Ed Patricoff Jr. ’82, ’85 (JD): Laying Down the Law Around the World
Vladimir Putin’s oligarchs were no match for attorney Ed Patricoff Jr., a Stetson alumnus whose international business-law skills have led him to court battles and complex negotiations involving more than 50 countries.
Patricoff, who graduated in 1982 with degrees in political science and biology, and from Stetson Law in 1985, led a Russian-born client through a court showdown with Russian authorities.
Also, Patricoff took on, and beat, the U.S. Treasury Department.
Plus, he flew to Japan eight days after the tsunami-fueled Fukushima nuclear disaster to conduct contract negotiations for two emergency power plants to be built.
Patricoff says those cases are among “the most satisfying” of his 36-year career, which since graduation has been at the Miami office of the law firm Shutts & Bowen LLP, where he is a partner and co-chair of the firm’s International Dispute Resolution Practice.
Patricoff credits his Stetson education with supplying him the knowledge and insights to be a successful lawyer.
“I couldn’t have gotten a better education,’” he says. “I’m still applying the knowledge those professors gave me 35, 40 years ago. Students will say, ‘Why am I taking psychology? Why am I taking humanities?’ I’m not a psychologist, but I’ve used psychology often to help me resolve lawsuits and give clients legal advice.”
Harold Edward “Ed” Patricoff Jr. became interested in the law as a youngster growing up in Miami and “watching Perry Mason on TV,” he remembers. “The justice system was intriguing to me.”
He graduated from Northwest Christian Academy in 1977, where he was valedictorian and voted the most valuable player on the basketball team. His coach was a fan of Stetson men’s basketball coach Glenn Wilkes Sr., and recommended that Patricoff attend the university.
Patricoff, who didn’t play basketball at Stetson, began as a political science major. However, his roommate, a biology major studying to be a doctor, “would taunt me — ‘Those liberal arts classes are so easy, but if you were in the science department you’d see what school is all about,’” Patricoff says.
The poli-sci major took up the gauntlet and enrolled in Biology 101 for majors “and fell in love with it.”
Patricoff credits “two amazing professors” with steering him toward his double degree: T. Wayne Bailey, PhD, then-chair of the Political Science Department, and Keith Hansen, PhD, a professor of biology, “who was a mentor and friend,” Patricoff notes.
Eventually, Patricoff added biology as a major and became “very conflicted about whether to go to medical school or law school.”
His interest in “international matters” was spurred by a comparative politics course taught by Professor Gary Maris, PhD.
Upon graduation, Patricoff applied to both law and medical schools. When his girlfriend and soon-to-be-wife, Stetson alumna Tracey Irey ’83, decided to attend medical school in Tampa, Patricoff thought “we didn’t need two doctors in the same family.” He then enrolled at Stetson Law.
One client grateful for Patricoff’s decision was that Russian-born business entrepreneur.
“He was in the process of immigrating to the U.S., but he still had business interests in Russia,” Patricoff says. “When you’re in the upper Russian business circle, you’re always tied into the Putin net of oligarchs. So, it’s almost impossible to escape that.”
The case, according to Patricoff, was both “very challenging” and “frightening at times.”
“A lot of people in this gentleman’s situation end up in jail for life and some even end up dead,” Patricoff explains. “I helped get him back to the U.S. safely and then defeated his enemies in court in New York. The client said, ‘You saved my life, literally.’”
Another “incredibly satisfying” case involved a Miami-based aviation fuel company that was owed money for a sale to a Peruvian airline. When the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which mandates trade sanctions in support of U.S. security and foreign policy interests, blocked access to the airline’s funds, Patricoff’s legal maneuvering began. Ultimately, he and his legal team prevailed.
The case marked the first time the Office of Foreign Assets Control was successfully sued to unblock funds.
In 2011, an energy company asked Patricoff to fly to Japan eight days after an earthquake and tsunami caused the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. His mission: negotiate with the Japanese electric company to build two emergency power plants.
“I lived through quite a few aftershocks — one was 6.7 on the Richter scale,” Patricoff says. “The client built two emergency power plants in 60 days to help relieve the energy crisis. The people in Japan were so grateful that we came.”
Remaining a Hatter
Patricoff has maintained strong ties to Stetson. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the School of Business Administration, and his son Nicholas, from a second marriage, is a senior at the university.
Rina Tovar Arroyo, Stetson’s assistant vice president for Development, Parent and Alumni Engagement, describes Patricoff as an “incredible resource” for many students and young alumni seeking career advice and networking.
“With Ed’s background in international law, he’s been especially helpful with students interested in the profession, as well as international students looking for guidance and connections,” Arroyo says. “His deep understanding of and respect for vastly differing global cultures is a true testament to his wisdom.”
Of course, Patricoff, who speaks Spanish and has been married since 2016 to his third wife, Nelea, an Italian-born lawyer, finds time for life away from work, too. He enjoys snorkeling, spearfishing, snow skiing, hiking, horseback riding and “anything that involves the outdoors and gets me back to my biology roots,” he says.
Yet, Patricoff’s passion for international law shows no signs of letting up. He recently taught a seminar for U.S. bankers that surveyed securities and lending laws worldwide.
The time-consuming research was “an opportunity to get educated on the laws of 30 countries,” Patricoff comments before concluding: “Which makes me a better and smarter lawyer, right?”
-Rick de Yampert