would certainly tell you one thing I would do with it, I'd certainly make a major donation to the Brain Injury Association of America.

 

Louis Goodman  

Let's say you had a magic wand that was one thing in the world, legal world or otherwise that you could change. What would that be?

 

Michael Kaplen  

Well, I'd like to see more peace in the world. I could wave a magic wand end warfare, and have people get along with each other. And treat everybody with respect and compassion. That would be just great.

 

Louis Goodman  

Here's another question for you. Let's say you had 60 seconds on the Superbowl. Somebody said, Hey, here's the Superbowl ad. You can say whatever you want. Big megaphone, big audience. What 6o second message would you want to put out there?

 

Michael Kaplen  

I talked about football, that football is a concussion delivery system, the best prevention, the best cure for brain injuries prevention. And I would tell parents, that they should not allow their children to play tackle football. That no matter what anybody is telling them by marketing geniuses and helmet companies, that a helmet does not make it safe to play football. And that one concussion could be one concussion to many. And that's what I would be saying if I had 60 seconds. During the Superbowl, though, I don't think Roger Goodell would be too happy about me doing that. Although he doesn't like me anyway.

 

Louis Goodman  

Yeah, I'm not sure that ad would go over real well on the Superbowl. But, hey, it's your suit. I just asked the questions. They're open ended, I am thrilled I'm getting whatever answer people want to give me. And then the magic of editing, I decide what stays and what goes out, you know, I just gotta have just a couple more very brief things here. I just want to make sure that people know how to get in touch with you. Can you one more time, say what your website is, and how we can get in touch with you if we want to talk to you later on. And we'll put this in the show notes as well.

 

Michael Kaplen  

So if your listeners want to get in touch with me, the best thing to do is go to my website, www.brainlaw.com. There's a lot of useful information about what I do, and my practice. And then we have contact forms on there, as well.

 

Louis Goodman  

Is there anything you want to talk about that we haven't discussed?

 

Michael Kaplen  

We've had a great conversation, Louis. I've enjoyed it.

 

Louis Goodman  

Well, I've really enjoyed it. Michael Kaplen, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It's been a pleasure talking to you and hearing your wonderful New York accent.

 

Michael Kaplen  

Thank you, Louis. I appreciate it. And it was a pleasure being with you as well.

 

Louis Goodman  

That's it for today's episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend. And subscribe to the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. I promise I'll respond. Take a look at our website at lovethylawyer.com, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs, and information. Thanks as always to my guests who share their wisdom and Joel Katz for music,  Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I'm Louis Goodman.

 

Michael Kaplen  

Hey, what do you think about this? This is a case I was just retained on. I have this issue How would you handle it and you do a back and forth and it's a very important part of the process of practicing law.