Lawyerly Lairs

What lies behind this door?

On New York’s Upper East Side, just down the street from my high school, sits a magnificent mansion. As my classmates and I walked past on our way to gym class in Central Park, I’d wonder: who lives at 7 East 84th Street?

A titan of finance, like a bulge-bracket banker or a hedge-fund god? The CEO of a Fortune 100 company? A reclusive heir or heiress?

Actually, no. It’s the home of a landlord/tenant lawyer. And not even a landlord-side lawyer, but a champion of tenants’ rights.

The scourge of New York City landlords is a lord himself — with a $30 million castle. Can you believe it?

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50 Riverside Drive

Last month, we brought you a Davis Polk fairy tale. Two talented lawyers met at the elite law firm, fell in love, and got married. They lived happily after, in their $6 million apartment (until they sold the apartment to a celebrated Chinese artist).

Now it’s time for the Sullivan & Cromwell version. For some lawyers who work there, S&C sends them into therapy; for others, it sends them into the arms of a beloved.

This couple met at Sullivan & Cromwell, got together, and bought an apartment at 50 Riverside Drive, a beautiful prewar co-op on the Upper West Side. They renovated the place — doing a lovely job, I might add — and then sold it for more than $3 million….

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One of the most magnificent homes we have ever covered in Lawyerly Lairs is the Manhattan mansion owned by the late Professor Hans Smit of Columbia Law School. Professors at NYU Law School, Columbia’s downtown rival, enjoy some pretty sweet real estate. But how many of them own a 12,000-square-foot house with its own Wikipedia entry?

Back in 2006, Professor Smit put his mansion on the market for $29 million. In 2007, he raised the price to $30 million. In 2008 — before the collapse of Lehman and the financial meltdown — he turned down a $20 million offer.

After being on and off the market for the past seven years, the house finally sold. For how much?

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor has earned millions of dollars in royalties from her bestselling book, My Beloved World (affiliate link). Maybe it’s time for her to upgrade from that perfectly nice but far from lavish D.C. condo.

But she’s still far from being able to purchase the home of her former boss, George Pavia, who hired Sotomayor after she left the Manhattan District Attorney’s office (and later promoted her to partner). The patrician Pavia, managing partner of the Pavia & Harcourt boutique firm, just sold his magnificent townhouse on the Upper East Side for $19.5 million.

Pavia’s former residence is an elegant five-story, red-brick, neo-Georgian townhouse. It sits on a quiet, tree-lined block between Fifth and Madison Avenues, just steps away from Central Park and luxury shopping.

It would be many a Manhattanite’s dream home. But it actually comes with a nightmarish history….

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Judge Judy makes partners look like paupers.

Don’t pee on her leg and tell her it’s raining (affiliate link). Instead, relieve yourself inside the powder room of Judge Judy’s former pied-à-terre.

Maybe it has a gold-plated urinal? If it doesn’t, it should. Isn’t $8.5 million for two bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms a bit steep?

Also steep: the $17,411 a month in common charges. That’s right, common charges, maintenance — not the mortgage, not the real estate taxes.

But the Honorable Judith Sheindlin, better known as “Judge Judy,” can afford it. How much does she make a year? And just how fabulous is this judicial diva’s former courtroom in the sky?

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Peter Madoff (via Getty Images)

You can call notorious Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff many things, but thankfully you can’t call him a lawyer. Although he has gotten to know the law quite well over the years, thanks to his journey through the legal system, Bernie Madoff has no formal legal training law degree.

[UPDATE (6:40 p.m.): As noted in the comments, Madoff briefly attended Brooklyn Law School.]

But Bernie Madoff’s brother, Peter Madoff, is an attorney. Peter graduated from Fordham Law School in 1970 and is a member in good standing of the New York bar, next scheduled to register in October 2014.

Query why Peter Madoff hasn’t been disbarred. In June 2012, he pleaded guilty to numerous federal charges related to his service as “chief compliance officer” of Madoff Securities. In December 2012, he received a sentence of ten years in prison.

Now that Peter Madoff’s in the Big House — FCI Estill, according to the handy BOP Inmate Locator — let’s have a look at the big house he leaves behind. The federal government is trying to sell it for a sizable sum, almost $4.5 million….

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1010 Fifth Avenue is just steps away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (visible in the background).

Biglaw isn’t the only source of big bucks. In fact, some of the wealthiest lawyers in America are plaintiffs’ lawyers who work on their own or in small law firms.

But you don’t need to be a plaintiff-side lawyer from Texas to strike it rich. A partner at an elite litigation boutique in New York just bought an apartment once owned by a famous business mogul.

Let’s see what $12.5 million buys in the Big Apple these days….

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Just outside the window: marble statues of Roman goddesses.

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful Swedish woman. She came to the United States and studied at an elite college and top law school. After graduation, she went to work at Davis Polk — which is where all the beautiful people work.

While at Davis Polk, this blonde beauty met her Prince Charming — an older, extremely successful M&A partner. They got married at a Caribbean resort, and their wedding made the pages of the New York Times (of course). A few years later, she left the firm to become the general counsel to a global investment bank. Unlike many other power couples, they remain married to this day.

Fairy tales can come true. Let’s learn about a remarkable couple, then ogle their castle in the clouds….

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The facade of 1067 Fifth Avenue (via Bridge and Tunnel Club).

Each week, the Big Ticket column in the New York Times real estate section records the most expensive housing deal of the prior week. The most recent column focused on a $16.25 million condo on the 42nd floor of the Trump International Hotel and Tower — a two-bedroom apartment, so that works out to a little more than $8 million per bedroom. Welcome to the world of high-end Manhattan real estate.

The second-place sale, clocking in at $8.325 million, took place across town on the Upper East Side. The apartment in question, once inhabited by a notable New York lawyer, will now welcome a high-ranking partner at a top international law firm.

Oh, and he clerked for the Supreme Court, too. Some people truly do lead charmed lives. And wait until you see the pictures of his new residence….

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I’ve previously mentioned how much I enjoy The Hunt, Joyce Cohen’s weekly column in the New York Times in which she describes the housing search of someone brave enough to take on the NYC real estate market. Prior installments of the column have featured lawyers and even law students.

Last week’s installment featured a lawyer at Quinn Emanuel, who went house hunting with his wife, who works at a test-preparation company. The home they wound up getting would probably be viewed as bike storage by John Quinn, but it’s plenty nice by the standards of mere mortals.

How much did they pay, and how much space did they get? Would you be impressed if I told you they got 1,500 square feet for less than $750,000?

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