Real Estate

Sherry Netherland hotel condominium.jpgIn between Christmas and New Year’s, while most of us were stuffing our faces, celebrated litigator David Boies was stuffing his own stocking — with a magnificent New York apartment. Last year was a good one for Boies Schiller associates, at least based on their bonuses. And it probably was a good one for their boss, at least based on his latest real estate purchase.

There’s no need for Boies to feel guilty, though, since it seems he got a bargain. From Bloomberg:

David Boies, the antitrust lawyer who took on Microsoft Corp. and represented Al Gore in the contested U.S. presidential election of 2000, bought a seven room apartment overlooking New York’s Central Park for $7.75 million after the price was reduced by more than 20 percent.

Boies, chairman and founder of New York-based law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, purchased a two-bedroom unit at the Sherry-Netherland hotel on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, according to city property records. The original asking price was $9.95 million, according to listing service StreetEasy.com.

More details, plus photos of the fabulous pad, after the jump.

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The legendary litigator snaps up an $8 million apartment.

New York Times NYT newspaper.jpgIf you happen to be on the frigid East Coast today, currently experiencing the coldest temperatures of the season, grab yourself a cup of cocoa and a copy of the Sunday New York Times. The NYT often has articles of interest to a legal audience, but this weekend’s edition has an especially high number of stories either by or about the boldface names of the legal profession. To wit:
John Yoo John C Yoo John Choon Yoo law professor.jpg1. Power of Attorney: Questions for John Yoo. Deborah Solomon interviews John Yoo, the Berkeley law professor perhaps most well-known for his authorship of the so-called “torture memos.” Considering her liberal politics and modus operandi as an interviewer — we’ve previously described her as “snarky, cranky, exceedingly direct” — we were expecting her to go to town on Yoo.
But Professor Yoo actually comes across very well in the short Q-and-A (and is looking newly svelte in the accompanying photo). He’s smart, funny, and charming — not a surprise to us, based on our personal interactions with him, but perhaps a surprise to some who know only the cartoon villain depicted by the mainstream media.
2. The 30-Minute Interview: Jonathan L. Mechanic. An interesting interview with real estate super-lawyer Jonathan Mechanic, chairman of the real estate department of Fried Frank (and previously profiled here). We learn that Mechanic, in addition to being a top real estate attorney, is also a real estate investor: he owns retail and commercial properties in Bergen County, NJ (where we grew up).
Three more stories, after the jump.

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John OBrien John J OBrien headshot Sullcrom Sullivan Cromwell partner.jpgBack in April, we wondered about the departure from Sullivan & Cromwell of John O’Brien, a highly regarded and well-liked corporate partner who focused on M&A work. This development captured our interest because it’s unusual for lawyers to leave the (highly lucrative) partnership of a top firm like S&C.

When partners leave a place like Sullivan & Cromwell, there’s often a story behind the departure. E.g., Carlos Spinelli-Noseda (partner left S&C after billing clients and firm for more than $500,000 in fraudulent travel and entertainment expenses).

In addition, word on the street was that O’Brien was escorted from the building by security personnel. Partners are being asked to leave their firms with increasing frequency during the recession — but they’re not usually walked out by muscle.

So we decided to do a little digging.

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Paul Weiss 1285 6th ave.jpgYou know who is in a strong position right now? Companies that are renting a large amount of office space in Manhattan. The real estate market is terrible, and landlords are offering sweetheart deals to keep tenants in the building.
Paul Weiss was apparently looking for an office upgrade, but the owners of 1285 6th Ave. convinced the firm to stick around. Crain’s New York Business reports:

In one of the largest real estate deals of the year, law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison reached a deal to renew its lease and take an additional two floors at 1285 Sixth Ave. for a total of about 550,000 square feet, sources close to the transaction said.

That doesn’t sound like a bad deal. It’s one that will save the firm the expense of relocation. And the fact that Paul Weiss is getting extra floors can’t be a bad thing, right? Maybe they’ll have to hire more lawyers for that additional space?
Paul Weiss had a lot of options for office space. After the jump, we look at the midtown ghost town.

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Christina Ambers lawsuit co-op.jpgYesterday I had the quintessential New York City moment. At the bodega around the corner from Breaking Media’s lavish Nolita office, the bodega’s proprietor engaged me and two other people in a conversation involving three languages. I was speaking English, another guy was speaking Spanish, and I believe the third woman was speaking Portuguese, and the bodega owner was talking to all of us and translating where necessary.
I love this town!
I would have loved this conversation if we had been talking about dog poop. But instead the four of us were talking about a lawsuit that New Yorkers have been buzzing about all day. The cover story in yesterday’s Daily News involves a pretty lady (pictured) suing her co-op board:

Christina Ambers, once dubbed the “Heidi Klum of foot models,” says a romance with her porter-turned-husband, Angel Rotger, turned her into a pariah among workers at 340 E. 74th St., who made her hail taxis and retrieve packages on her own.
“I hope that people can understand how awful it is to come home and to then be treated with hostility in a building where I have paid a lot of money to live,” Ambers told the Daily News. “Nobody should have to live this way.”

Oh, to live on the Upper East Side — as I do — is to know the true definition of pettiness.
At the bodega, I made the mistake of telling my interlocutors that I “write a legal blog.” At that point, the bodega owner, the construction worker who speaks Spanish, and the Brazilian nanny had all kinds of legal questions.
Details about the suit and the street-level reaction, after the jump.

