Harold E. Kaplan ’72, ‘83

Giving Back to the Pace Community

Harold E. Kaplan is a dual degree graduate of Pace University, having received his BBA in 1972 from Pace University, and his JD in 1983 from what was then known as Pace Law. After spending years in hospital administration, Harold reached out to former Pace University President Edward Mortola and began seriously considering law school. Three years later, in 1980, Harold began his law school journey and then in 1983, he graduated and was admitted to the NY Bar, prepared well by the Law School to start his career as a health law attorney. Over the years, Harold has been a generous supporter of both Pace University and the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. Most recently, he endowed a scholarship, the Harold E. Kaplan Health Law and Policy Scholarship, to support students who are passionate about Health Law and Policy. Learn more about Harold, his time spent at Pace, his career, and more in this Q&A.

Can you tell me a bit about your background and undergraduate experience at Pace?

I grew up in Brooklyn and decided I wanted an undergraduate business degree.  Although accepted to several colleges, I liked that Pace was then a small private school, so I attended what was then Pace College, from the fall 1968 to June 1972 and graduated with a BBA with concentrations in Law, Taxation and Economics.

Being a small school, among other things, I became acquainted with Pace President, Edward Mortola.  He was always accessible to students and became a friend.  It was the kind of student experience which endears the student to the school.

Albert Kalter, who taught all the undergraduate taxation courses, was the best professor I had, (and there were many excellent ones).  Federal and state taxation are not the easiest subjects, and he was a great educator who took the time to explain what he was teaching.  He taught his students how to read, interpret and understand the tax code which is not a simple task.  He insisted that students come to class prepared, and you always knew where you stood with him.  If you were unprepared, he asked that the student leave; this only happened once.  He and I became good friends.

Importantly, most of the undergraduate courses I took required a term paper.  After graduating, I attended the University of Ottawa, in Ottawa, Ontario, earning my Master of Health Administration degree.  Given the many required research or term papers I wrote, I was well prepared for graduate school, which required numerous term papers, and to graduate, a research thesis.

Did you always want to be a lawyer?

I had considered it as an undergraduate student, but I also wanted to be a hospital administrator.  When I received a traffic ticket in 1971, I asked for an administrative hearing in Manhattan traffic court and with a little persuading and careful reading of the New York State traffic code, and photographs of the street where the alleged offense occurred, I was found “not guilty”.  The police officer who testified against me wasn’t happy.  At home, my parents encouraged me to go to law school, but I still was more interested in hospital administration.

What was your path to law school and then ultimately to pursuing a law degree? 

In 1974, I began my hospital administration career at a major NYC teaching hospital.  I was negotiating contracts for expensive high tech medical equipment, and when reading purchase contracts, which I often did, I became interested in the law.  When one of my departments had an ongoing dispute over an expensive piece of equipment, I was able to extend the warranty, arguing that the hospital hadn’t accepted the equipment because it didn’t meet the terms of the purchase agreement.  At that point, I began to understand the value of having a law degree.

What made you choose Pace for your law degree?

Pace University was an excellent choice for my college degree and I always thought very highly of the school which had a growing reputation.  In 1977, I spoke with President Edward Mortola about Pace Law , who urged me to apply to its new law school.  Instead, I detoured to Florida to be the Assistant Administrator at a large community hospital.  Shortly thereafter, I decided to go to law school and being in Florida, considered schools in Florida and NY. Applying to Pace Law made sense since I felt that it would provide an excellent legal education.  Once accepted, my wife and I relocated from South Florida to Westchester County.  Of course, three years earlier, Dr. Mortola strongly recommend that I attend Pace Law, and he and Professor Kalter were helpful references.

Who were some of the most memorable professors you had during your time as a law student? 

There were many. Professor Philip Blank who taught legal methods and wills and estates.  Professor Crockett who taught tax law. Professors Doernberg and Zeigler, who had very organized teaching methods and were both excellent educators. Professors John Humbach and Hervey Johnson were both excellent educators and Professor Joseph, who taught several commercial law courses and was always very accessible to students. Professors Ralph Stein and Bartlett as well.   All of these professors were accessible, cared about their students, and left a very positive impression on me. They each had different teaching styles but as a group made being a law student more interesting, a little easier and sometimes fun.

