"Romantic" is rarely used to describe a lawyer—much less a litigator—but that is how U.S. District Court Judge Richard Story describes Mike Caplan.
"He almost takes a romantic view of the Constitution," says Story. "He looks deeply into constitutional law and its central issues. He really deep in his heart believes in justice for all. We all say that, but it's fundamental with Mike."
Caplan, an associate with Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, admits his social conscience moves him to "help people who are less powerful than their opponents."
His passion for the underdog once led him to stay in a prison lockdown. Appointed to represent Robert Adkinson Jr., a paraplegic who had been incarcerated in the Chattooga County Jail for almost a year, Caplan went to prepare Adkinson for a deposition. Informed the prison was about to go into lockdown, Caplan opted to stay.
"I wasn't terribly scared. I always wanted to experience being institutionalized without being compelled," Caplan says. "But if I had to be in a lockdown in order to adequately prepare my client, then fine."
Emmet J. Bondurant agrees Caplan is passionate about helping others, but he appreciates that "he does really amazing legal work and takes a major role for clients who pay the bills."
One of those cases is FTC v. Phoebe Putney, an antitrust enforcement action challenging the $195 million acquisition of Palmyra Park Hospital in Albany, Ga. Caplan, the only associate on the case, and the team obtained a dismissal, which was affirmed by the 11th Circuit. The case has since been reopened and Caplan is involved in the parallel federal court and administrative proceedings on remand. If the case doesn't settle, it will go to court in the fall.
"There's a hell of a lot to do," says Bondurant. "Mike's been taking more depositions than God."
Another case, Columbus Drywall v. Masco, which alleged nationwide price-fixing, resulted in one of the highest antitrust settlements on record: $112.25 million. Again the only associate on the case, Caplan was deeply involved in trial preparation and had a significant role in, among other things, strategic planning and motions practice.
He uses his MBA to "incorporate a business approach and my law degree to bring legal efficiency to the benefits of my clients. I like the intellectual rigor of practicing law," he says. "I try to come up with creative and unique solutions without protracted, costly litigation, although I can provide that service, too."
Caplan, whose practice focuses on complex business litigation, appellate litigation and civil rights, gets excited by the "resolution—telling a client we won or have a favorable settlement."
As for his future, Caplan will continue to focus on pro bono work, "in addition to the paying work. I'm fortunate I can do both."