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Fried Frank logo.jpgWhat role do lawyers have in advising their clients on business matters? Some might say: None.
“The client decides on the business objective, and the lawyer helps the client reach that objective, as long as it’s legal,” this line of thinking goes. “And why would you want lawyers giving business advice anyway? They have no business training — and judging from how large law firms have fared in the Great Recession, they don’t seem to be particularly good at business either.”
On the other hand, one thing we commonly hear from the in-house lawyers we speak with is that they do give a combination of legal and business advice (not surprising, given that they have one client, which they want to see prosper). And some top law firm lawyers also get involved in the business side of things; they’re dealmakers in their own right, not just the folks who “paper up” the deals dreamed up by investment bankers. E.g, H. Rodgin Cohen of Sullivan & Cromwell, who played a major role in various bank M&A deals last fall.
Jonathan Mechanic Jonathan L Mechanic Jon Mechanic Fried Frank real estate.jpgFried Frank partner Jonathan Mechanic (pictured) — chair of that firm’s high-powered real estate group, with a top ranking from Chambers and Partners — is arguably the real estate world’s answer to Rodge Cohen. In the New York Observer, Dana Rubinstein began an August 2008 interview with Mechanic by citing a study declaring him to be “the best-connected and most powerful real estate lawyer in the world.”
But at least one ATL reader holds the opinion — a minority opinion, it should be noted — that Jon Mechanic’s track record isn’t so stellar.
The bill of particulars against Jon Mechanic and Fried Frank, after the jump.

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Marc Dreier courtyard.jpgLaw professors generally don’t earn as much as Biglaw partners. Legal academic salaries, while generally in the low six-figures, rarely go over, say, $400,000.

But some law profs own very, very nice homes. See, e.g. (in descending order by value):

  • Columbia professor Hans Smit ($30 million mansion — yup, that’s seven zeros);
  • Yale professor James Whitman ($5.7 million co-op);
  • NYU professor Cathy Sharkey ($5.2 million apartment);
  • “Feldsuk,” aka Harvard professors Jeannie Suk, who has a new book out that looks quite interesting, and Noah Feldman ($2.8 million mansion);
  • Columbia professor Edward Morrison ($2.6 million townhouse); and
  • Columbia professor Sarah Cleveland ($2.5 million townhouse).

Sometimes the professors get financial assistance for these purchases from the schools that employ them. But sometimes the professors buy them on their own, without any university help.

For example, as reported in the New York Observer, Daniel Fischel, former dean of the University of Chicago Law School, just picked up an $8.45 million Manhattan pied-à-terre. As breathlessly described by writer Max Abelson, the apartment features “custom electric shades, a steam shower, and a Sub-Zero wine refrigerator.”

Sounds fabulous! Maybe Professor Fischel can donate a weekend in this apartment to the CLF public interest auction?

Fischel’s famous neighbors, plus the story of how he got this rich — being a law school dean pays well, but not that well — after the jump.

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Bingham logo.jpgAre billing disputes between law firms and their clients on the rise in the recession? We feel like we’ve seen a lot of them lately.
The most recent disagreement involves Bingham McCutchen. A Boston-area investment company, Tuckerbrook Alternative Investments, has sued Bingham, claiming it was overcharged for legal services provided in connection with preparing an SEC registration statement.
The case isn’t that exciting — it seems like a garden-variety fee dispute — but this aspect struck us as interesting. From Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (subscription):

The Sept. 16 complaint accuses Bingham of stacking the case with young associates who had “inadequate” experience. “The billing statements reflect that these junior lawyers in essence were enjoying the benefits of on-the-job-training at Tuckerbrook’s expense,” the complaint states.

So the allegation is that young lawyers were being trained on the client’s dime. But is that an indictment of Bingham McCutchen, or of the billable hour?
Grumpy in-house lawyers regularly complain about paying for the training of Biglaw’s junior associates. This is why some corporate counsel explicitly refuse to pay for first- and second-year associates (and provide for that in their retainer agreements; presumably Tuckerbrook could have done that here).
More news about Bingham, including its summer associate offer rate and its real estate needs in New York, after the jump.

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(Plus offer rate and real estate news.)”

CBS Building 1 Black Rock Blackrock Wachtell Lipton WLRK Orrick.jpgIf you’re looking for options beyond Biglaw, we’re here to help. We continue our series of open threads covering small law firms focused on different practice areas. To see the fields we’ve covered so far, click here and scroll down.
We’ve received encouraging feedback from readers — and suggestions. Like this one:

I really like the small firm series you’re running, and I’m hoping you can make the next post about real estate law. I know there are lots of high-end boutiques specializing in commercial real estate out there, and I’m curious about what kind of hours they work and what kind of money the junior to midlevel associates make.

My current practice area involves long and very unpredictable hours, but I’m pretty junior, so I can still switch into another area. Real estate is at the top of my “escape options” list because I’ve heard that, even at larger firms, real estate involves less stress and fewer hours than litigation or corporate.

Is this true? Is real estate really free of “fire drills”?

Readers, can you provide information for our correspondent? If you can, please contribute to this open thread about REAL ESTATE LAW.
Some half-baked musings to start the conversation, after the jump.

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Schiff Hardin logo.JPGEarlier today, we wrote about Schiff Hardin sending a mass e-mail to its retired partners letting them know that they were being moved to temporary offices during a renovation of the firm’s Chicago office. The e-mail read as if the partners were not getting their own offices upon their return and were being asked to cut back their time at the office.

Schiff got in touch with us this afternoon with an update. Despite the language in the e-mail, in fact, all special partners will be getting their own offices when renovations are complete, according to Schiff’s spokesman. They just won’t be in the same offices as before. There will be no change in the partners’ status with the firm, he added.

Schiff’s spokesman could not explain why the e-mail read like a dismissal letter.

Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Partners Emeriti at Schiff Hardin?

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