Your Lawyer, a Fighter Since Birth.

Michael Kornitzer - Your Lawyer

Michael Kornitzer, a Florida Attorney is a fighter, advocate, and friend to have in your corner.  Every morning he shows up at his Tampa office at the Westshore Grand hotel driving a RAM 1500 pick-up truck.  He wears a suit, no tie, 25-year-old worn leather briefcase over his shoulder. Kornitzer is ready to educate or advocate.  He says, the pick-up truck is a symbol of the people, not above the people.  

I hadn’t seen Kornitzer in twenty years.  I knew him long ago as a tech entrepreneur pioneering the wholesale telecommunications market in Boston.  Then as a developer, transforming dilapidated buildings into office and retail space.  On the day of the interview, I was being re-introduced to an Attorney, who confidently moved across the marble, like he was walking on an imaginary red carpet.  One of his many dreams had recently been realized, passing the Florida bar examination, and being sworn in by a local Judge friend of his.

Kornitzer offered me coffee from the café before pointing out several different options in the hotel lobby for our interview.  He seemed to know everyone we passed and said hello to each by name.  We settled on a round table surrounded by palm trees, he then answered without a question being asked.  He recounted that, “my wife put me through law school” he made it clear that any interview about his accomplishments needed to start with that premise.  He had also added that she actually saved his life in the intensive care unit of Tampa General Hospital his first trimester of law school.  Unprompted, he gushed about his wife Carolyn for a half hour before allowing me to inquire about his new law firm.  

I learned that they have been married for almost thirty years and raised five children in the Tampa Bay area.  When their youngest child entered high school, Kornitzer whimsically asked his wife if he could go to law school.  Without hesitation, she answered yes, quickly followed by a plan on how they could make it work.  With three children in college already, Kornitzer entered law school.  Carolyn shopped her resume and accepted a new job at a higher salary to make sure the family necessities were met.  Kornitzer worked full time for a local Attorney and drove Uber overnight to cover the rest.

It became obvious that Kornitzer was going to control this interview.  My list of questions seemed anticipated, and I was already mesmerized.  He seemed eager to tell me the answers before I could even ask.  Kornitzer concluded the initial part of the interview by recounting how he “flat lined” at the hospital. In a race to revive him, Carolyn was ahead of the nurse and “crash cart”.  Something out of a movie where the grieving wife jumps on her husband’s chest screaming “you’re not dying on me yet, not today, breathe”.  After passing the Florida Bar his wife admitted that she didn’t think he would make it that day or through the first term of law school.  Kornitzer laughs and humbly ends the story by saying “I made it because she believed in me, not because I had the strength – well – I guess I had the strength, I just didn’t know it.”

Kornitzer, who is fifty-three does not break eye contact, as if he could Bluetooth the interview from his eyes to mine.  Somewhat unnerving because he seems to control the entire room even at a big hotel.  Yet, it seems much safer and strangely calming to sit beside him. Then surprisingly he appeared to end the interview.  He explains that everyone wants to know what the firm is doing but he can’t reveal all the details.  He pulls me off the record and says only that he might anger everyone from the American Bar Association to local lawyers.  That, jurisdictional boundaries restrain lawyers, but the Uniform Bar Exam has opened the door to expanding practice areas for lawyers.  He quotes Article 4 of the US Constitution “the Citizens of each state shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several states” and asks why he cannot practice in all 50 states?

Kornitzer then explained his most important work which is helping law students, young lawyers, and lawyers who want a change.  He stated, “the bills are paid with a couple of important and supportive clients, now I want to make people’s lives easier.” Kornitzer graduated law school and passed the bar exam in about thirty months, which is almost a year earlier than a typical student.  Like most lawyers who remember law school as their life’s toughest challenge, Kornitzer is no different.  He recounts the professor who asked everyone to look at the student on the left and right before exclaiming that statistically; one of those students will not graduate law school.  The professor was right, neither Kornitzer’s left, right or behind him that day, made it to graduation.  

Kornitzer manages over a million social media followers for his clients. He uses the internet to educate and simplify many legal questions.  He has a team of experts dedicated to producing social media that explains legal words, the U.S. Constitution, and Supreme Court cases.  A social media segment called “Legal Word of the Day” publishes the explanations that take hours or years to comprehend like; curtilage, usurp, rule against perpetuity, patent v latent, exigent, indigent etc.  He is adamant that legal advice should never be offered by a lawyer online.  Every case is unique and should be answered by a local attorney with expertise in the specific jurisdiction.  Blanket legal advice can inadvertently create an attorney/client relationship that opens attorneys up to malpractice.  

Kornitzer went on to say what many successful business owners say, “I surround myself with people who are smarter than me in areas where I’m deficient.”  His mentor for almost twenty years is a local Tampa attorney.  He hired one of the top internet media influencers to be a firm spokesperson on the internet. With thirty years of business experience, Kornitzer brings a unique perspective to the practice of law.  He claims to ask “why” a lot and propose new ways of looking at the law and its cumbersome process.  The legal profession is “different now” by different he specifically means the internet.

As the interview progressed, I remember thinking back to periods in my life where it would have been great to have a guy like Kornitzer beside me.  Thirty years ago in law school, then as a law partner, and probably hundreds of times in between.  He seems to have all the answers, or at least be determined to find or create the answers he needs.  As I think back to the interview and play the recording repeatedly, Kornitzer begins to define everything I expect a dependable lawyer to be.  Great lawyers solve problems and define the answers which is what Kornitzer seems uniquely skilled at.

Years ago, I heard rumors about his childhood, that he was abandoned in a rice field in Korea. When he made it to the orphanage, the Chaplain was called to ease his passage to the next life.  I was compelled to ask if the rumors were true and wondered if he attributed childhood experience to his current motivation.  He got quiet for the first time, solemn and obviously deep in thought.  He was perplexed, seemingly unsure about how to spin this portion of the interview and his life.  I assumed because of his hesitation, that he hadn’t anticipated the question or developed the answer yet. He didn’t want pity or to shift the interview from revealing his strength, to his weakness.  However, it seemed his answer was rehearsed, a noble inclusion of all people, shifting the pain away from himself. “It’s what we do today that makes a difference; not what others did to us yesterday.”  Taking his que, I dropped the subject and allowed him to conclude the interview.

After the meeting, Kornitzer walked me to the hotel exit with the same enthusiasm as three hours earlier.  I was exhausted but he seemed ready to begin his day.  As we shook hands and exchanged formalities, Attorney Kornitzer offered me a job.  I thought about his offer for a few minutes on the walk to my car and promptly called U-Haul to set up my move.

Howie Lewis J.D.


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