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Lawyerly Lairs: Retired Skadden Partner ‘Downsizes’ to $3 Million Penthouse

Contrary to popular belief, many lawyers who toil in Biglaw actually enjoy what they do. This is especially true of partners (as opposed to associates who just pass through on their way to in-house or government opportunities). Some partners enjoy their work so much that they’d do it for free — or at least for much less than the millions they typically receive.

Of course, even if you find fulfillment in the work you do as a law firm partner, you can’t deny that the other benefits are nice. Being a Biglaw partner certainly allows you to provide an upscale lifestyle for your family. And it might permit you to enjoy an early retirement for yourself.

When you earn millions of dollars a year in partner profits, with lucrative retirement benefits on top of that (assuming your firm doesn’t do a Dewey), you don’t need to work until you’re 65 or 70. Instead, you can get an early start on your golden years, pursuing all of the hobbies and interests that you never had the chance to explore while billing 2000-plus hours a year.

That’s exactly what a retired Skadden corporate partner, James Freund, has been doing. Freund, who is now 77, retired from SASMF back in 1996, around the age of 61 (a little early, but not hugely so).

A few years ago, Freund scaled back his lifestyle. He traded in his $5 million townhouse for an apartment — one that cost a mere $3 million. Being a retired Skadden M&A partner is a tough life, but somebody’s got to live it….

James Freund

This past weekend, the Habitats column of the New York Times checked out the lawyerly lair of Jim Freund and his wife, prominent real estate agent Barbara Fox, founder of Fox Residential Group. The title of the Times piece: “Downsized, With Penthouse.”

Why the word “downsized”? Because Freund and Fox previously occupied an entire townhouse on the Upper West Side, 55 West 73rd Street, which encompassed 7,000 square feet spread out over several floors.

Check it out, via Google (click to enlarge):

55 West 73rd Street: this is where they used to live.

This would be a dream house for many, but Barbara Fox found it less than ideal. As she complained to the Times back in 2007:

“You hate when you come home from a trip with a lot of luggage and have to drag it up the stairs, or you’re in a huge hurry to leave and you have to run back up to the third or fourth floor dressed up in high-heeled shoes because you’ve forgotten something,” said Barbara Fox, president of Fox Residential Group, who lived for two decades with her husband, James Freund, in a 7,000-square-foot town house on West 73rd Street near Central Park. “And you hate when you have to have repairs because there’s always got to be somebody there to answer the door.”

Tired of acting like a property manager in a house several times bigger than the three or four rooms she and her husband actually used, Ms. Fox gleefully exchanged her “albatross” for a penthouse in a full-service Upper East Side co-op two years ago. “I just got tired of not having the services that made life simpler for me,” she said.

Barbara Fox

Having to lug your Louis Vuitton luggage up a flight of stairs? Not having a white-gloved doorman to wait upon you? Can anyone say #richpeopleproblems?

But hey, #richpeopleproblems are still problems. Troubled by the lack of amenities, Fox and Freund sold their townhouse for $5.4 million in 2006. They then moved into what the Times describes as “a small two-bedroom penthouse on East 79th Street, for which they paid about $3 million.”

For the record, although this downsizing freed up lots of extra cash for the couple, there’s no indication that it was prompted by financial necessity. It seems they just didn’t need 7,000 square feet and wanted to “de-clutter” a bit. From the NYT:

[B]y 2005, both agreed that the time had come to make a change. That year they bought a small two-bedroom penthouse on East 79th Street, for which they paid about $3 million. Making a valiant effort to downsize, Mr. Freund shed decades’ worth of possessions and memorabilia. He also rented a small office and put much of his stuff in storage.

Let’s take a look at the couple’s current home, shall we?

(hidden for your protection)

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