Lawyerly Lairs

D.C.’s largest lawyerly lair?

A few days ago, conservative political bloggers had some fun with the news of left-leaning commentator Matthew Yglesias buying a $1.2 million condo. But I tend to agree with Jonathan Chait: unless you’re a full-blown communist, there’s nothing inconsistent between being somewhat liberal and owning a nice place. I don’t even have a problem with so-called “limousine liberals” (although owning a $1.2 million apartment is hardly limousine land).

The news of Yglesias’s real estate purchase first appeared in Washingtonian magazine, which has fantastic coverage of the D.C. real estate market. The same column also contained news of several lawyers cutting seven-figure housing deals….

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“Where do I sit?” seems like an important question. Especially for second-graders on the first day of school. Or for zit-spocked high schoolers angling to spend some class time in the proximity of their crushes. And just like second-graders or hormonal high schoolers, Biglaw partners are known to obsess about their office locations. For example, I have seen partners I used to work for studying the floor plan like a treasure map, for uncomfortably long periods of time.

Surely they were mentally imagining their names transposed over a corner office, or next door to the big conference room, or for the real aspirants, within touching distance of the managing partner’s office. While this behavior is strange when taken to the extreme, it highlights an important reality of Biglaw.

Where you sit, matters….

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Justice Sotomayor can be seen everywhere — from First Street to U Street to Sesame Street.

I had the pleasure and honor of meeting then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor, at the time a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, at a friend’s wedding in the spring of 2005. I wrote a quick story about it for my first blog, Underneath Their Robes. I praised Her Honor as “striking,” “glamorous,” and stylishly attired: “Based on her fashion sense, it sounds like she’d be more at home on a Paris runway!”

But what really struck me about Judge Sotomayor was how friendly and down-to-earth she was. She chatted amiably with everyone, just like an ordinary guest; she put on no Article III airs. And when the time came to cut the rug, she and Judge Barbara Jones — then of the S.D.N.Y., now of Zuckerman Spaeder — dominated the ballroom like it was their courtroom.

Now the rest of the nation is seeing the Sonia Sotomayor that I briefly glimpsed almost eight year ago. As reflected in recent media coverage, the Wise Latina is truly America’s judicial sweetheart. And super-nice to the neighbors in her U Street condo building — who have all sorts of fun dish on the justice….

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Behind the blue door lies a world of great beauty.

You’d expect a top mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer to have excellent business sense. So it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that an M&A partner at a leading law firm bought a Manhattan townhouse for $837,000 that is now probably worth more than $7 million.

It’s a gorgeous home, very tastefully decorated (which can’t be said of all our Lawyerly Lairs). Let’s see some pictures and learn more about it, including the identities of the owners….

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The Beresford, at 211 Central Park West.

Renowned diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who came very close to becoming Secretary of State, passed away in December 2010. His wife, noted journalist Kati Marton, recently sold the magnificent apartment they shared at the Beresford, the legendary prewar co-op on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Over the years, as noted in the building’s Wikipedia entry, the Beresford has been called home by such celebrities as “comedian Jerry Seinfeld, singer Diana Ross, tennis player John McEnroe, Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit, actor Tony Randall, and musician Laura Nyro.” (I was going to say that Nyro’s publicist must be a Wikipedia admin, but it seems that Nyro passed away back in 1997.)

UPDATE (1/16/2013, 11:45 AM): We just heard from a longtime Beresford resident who advises us that Diana Ross never lived in the building (although the Diana Ross Playground is across the street).

Now the Beresford will be graced by a former Biglaw partner, who bought Holbrooke’s home for an eight-figure sum. Sharing an elevator with Jerry Seinfeld will be….

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In 1853, in Chicago, Frederick Hampden Winston founded the law firm that would eventually become Winston & Strawn. Today Winston is a global giant, with approximately 1,000 lawyers practicing in 15 offices around the world.

