Real Estate

Whenever we write about a lawyerly lair in New York City, our readers in Texas scoff. They mock the tiny size and high price. They observe that for the cost of a minuscule Manhattan studio, you could get yourself 3500 square feet — plus a Lexus! — down in Texas. And did you know that there’s no state income tax down there?

Today our Texas tipsters will be happy. We’re visiting the $5 million, 14,000-square-foot mansion of a renowned plaintiffs’ lawyer — with room for many Lexuses, in the 13-car garage….

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Most folks think lawyers exist to screw over “widows and orphans.” According to a federal judge, one law firm made that reputation a reality and now owes an elderly man $130,000.

Did every other lawyer decry the injustice and declare that the firm was acting beyond the bounds of common dignity? If you guessed in the negative, congratulations.

Fellow lawyers, this is why we can’t have nice things…

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This column, Lawyerly Lairs, is all about real estate voyeurism. But today’s story emphasizes the voyeurism over the real estate. Let’s hope there are some Rear Window fans among you.

In Cobble Hill, one of Brooklyn’s loveliest and leafiest precincts, the “sexy shower” of one attorney abode has got the neighborhood talking. Lawyers are often focused on minimizing exposure, but neighbors claim that’s not the case for the owners of a beautiful, multimillion-dollar townhouse.

Let’s see what all the fuss is about. It seems that there’s more to this story than meets the eye….

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200 Chambers Street: architect’s rendering.

If you were to ask lawyers to name some lucrative practice areas, immigration law would probably not top many lists. While there are some elite firms that do immigration law for corporations or high-net-worth individuals (and charge a pretty penny for their services), many immigration lawyers are more dedicated to helping their clients over their bank accounts.

But some immigration lawyers with their own firms do very, very well for themselves. Take, for example, the one who just sold his Tribeca apartment for a cool $3.6 million — to a pair of poker champs, so presumably they got a fair deal.

The buyers might have paid a reasonable price, considering the fabulosity of the unit. But the seller still earned a seven-figure profit on the transaction….

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325 West 52nd Street: modest on the outside, fabulous on the inside.

These are challenging times for print journalism. The Boston Globe, which the New York Times acquired in 1993 for $1.1 billion, recently sold for $70 million (or perhaps negative $40 million, as Matt Yglesias suggests). Jeff Bezos just bought the Washington Post for $250 million, a fraction of its former worth (and he may have paid four times its true value).

But print journalism was good to many people for many years. In the glory days of magazine writing, publications would pay several dollars a word for features that were thousands of words long. These generous fees might explain how a prominent magazine journalist amassed enough cash to buy a four-bedroom apartment Manhattan, which he recently sold to a law firm associate for just under $2 million.

That’s a sizable chunk of change for a young lawyer. How many sixth-year associates can afford $2 million apartments? Let’s learn more of the facts….

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Ultimately, I think the price is right — you’ve got all the amenities of living at home that you wouldn’t have otherwise. The washer and dryer at your place, the full kitchen all the time, and you’re not living that rugged lifestyle. You get to eat steak and not ramen.

John O’Connor, a graduate of UC Hastings Law, recounting the joys of living in his parents’ homes as opposed to renting. O’Connor, an associate at a small California firm, estimates he’s saved about $25,000 in rental payments.

Imagine returning home from vacation and finding your home cleaned out. The thieves grabbed all the furniture, all the gadgets, all the kitchenware, and left you nothing. That’s what happened to an Ohio woman recently, and the police are refusing to help.

That’s because the perpetrator was First National Bank. Except Katie Barnett was not behind on her payments; the bank just repossessed the wrong house.

Fair enough. Mistakes happen. The bank is going to pay her back though, right?

Right?

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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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