Now that law school is back in session, students are once again paying attention to those poorly-dressed people standing at the front of the room (assuming they’re not focused on their laptops, where they read ESPN.com and ATL). And even if their law professors’ wardrobes are underwhelming, students can always marvel at their brilliance and erudition.
And maybe at their real estate holdings, too. Although legal academic salaries fall well short of Biglaw partner profits, a surprising number of law professors live in luxurious homes, as revealed in past installments of Lawyerly Lairs:
* Professor Sarah Cleveland, a recent addition to the Columbia faculty, lives in a $2.4 million, five-level townhouse.
* Her senior colleague, Professor Hans Smit, also calls a townhouse home — but a townhouse worth over ten times as much, on the market for $29 million.
The latest addition to these ranks: James Q. Whitman, the Ford Foundation professor of comparative and foreign law at Yale Law School. Professor Whitman recently dropped $5.7 million on a New York co-op formerly owned by actor Treat Williams (pictured above right — the apartment, not the actor).
More details, including photos, after the jump.
(We tried to contact Professor Whitman for this piece, but he didn’t get back to us. Much of this post is based on information received from former Yale students.)
Like a number of Yale professors, Professor Whitman lives in New York and commutes up to New Haven. New Haven is perfectly pleasant, but it doesn’t boast $6 million luxury apartments.
Not surprisingly, Professor Whitman’s home purchase made the pages of the
New York Times:
James Q. Whitman, the Ford Foundation professor of comparative and foreign law at Yale Law School, beat out half a dozen other bidders to snap up a co-op described as a “state of the art prewar classic celebrity penthouse.” The apartment was listed by Wendy Maitland, a broker at Brown Harris Stevens.
It was the 2,700-square-foot, four-bedroom home owned by the actor Treat Williams, who obligingly appeared in listing photographs.
We love it when apartments go from the hands of one celebrity to another. And Professor Whitman and Treat Williams are, in their respective spheres, celebrities of similar magnitude. They’re not exactly A-List, a la Bruce Ackerman or Tom Cruise, but they’re perfectly respectable and successful.
One former student of Professor Whitman describes him as a “ferociously smart and charming guy,” with “bona fide scholarly credentials.” These include a JD from Yale, a PhD from Chicago, two books (with a third forthcoming), and a slew of publications in prestigious journals.
But who cares about all that? Back to the real estate porn!
Although brokers have been known to exaggerate the value of an apartment to get a listing, Ms. Maitland’s listing price of $4.75 million for the 10th-floor co-op on West 78th Street off Amsterdam Avenue turned out to be on the low side, even though, she said, she provided the highest estimated value of several brokers who competed for the listing.
“One of the other brokers told me that I was crazy and that I would never get that for it,” she said.
But Ms. Maitland said that she had two offers by the end of the first day, and that by the end of the week, she and Mr. Williams decided to ask each potential buyer to submit a “best and final offer.” Mr. Whitman won, and paid $5.7 million, 20 percent above the asking price, according to property records. The second bidder was close behind, Ms. Maitland said.
Wow — Professor Whitman paid almost a million dollars above asking? The law professors among you might be thinking right now, “Boy do I need to lateral over to Yale.”
But you’ll need more than a YLS professor’s salary to afford digs like this. From a former student of Professor Whitman:
One wouldn’t guess from his general demeanor that he is terrifically wealthy – it’s not like he swanked around the law school with a diamond-tipped cane or anything…. But I did hear rumors (I forget the source) that either he comes from money or his wife does.
That’s right. Both Professor and Mrs. Whitman come from affluent backgrounds.
As you can see from their NYT wedding announcement, Professor Whitman’s wife, Deborah Weiss, is the daughter of a prominent doctor.
Correction: Upon information and belief, Professor Whitman and Deborah Weiss are no longer married.
Professor Whitman comes from serious money. His father, Martin Whitman, is a highly successful hedge fund manager (and professor at the Yale School of Management).
We’ll close with a humorous anecdote from “Tabby Covenanter,” a former Whitman student:
[M]y favorite memory of Whitman comes from his class on The History of Western Civilization and the Law. For some reason, a member of the ABA accreditation team assigned to YLS decided to sit in on Whitman’s class. On that particular day, for the duration of the class, Whitman discussed the vaginal symbolism of cowrie shells in the ancient world. I couldn’t help but wonder YLS might lose its accreditation status on the basis of the fact that classes had nothing to do with, well, The Law.
But if that’s a basis for losing accreditation, shouldn’t Yale have lost it years ago?
P.S. We realize this transaction happened some time ago. But as far as we know, it hasn’t been covered in other legal blogs — so we figure it’s fair game. And since you decided to read this far, presumably it’s news to you too.
P.P.S. We’re slightly annoyed that the Boston magazine article about Feldsuk doesn’t name-check us, but simply refers to us as “legal bloggers” (even though they use our Feldsuk moniker in the subhed).
Actor Treat Williams sells NYC penthouse for $5.7M–almost $1M over his asking price [Big Time Listings]
Actor Treat Williams Lists His Manhattan Penthouse [RealEstateJournal.com]
Big Man on Campus [Boston Magazine]
Luxury Market Still Hot [New York Times]