What did you enjoy most about law school?

Considering it my occupation, I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of reading, understanding and briefing cases.  I usually was at the law library when the door was unlocked in the AM which in some ways still felt like going to work.  I long hand briefed every case and doing so, enjoyed sitting in class and putting check marks in my notebook, next to my notes about the key points being made by the professor about the holding, and the facts.  It was a game and being a law student was actually fun.

What lessons from law school stayed with you?

Take your job seriously and do it well.  Don’t automatically rely on others to get the job done if you are supposed to do it yourself. Delegate carefully.

You were a health law attorney for over thirty years, practicing mainly in Florida, what drew you to that area of law? 

Being a former hospital executive, for me, it was natural to become a health lawyer, although I briefly considered taxation law which I was also interested in and was, to my understanding, equally difficult.  At the first firm I worked at in New York City, we represented hospitals.  When I opened my own practice in South Florida, I became an attorney for physicians, physician practices and other licensed health care professionals, since virtually all the hospitals already had representation.

During your time as a health law attorney, what did you find most rewarding and/or challenging about that practice area?

It was very rewarding to represent medical practices which had a wide range of legal issues making the day-to-day practice much more interesting and rewarding.  Whether by good fortune or good lawyering, most of the matters I handled were resolved in my clients’ favor.  I was also very active in the Florida Bar’s Health Law Section which was rewarding.  I was often program chair and spoke at many Florida Bar CLE programs and volunteered for most of the Section’s positions, including ascending to Chair of the Section.

Currently, you provide arbitration services – how does that compare to your law practice?

I took the required Florida one week course to become a Certified Mediator and began mediating disputes.  Shortly thereafter, the American Health Law Association began its ADR service, and recruited attorneys to be mediators and arbitrator.  I started taking arbitration courses and stopped mediating.

Traditionally, arbitration was sought out by commercial disputants to serve as an efficient and final mechanism to resolve disputes, which today still remain key factors for choosing arbitration over traditional litigation.  Arbitration is very different from practicing law, but at its core, you need to be an experienced attorney, sensitive to due process, hearing practice, etc. and most of all assume a leadership role in the arbitration case to avoid delays and make the process as effective and efficient as reasonably possible.  Party’s attorneys usually prefer arbitrators with subject matter knowledge and experience to serve as arbitrators.  Being an arbitrator teaches you to be very quiet about what you are hearing and reading and make carefully considered statements.  With the right arbitrator, arbitration is beneficial to resolving commercial disputes.

You have always been a generous supporter of your alma mater, thank you.  Recently, you endowed a scholarship, the Harold Kaplan Health Law and Policy Scholarship, to support students who are passionate about Health Law and Policy - as an alumnus, why do you feel it is important to give back?

As an undergraduate student, Pace University prepared me well for graduate school, and it didn’t take long to discover that Pace Law equally prepared me well for practicing law.  Overall, the Pace community is very special to me, and I wanted to support its continuing mission, now and in the future.  I also wanted to support law students who have an interest in health law and also take the opportunity to simply show my support for the Law School.

Do you have any advice for current or future law students?

I have lots of advice for current and future law students most of which can only be imparted one on one.  However, future law students should have an understanding of the hard work required to excel in law school and also as a practicing attorney.  Being an attorney and doing it well is not easy.  Law students should enjoy learning about the law and should take sufficient time to read and understand the cases.  It is stimulating to learn about how the law has evolved, and understand that once they are attorneys, they are joining a sacred profession which provides important services to their selected portion of society.  Finally, become active in your bar association, and especially in your area of practice and always network.

What are some of your passions aside from the law?

I have many interests, but I still enjoy giving back. I am a volunteer attorney at Pisgah Legal Services in Asheville, NC, and helping those less fortunate and unable to afford and hire an attorney is very important to me.  There is also a large group of retired volunteer attorneys in Asheville and being part of this group is very rewarding.  I also frequently bike ride and play the piano.  And, most importantly, my wife, my children, and grandchildren, are important to me so I dedicate time to family.