Lawyerly Lairs

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]

Upon reaching my mid-thirties with a wife, a kid, and a dog, it became apparent that the “dream” of renting a tiny box on the island of Manhattan was over. My family and I decided against the Brooklyn half-step, because paying Manhattan rent for a slightly bigger box that would itself be too small for our family in ten seconds seemed stupid. So we zeroed in on buying in Westchester because: Grand Central >> the holding pen at Gitmo >> buying a mule >> Penn Station >> Chernobyl >> Port Authority.

The problem of course with buying property in Westchester is that we’re poor. Not “poor” in the “I need government assistance” sense (though, more on that later). Not even poor in the “I’m a salaried employee and don’t mind when Charles Barkley makes fun of my city” sense. I mean poor in that uniquely NYC/LA/London sort of way that makes you feel “How IN THE F**K do I not make enough money to afford this?”

The other problem was that I’ve spent the better part of the last six years screaming at people to avoid crushing debt obligations. To buy a house, I’m going into more debt than I’ve ever been before, and we know that things didn’t go so smoothly the first time.

But… kids man, what are you going to do? As part of my ongoing attempts to make egregious mistakes and then write about them, here are five things I didn’t really understand about the house-buying process. Note, I had my lawyer hat on, which means I wasn’t flummoxed by things like “taxes” or “closing costs.” Still, there’s a bunch of stuff that doesn’t come up in Real Property or Trusts and Estates…

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Ronan Farrow

A few days ago, lawyer turned television personality Ronan Farrow commented on Twitter, “All my business meetings are like ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ and all my dates are like ‘Schindler’s List’, am I doing something wrong.” The tweet was widely retweeted and favorited by Farrow’s 250,000-plus followers (despite receiving criticism from some quarters).

It’s surprising that Farrow’s dating life isn’t going better. In addition to being extremely handsome, he’s a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School graduate with his own television show and celebrity parents (Mia Farrow and either Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra). What more could one ask for in a lover?

How about some solid real estate? Well, Ronan’s got that too — a New York apartment that he purchased for a seven-figure sum….

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This Lawyerly Lair is on a pleasant, tree-lined block in Chelsea (click to enlarge).

No, we’re not talking about “law clerk” as in judge’s aide. It’s hard to afford a seven-figure home on a public servant’s salary. We’re talking about “law clerk” as in someone who’s working at a law firm, essentially as an associate, but is not yet an admitted attorney in the jurisdiction.

This “law clerk” and his partner, also a law school graduate, just picked up a spacious Manhattan co-op for a little under $1.7 million. Their housing hunt was chronicled in the pages of the New York Times. Let’s read more about them, and check out the place they finally chose….

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192 Columbia Heights

What happens to people who work for failed law firms? Some of them wind up filing for personal bankruptcy.

But some of them experience far happier endings. Some of them wind up living in 25-foot-wide, 8,000-square-foot, $16 million townhouses.

Okay, a caveat: $16 million is what the owners are asking for their home. It’s not clear they’ll get that price, which would set a record for a single family home in Brooklyn Heights.

No matter which way you slice it, though, this is still an eight-figure home. Who’s the lawyer living in such luxury, and where did she once work?

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345 West 13th Street

Meet Michael Graffagna, who’s one impressive MoFo… partner. The Harvard Law School graduate, admitted to practice in New York, California, and Japan, heads up the project finance practice at Morrison & Foerster.

Graffagna is now resident in the firm’s Tokyo office. So he and his wife, Midori Graffagna, recently sold their Manhattan pied-à-terre. And oh what a pied-à-terre it was — larger than most Manhattanites’ primary residences.

How large are we talking? How much did the Graffagnas get for it? And which celebrity lives upstairs?

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Let’s play a game of law firm word association. What words come to mind when I say Skadden Arps?

Prestigious? Yes.

Profitable? Definitely.

Sweatshop? Perhaps; some sources say the hours can be “long and unpredictable.”

Funky?

Yes, you heard me: funky….

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I like to say we traded in an old Camry for a new Mercedes, and the Mercedes is cheaper.

Paul Thompson, partner-in-charge of McDermott Will & Emery’s office in Washington, D.C., joking about the firm’s new office space. MWE’s D.C. office recently downsized from 189,000 to 165,000 square feet in real estate.

Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnist, Gaston Kroub of Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique here in New York. He’s writing about leaving a Biglaw partnership to start his own firm.

When you work in Biglaw, you are pretty much assured you will have a nice office to go to everyday. Of course, you are also expected to spend the vast majority of your waking hours in that office, particularly as an associate.

My personal Biglaw experience when it came to offices was probably the norm. When I started at Greenberg Traurig, the IP department was located just above some of Bernie Madoff’s offices in the Lipstick Building on Third Avenue in Manhattan. A few years in, we joined the rest of the firm within the MetLife (former Pan Am) Building right over Grand Central. In the summers, and after the partners I worked with relocated more frequently depending on our case load, I would spend time working out of Greenberg’s New Jersey office. While not Manhattan, that office had nice suburban views and was easily accessible off the highway. And when I lateraled to Locke Lord, I got to enjoy a very easy commute from Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan, and some beautiful views from my office of the Hudson River and New York Harbor.

Biglaw does office space right. In some respects, though, that is changing….

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