Behind Howard Talenfeld’s decision to leave Colodny Fass

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A nationally renowned children’s rights attorney is leaving Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb to start his own firm.

Howard Talenfeld, who has been at Colodny Fass since 1978, is leaving to start Talenfeld Law in Plantation on Nov. 1 with three colleagues: attorneys Stacie Schmerling, Rayni Rabinovitz and Nicole Coniglio. It will be first law firm in Florida to focus exclusively on protecting the rights of physically and sexually abused, medically fragile, developmentally disabled, foster and other at-risk children.

Colodny Fass, which has offices in Tallahassee and Fort Lauderdale, is a boutique practice specializing in insurance regulatory and government consulting. With Talenfeld’s departure, the firm will rebrand, as part of an effort to expand its insurance practice in Florida. the move includes additions to the firm’s roster of insurance regulatory and compliance professionals.

“We have the right team to continue our firm as a true leader in the insurance industry.  With the experience, expertise and dedication we have assembled, our firm is, and will continue to be, widely recognized as the best at what we do,” said Mike Colodny, the firm’s managing partner.

Talenfeld, who began a law clerk in the Fort Lauderdale office, making partner in 1982, has received national honors for his work advocating on behalf of abused and neglected children.

Talenfeld told Daily Business Review that the move came because of being increasingly conflicted out of cases due to Colodny Fass’s extended representation as insurance industry lobbyists, representing the Broward County School Board among others.

“The firm is experiencing huge growth,” he said, “and is moving in a divergent direction. The time is right for me to leave Colodny Fass after 34 years, as the firm has positioned itself as a nationally renowned insurance regulatory, litigation and lobbying powerhouse and is focusing its plans to expand in insurance-related areas.”

Talenfeld’s latest litigation win was as part of a negotiated $17.5 million settlement with a trio of New York adoption agencies, which helped place 10 special-needs children with a foster mother who tortured and starved them. He was one of the first attorneys in the nation to apply federal civil rights damages laws to recover damages for children injured while in the care of foster homes.

Talenfeld is also a founder of Florida’s Children First, the state’s principal advocacy organization in Tallahassee advocating legislative change to protect at-risk children. He played a major role in writing a law signed by Gov. Rick Scott this year requiring foster children with special needs to have legal representation.

“I want to build the first children’s rights law firm in Florida representing children who are disabled or abused,” said Talenfeld, adding he will continue doing a considerable amount of pro bono work. When asked whether he felt the firm would be profitable, Talenfeld said, “I’m very hopeful.”

Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich had worked closely with Talenfeld over the years on a number of children’s issues. She told the Business Review that she was not surprised by his move.

“A large law firm has lots of masters, and sometimes I think they can cause conflicts,” Rich said. “Howard has made it clear through what he’s doing legally and his volunteer efforts that he wants to devote all his time and energy to protecting children.

“He’s really devoting his life to that,” she added. “I think he needs to be in a place where he can do that unimpeded.”

The re-launching of the firm under the new, shorter name, Colodny Fass, will officially take place November 1.

“This is an exciting time for our firm as we move into the future with a new name and an enhanced team with added expertise and enthusiasm,” said partner Joel Fass. “Our clients know they can continue to rely on us for the finest counsel available anywhere.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.