Apparel-Industry Attorneys Ezra and Seigel Launch Mediation Business
Apparel-industry veterans Ben Seigel and Robert Ezra have launched a mediation business tailor-made for the apparel and textile industry.
Fashion Dispute Resolution LLP (FDR) was founded to help apparel and textile companies resolve disputes that might otherwise be headed to court.
Seigel is a shareholder at Los Angeles law firm Buchalter Nemer, and Robert Ezra is a senior partner at Ezra Brutzkus Gubner LLP in Woodland Hills, Calif.
Ezra and Seigel have decades of industry experience. While earning his law degree, Ezra served as a loan officer at Manufacturers Bank in downtown Los Angeles, where learned all aspects of textile and apparel production. Later, he co-owned a T-shirt business in Los Angeles. Seigel spent 13 years at Standard Infants and Childrenswear, a manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler and retailer with a manufacturing plant. He has held a wide range of positions in the industry, from warehouse manager, salesman and sales manager to credit manager and chief financial officer. Both Ezra and Seigel are certified mediators.
At their respective firms, the two have represented designers, apparel manufacturers, retailers, textile manufacturers, salespeople, factors and banks.
“Ben Seigel and I are the only two trained and certified mediators who practice in the Los Angeles garment and textile communities. Additionally, Ben and I have actual garment and textile experience as business owners,” Ezra said. “If someone comes to mediation with a shading problem, I know what they’re talking about. Or, if the goods are brittle or the hand is wrong, you do not have to explain that to me. That understanding of garment and textile manufacturing are second nature to Ben and I and are not available to the general mediation bar.”
State budget cuts have led to a backlog of cases at Superior Courts, leading to trial and hearing delays, Seigel said.
“The cost of litigation has risen tremendously in recent years because of what’s called e-discovery and other procedural matters,” he said. “So litigation is pretty much left to those who are fairly wealthy to pay attorney’s fees and who are very patient to be able to wait to get to a trial. It makes mediation an extremely viable alternative.”
The budget crisis has forced the court to eliminate its voluntary mediation program, but still many lawsuits filed in Los Angeles County in state and federal court will be ordered to mediation. While there are large mediation firms, such as JAMS and ADR Services Inc., FDR will draw on Seigel’s and Ezra’s knowledge of the industry to help resolve disputes quickly and cost-effectively.
“When a case is presented in mediation, my job is to try to resolve their dispute as quickly and inexpensively as possible,” Ezra said. “Although populated by many companies, the garment industry is nonetheless a small community of which Ben and I have intimate knowledge. Unfortunately, the industry is one where disputes regularly arise. Relying on our own training as mediators, our decades of legal experience and our familiarity with the industry, we are able to resolve those disputes in the most economical fashion available, without the delay of court, so they can go back to making money.”
Mediation is especially important for the apparel industry because of the technical aspect of many of the disputes, Seigel said.
“When you’re talking about whether the thread count of a piece of fabric is as ordered or whether there’s color fading, many lawyers and judges would have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said. “There’s so many technical terms in the textile and apparel industry that in order to fully understand it, one must have been in the apparel industry—or be so closely related to it that they can understand what these disputes are about and come up with very practical solutions that don’t involve years of litigation and depositions and interrogatories and requests for admission and all the stuff that goes along with litigation.”
On the FDR website (www.fdr-mediation.com), Ezra and Seigel have outlined a few case studies to demonstrate how typical apparel-industry cases can be settled through mediation—often in ways that a court cannot.
“In mediation, we are not attempting to determine which parties are right or wrong but, rather, help them come to a resolution. Those resolutions can have broad parameters and are extremely flexible,” Ezra said. “For example, in mediation, a dispute between a manufacturer and a textile supplier can be resolved by negotiating a discount for the manufacturer on future orders placed with the textile supplier,” he said.
“The fabric [maker] says, ‘I can make some money on that and I get out of my lawsuit,’ ” Ezra said. “That resolution is not available in a courtroom.”
Both Ezra and Seigel will continue to represent clients at their respective firms. For more information, contact Ezra at (818) 827-9000 and Seigel at (213) 891-5006.