Law Professors, Law Schools, Lawyerly Lairs, Nauseating Things, Real Estate

Lawyerly Lairs: Professor Smit’s Uptown Mansion

Yesterday we put out a call for submissions for Lawyerly Lairs. We look forward to your responses. In the meantime, here’s some real estate porn that we were able to obtain on our own — since the property in question is for sale.

The Schinasi Mansion is the only freestanding single-family mansion in Manhattan. It dates back to 1909, boasts 12,000 square feet of living space, and sits on swanky Riverside Drive. It is currently on the market for an eye-popping $29,000,000.

Here’s a shot of its French Renaissance, white marble exterior:

hans smit mansion 1.jpg

So who owns this Mother of All Townhouses? A senior partner at a top Biglaw firm — who also married very well? An ex-lawyer who left for the world of finance, to become a managing director at an investment bank or a partner at a successful hedge fund?

hans smit headshot.jpgActually, no. The $29 million mansion is owned by — brace yourselves, people — a legal academic. It’s home to Professor Hans Smit (at right), who teaches civil procedure and international law at Colubmia. Guess those private law school salaries must be pretty good!

Actually, there’s a backstory — and no, Professor Smit didn’t win the $315 million Mega Millions jackpot. Check out the details, as well as more drool-worthy pictures, after the jump.

hans smit mansion 2.jpg

hans smit mansion 3.JPGHere’s an excerpt from the Brown Harris Stevens listing for the property:

The building is 41′ wide and 73′ deep, surrounded by private grounds, and located on a corner lot overlooking the Hudson River. The interior is approximately 12,000 square feet, comprised of four stories plus and English basement. An extraordinary amount of unique original detail has been retained and the mansion has superb views, with luminescent sunlight coming through fabulous stained glass windows. Exterior space is approximately 3,400 square feet, there are numerous fireplaces, a library, and other grand public rooms. Truly a European palazzo.

It also says “Price Upon Request,” but then $29,000,000 appears in the listing information sidebar. Ask and you shall receive.

The New York Sun has more information about the property:

The free-standing landmark… is on the market for $29 million. If it goes for that asking price, which was recently reduced from $31 million, the townhouse will be far-and-away Manhattan’s most expensive residence to be sold above 96th Street, real estate brokers say….

There are 12 bedrooms, eight bathrooms, five kitchens [Ed. note: WHY?], a light-infused fourth-floor studio apartment, a 3,500 square-foot garden, and even a closed-off tunnel that provided the Schinasi family access to Riverside Park across the street.

The Sun also explains how Professor Smit ended up in the house:

Mr. Smit, who hails from Holland, spotted the unusual residence while riding his bicycle [past it, in 1979]…. Soon thereafter, he purchased the university-owned property [for $325,000], and moved in with his wife and two children.

hans smith mansion 4.JPGSo yes, Professor Smith bought the house for much less than $29 million — and then watched its value head for the heavens. But back in 1979, $325,000 was a pretty good-sized chunk of change. Does Professor Smit come from family money?

Speaking of family:

[Professor Smit’s] adult son now lives in the home with his family. Professor Smit still lives there when he is not at his home in upstate New York, or his Chateau in Burgundy, France.

A Burgundy chateau? It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta live it.

And who is the “adult son” lucky enough to live in this ginormous urban chateau? Is he perhaps a starving artist, who couldn’t pursue his passions — or feed his family — without free housing from dear old Dad?

Actually, no. Hold on a sec — are you near a wastebasket lined with a plastic bag? Okay, good. The son’s name is Robert Smit — and he’s a partner at mega-firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Yes, THAT Simpson Thacher — where profits per partner averaged $2.37 million in 2005.

(Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We just puked into our trash can too.)

Before you start thinking hateful thoughts about Robert Smit, we should mention to you that we’ve met him, and he’s actually a pretty nice guy (or so he seemed to us). Smit defended the first deposition that we ever took. He wasn’t feisty and fabulous, like his high-profile colleague Mary Kay Vyskocil; but he was pleasant, professional, and eminently reasonable.

In short, he’s someone you’d want to have on the other side of the conference room table when doing your first depo. Thanks for not being mean to us, Robert!

Riverside Drive Townhouse [Brown Harris Stevens]
For Sale at $29 Million Uptown: A 12-Bedroom, 8-Bath Mansion [New York Sun]
Professor Hans Smit [Columbia Law School]
Robert H. Smit [Simpson Thacher & Bartlett]

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