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A former name partner of the defunct Aventura, Fla., law firm Bedzow Korn Brown Miller & Zemel is suing his old firm over a business origination bonus he claims he was never paid, and for unpaid fees he says he is owed. Franklin Zemel, now of counsel in the Fort Lauderdale office of Broad and Cassel, filed suit Feb. 5 in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, alleging that Bedzow Korn failed to honor its employment agreement with him. Zemel claims that the contract guaranteed him at least a $20,000 bonus if he brought in $500,000 or more per year in new business. To qualify for the bonus, the new business had to result in at least $500,000 in legal fees paid to the firm within a single calendar year, according to the suit. The legal services did not have to be performed by Zemel himself. Zemel, 39, who was hired in December 1998 and previously was with the Aventura firm Zemel & Kaufman, claims that he exceeded his business origination target. The plaintiff, who is representing himself, goes on to claim that the contract made clear that if contingent legal matters that he brought to the firm at the time of hire earned a fee, that fee would be divided proportionally among the partners. But Zemel says the firm refused to pay him his portion of those fees, which he says totals about $15,000. The firm’s former managing partner, Michael Bedzow, who is now president of Pacific International Equity, a Miami-based real estate development company, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Neither did several other former partners at the firm. Last September, Bedzow announced that the 17-lawyer firm would be closing its doors. In an interview, Zemel says that after the announcement, he immediately fired off a flurry of e-mails to Bedzow asking him about his bonus and other payments allegedly owed to him. Zemel says he was told the firm would “honor all of its obligations.” But since then, Bedzow has stopped answering Zemel’s calls and e-mails and has refused to meet with him, according to Zemel. “It takes two to communicate,” Zemel says. “And he hasn’t been forthcoming.” Bedzow Korn has yet to respond to Zemel’s lawsuit. The firm, which focused on commercial litigation and appellate work, was founded by Bedzow in 1980. The managing partner decided to liquidate it last fall and become president of Miami-based Pacific International Equity, which his father founded three decades ago. The law firm has been winding down operations over the last few months and is expected to close permanently March 11, a source at the firm says. Until early last year, Michael Bedzow had spoken optimistically about the firm’s future. In an interview with the Aventura News last January, he was quoted as saying: “I enjoy the practice of law and the relationship I have with my partners and associates. If I look into the future, I see our firm growing slowly, carefully and profitably.” Zemel says he’s optimistic the matter will be settled soon, and hopes he doesn’t have to go to court to get his money. “I’m disappointed that this suit was required,” he says. “It’s just business, and the firm wants to save money. But if they want to turn this into a major fight, that will be a different story.”

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