Real Estate

Julius Towers

Our latest Lawyerly Lairs column is about a gay Filipino lawyer’s hunt for a new home on the island of Manhattan. (No, it’s not about me; I’m quite happy where I am, and I don’t own any dogs.)

Julius Towers, a 36-year-old intellectual property lawyer for Colgate-Palmolive, recently relocated from Queens to Manhattan. His search was complicated by a couple of canines: Felix, a Shiba Inu, and Athena, a golden retriever-poodle cross.

What was Towers’s budget, and where exactly did he wind up?

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People in business over the internet like to act like what they are doing is so new and exciting and technologically advanced that the “old rules” no longer apply. Sometimes that’s true (chances are my two-year-old will never know what a “newspaper” is). Sometimes it’s not (paperless office my ass).

But old laws always still apply. Stealing cable (another thing my kid will probably not use) is stealing cable even if you are paying somebody else to steal the cable for you.

For instance, when you rent out your place to somebody else, you become a landlord. It doesn’t matter if you rent it out through AirBnB. AirBnB is just a travel agent (this post should be in a time capsule) with an impressive roster of vacation rentals….

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Bruce Stachenfeld

“Low overhead is great!” That is one of our sayings. We recite it all the time — yes, even out loud at meetings — as it is a powerful competitive advantage for a law firm. It seems pretty obvious, but if so, why doesn’t everyone get with this concept?

There is a term informally used to describe how overhead impacts a law firm called “Implied Overhead.” The “Implied Overhead” of a law firm is the cost of everything except the lawyers divided by the number of lawyers. So if you have 50 lawyers and the cost of “everything” except the lawyers is $10,000,000, then you have implied overhead of $200,000 per lawyer.

Our Implied Overhead for last year was about $165,000. Anecdotally I believe that Implied Overhead for major law firms averages about $300,000. (I admit I don’t really have this data for sure; it is just what I have heard.) If your firm has 100 lawyers and implied overhead of $200,000 and the average for major law firms is $300,000, then you have a $100,000 per lawyer competitive advantage over your major law firm competition. Multiply that by 100 lawyers and you just made $10,000,000! And this flows right to the bottom line! If there are, say, 30 partners at this firm, then each partner just got a check for $333,333!

Yikes — did I do that math right? Was that $333,333 per partner merely by reducing the implied overhead?  I just double checked and $10,000,000 divided by 30 partners does indeed equal $333,333. That’s a sizable number, so maybe you should read the rest of my article….

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Chief Judge Loretta Preska

According to Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link), a judicial diva is “a particularly confident, skilled, and physically attractive female judge.” By this definition, Chief Judge Loretta Preska (S.D.N.Y.) is a judicial diva. She is highly regarded, as both a judge and an administrator, and she never looks anything short of fabulous.

I’ve been fascinated by Judge Preska for years. I had this to say about her back in 2004 at my first website, Underneath Their Robes: “Magnificent. Tall, thin, elegant. Great bone structure, perfectly coiffed silver hair. Note to self: nominate for superhotties contest next year?”

This gorgeous judge now owns a gorgeous apartment. Chief Judge Preska and her husband, a partner at one of the nation’s most profitable law firms, just paid almost $9 million for a penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side….

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For several years, I’ve enthusiastically supported co-working as an attractive office option for solos. Working alongside others not only mitigates the isolation of solo practice but offers demonstrated financial benefits: bar studies show that lawyers in shared space earn more than lawyers who work from home or in stand-alone offices. At the same time, co-working is more affordable than traditional full-time office space or many corporate virtual office arrangements and thus enables newer or cash-strapped solos to enjoy the benefits of shared space without substantial overhead.

But this recent post by Posse CEO Rebekah Campbell, for the New York Times You’re the Boss blog of the New York Times, has made me reconsider whether co-working space is right for everyone — particularly lawyers….

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Bruce Stachenfeld

I guess at heart I am a competitor. I want my law firm to be the absolute top law firm in the world – at least in our niche of being The Pure Play in Real Estate Law.

I would like us to be loved by clients — loved by lawyers — incredibly profitable — the greatest law firm that ever hit the legal world. And to do this I need to crush my competition — right?

Or maybe not right. Let’s think about this a bit and see what happens….

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River House

As we roll into the July 4th holiday weekend, it’s a good time for a Lawyerly Lairs post. What could be more American than great real estate? Great real estate once owned by a great American lawyer, in fact?

The River House is one of Manhattan’s most magnificent addresses. This elegant pre-war co-op, offering incredible views of the East River, has been rightly described as “one of the most luxurious, romantic and private apartment buildings ever built.”

As you can see from the building’s Wikipedia entry, its celebrity residents over the years have included Henry Kissinger and Uma Thurman. Legal eagles like Philip Bobbitt and Kermit Roosevelt [sorry, wrong Kermit Roosevelt] have also made their nests here. And this legal eagle, a Paul, Weiss partner whose penthouse is on the market for almost $15 million, might be the most high-flying of them all….

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Hope Solo

* SCOTUS justices’ financial disclosures revealed that none of them received gifts worth reporting in 2013. Either their friends have gotten cheaper, or they have fewer friends. Aww. [Legal Times]

* Here’s a headline we’ve been seeing for years, but people are still ignoring it in small droves: “Jobs Are Still Scarce for New Law School Grads.” The struggle is real. [Businessweek]

* Law schools, in an effort to avoid their own extinction, are all adapting to their new enrollment issues in different ways. We’ll see which was effective in a few years. [U.S. News University Connection]

* Quite the “divorce” train wreck we’ve got here, if only they were legally wed: This lawyer allegedly duped his “wife” into a fake marriage, and is trying to evict her from his $1 million lawyerly lair. [New York Post]

* You may have heard that Hope Solo allegedly assaulted her sister and nephew, but her lawyer says that’s simply not true. It was the drunk soccer star who needed shin guards that night. [Associated Press]

Bruce Stachenfeld

Of all the regrets I have in life, one of my greatest is that I never had the chance to meet Peter Drucker before he died.

Drucker is one of my intellectual heroes. He was able to look at the same world that everyone else was looking at but see things that others couldn’t see. He literally invented a science. And like all science, it is around you from the start but you just can’t see it till someone shows you the way.

The science he invented was the science of “management.” Before Drucker, people just ran things and sometimes good things happened and sometimes bad things — no one really delved too deeply into the “why” of it all. But then along came Drucker, who made order out of chaos and realized that there were principles that, if followed, would increase the likelihood a business would be successful.

All those leadership books you sometimes read, all those “how to” books you sometimes read, all of that thinking evolved from his groundbreaking analysis into the science of “management.” Drucker’s books are utter masterpieces. Indeed, there was an epiphany for me on every single page of his amazing book Management (affiliate link). I think I learned more about how to run my law firm successfully from Drucker than from any other source.

Here are two thoughts from Drucker that hit me like a bolt of lightning when I read them. Honestly, my business — and even my whole life — was never the same again.

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If television producers put up this Craigslist ad because they were casting for a reality show about a bunch of lawyers living in a D.C. house, then this would make sense. Every week, two of the housemates have to argue why they should stay and another should go. People would watch it.

But this isn’t a television producer being polite, this is law graduates being real. A group of self-described, recent law school graduates are looking for another roommate who must also be a recent law grad — preferably one who is clerking or working for a Congressional committee.

It seems like instead of looking for a roommate on Craigslist, they should be using LinkedIn…

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