As you might expect from the founder of one of the world’s great law firms, Frederick Winston was an impressive individual. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1852. His first law partner, Norman Judd, was the delegate who nominated Abraham Lincoln at the 1860 Republican National Convention. His next law partner, after Judd became President Lincoln’s ambassador to Germany, was Henry Blodgett — no, not that Henry Blodget (one “t” versus two) — who later served as a federal judge. In 1894, Frederick Winston became law partners with Silas Strawn — and the rest, as the say, is history.

If you’d like to own a piece of history, you can purchase the 1896 mansion that was built for Frederick Winston. It’s now on the market, for just under $10 million.

No, this is not an apartment building (although it could be converted into one). It’s a single-family house — the house that Winston built….

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Behind door number one, an actress turned lawyer.

When I receive the sections of the Sunday New York Times that get delivered on Saturday, the first one I reach for is Real Estate. And one of the first features I read is The Hunt, Joyce Cohen’s delightful column chronicling the victories and defeats of those who dare to take on the New York City real estate market.

A recent installment of The Hunt featured a lawyer who was previously a movie star. With two daughters and a penchant for entertaining, she and her husband had outgrown their three-bedroom condominium on the Upper East Side. They wanted a townhouse. But with a budget of no more than $2 million, they had their work cut out for them.

Who is the actress turned attorney — a star of one of the most iconic films of the 1990s, in fact — and where is her new home?

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(Or: An actress turned lawyer’s uptown abode.)”

Steven Guynn

Back in March, we wrote about Steven Guynn, who at the time was a corporate partner at King & Spalding. Above the Law readers who work at K&S are happy campers, giving the firm a solid grade of B+ in our Career Center. Alas, the allegations against Guynn would seem to merit an F. As you may recall, Guynn was accused of assaulting his alleged mistress, Jeannette Schaefer.

Today we have some updates about Steve Guynn (all via Teri Buhl). First, Guynn is reportedly getting divorced from his wife, Kristie Guynn. Second, the criminal case against him no longer appears in the online docket for the Connecticut courts (perhaps because it has been moved to a domestic violence docket). Third, he is no longer at King & Spalding.

(We reached out to King & Spalding to confirm Guynn’s departure from the firm. They did not respond to our inquiry, but Guynn’s bio has been pulled from the firm website. Here is a cached version, which shows Guynn’s impressive educational and professional background, including the two other top firms where he was once a partner.)

The allegations against Steven Guynn have never been proven. But here is one thing established beyond a reasonable doubt: his multimillion-dollar mansion is fit for royalty. Shall we take a peek?

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Now THIS is a mansion.

In the world of Manhattan real estate, life begins at $1 million. Sure, you can get a very nice studio or one-bedroom apartment for six figures. But if you’re looking for at least two bedrooms and two baths, in a decent part of town, be prepared to pay the mansion tax (although a 1,200-square-foot apartment is hardly a “mansion”).

In today’s edition of Lawyerly Lairs, we’ll present you with two apartments, both priced between $1 million and $2 million. Then we’ll ask you to vote in a reader poll and say which one you prefer. We’re all about interactivity here at Above the Law.

Now, on to our first contestant….

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I told careful readers six months ago that I would soon be moving to London. I made the move on September 1, and here’s the local news:

Senior partners at major London law firms can’t afford to live!

Well, not quite: But senior partners at many major London law firms can’t afford to live in London itself.

I recently had lunch with — prepare yourself — a senior partner at a major London law firm. When I told him where I was now living, he said that it was nice that my commute would be so short:

“Twenty years ago, the senior partners at most big law firms lived in London. But today, unless you have inherited wealth or bought your home long ago, most senior partners at London firms can’t afford to live anywhere near the City. Partner pay just won’t cover the cost.”

As an expatriate American, this startled me: I’m confident there’s no American city where senior partners at major law firms can’t afford local real estate. But in London, this has the ring of truth to it. From an American’s perspective, everything in London is nauseatingly expensive (or “quite dear,” as the locals so quaintly put it). But the cost of housing goes far beyond “nauseatingly expensive”; it’s eye-poppingly, grab-your-chest-and-drop-to-the-ground, out of sight. It leaves partner pay in the dust. Here’s what I mean . . . .

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