Real Estate

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?

Schiff Hardin logo.JPGWe’ve noticed in comment threads that many of you would like frequent commenter Partner Emeritus to retire. But he’s a persistent one. Perhaps frustrated readers should take a page from the book of Schiff Hardin.

The 400-attorney firm found an interesting way to get rid of its partners emeriti in the firm’s Chicago office. It will move its “special partners” to temporary offices while its main building is being renovated, and then not move them back.

UPDATE: It appears there was a misunderstanding. A clarification from the firm appears here.

The firm notified its retired partners, referred to as “special partners,” on Sunday. And not in a very nice way. They got the message via mass e-mail:

Dear Special Partners,

As you know, we are about embark upon the renovation of our space in Chicago. We will move to temporary space two floors at a time and then return to our improved floors. We will use this opportunity to reshuffle offices

Some of you have volunteered to move offices when we return to the renovated space. I have not, however, had an opportunity to speak with all of you about this topic. With one exception, you will not be returning to your present office.

The mass e-mail that Schiff Hardin’s (not-so special?) partners emeriti got, plus a clarification from the firm, after the jump.

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Bryant Edwards Bryant B Edwards Paris pied a terre.JPGEarlier this year, Latham & Watkins laid off some 400 employees (190 associates and 250 staff). This caused many to wonder about how tough times were getting at Latham.
Well, don’t shed tears for LW partners just yet. From the New York Times:

If a tourist passing along the Rue du Cloître Notre-Dame just looks up, it is not hard to glimpse, through the open windows above, the rich colors of old master paintings that have been stretched across a ceiling in Linda and Bryant Edwards’s first-floor apartment.

And from the home itself, in an elegant Haussmann building dating to 1905, the family has its own view — of the garden behind Notre Dame Cathedral….

When her husband, 54, presented her with the apartment as a gift for her 40th birthday, Mrs. Edwards envisioned a kind of “Tale of Two Cities” life, split between Paris and what was then the couple’s home in London.

The generous husband in question, Bryant Edwards, is a partner at Latham & Watkins. Last year he moved to Dubai, where he serves as managing partner of the firm’s Middle East office. The Edwardses now use their Paris apartment as a pied-à-terre when they return to the Continent.
So, the question you’re all wondering: How much did this amazing apartment cost?

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