Lawyerly Lairs

In 2010, music superstar Lady Gaga earned an estimated $64 million. Meanwhile, legal superstar Lady Kaga — aka Justice Elena Kagan, of the United States Supreme Court — earned considerably less.

For the part of 2010, the Divine Miss K served as Solicitor General, earning an annual salary of $165,300. After her confirmation as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, she got a raise, to $213,900 a year — a healthy income, but less than the base salary of a fifth-year associate in a law firm (or the total compensation in 2010, bonus included, of a fourth-year associate). Her income as a justice is also much less than her salary of $437,299 as Harvard Law School dean.

Still, even though Justice Kagan might not be filthy rich, she has done well for herself. At the time of her nomination to SCOTUS, she reported a net worth of around $1.8 million. Given this rosy financial picture, as well as her six-figure income and great job security — it’s rare for a federal judge to be impeached, Judge Porteous notwithstanding — it’s not surprising that Her Honor was recently spotted checking out some pretty pricey D.C. digs.

Where was she looking? And what seems to be her homebuying budget?

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500 West End Avenue: former home of Tina Fey, until she sold - to a law firm partner.

After suffering through a brutal recession that was fueled, in part, by the collapse of the real estate market, you’d think that nobody would want to read about real estate ever again. But that’s not what’s happening in the blogosphere, where real estate is hotter than ever.

For example, consider Lockhart Steele’s Curbed, an excellent network of sites focused on real estate and interior design. Curbed is thriving, and it recently launched a national edition.

Above the Law readers are similarly obsessed with real estate. Is it because everyone had to take Property as 1Ls? For whatever reason, Lawyerly Lairs is one of our most popular and well-trafficked features. The last installment, a visit to the $4.7 million Chicago townhouse of outgoing Northwestern Law dean David Van Zandt, continues to be a top post (even though it dates back to before Thanksgiving).

So let’s give you more of the real estate porn you want and deserve. In today’s Lawyerly Lairs, focused on ATL’s home city of New York, we look at the recently acquired, envy-inducing residences of partners at three leading law firms: White & Case, Sullivan & Cromwell, and Linklaters.

The first featured residence even has a celebrity connection: the seller was Tina Fey, fabulous television and movie star (and Sarah Palin impersonator)….

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Isn’t it nice when people who do good also do well? David Van Zandt — the outgoing dean of Northwestern Law, and the incoming president of The New School — is a beloved figure, at NU Law and beyond. Professionally, he’s an innovator in legal education; personally, he’s a great guy. We’re big fans of his here at Above the Law, especially since he once wrote a guest commentary for our pages (on law school rankings).

When Dean Van Zandt announced his departure, Northwestern Law students were heartbroken. But don’t shed tears for DVZ: he’s going to a better place. Hello, New York City! [FN1]

And assuming The New School doesn’t provide its new president with housing, Dean Van Zandt should be able to snap up a fabulous pad for himself here in Gotham. He has put his Chicago mansion on the market, for a very pretty penny. If he succeeds in selling it for anywhere near the asking price, he’ll be able to live large in NYC.

Dean Van Zandt bought the home back in 1996, for $922,550. How much is it on the market for today?

Let’s find out — and ogle some pictures of the house, inside and out….

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Trump World Tower

Why are so many lawyers interested in making the jump to business? One obvious reason: money.

Look at the list of lawyers who made this year’s Forbes 400. Of the almost 40 lawyers / holders of law degrees who made the cut, only one, Joe Jamail, is a practicing attorney. And he’s all the way down at #269, with a net worth of just $1.5 billion. Poor Joe!

If you’re a partner at a major law firm in a big city, you might someday own a $3 million apartment. But if you want a $30 million apartment, you need to move into business.

A $30 million-plus apartment, in the Trump World Tower. That’s what lawyer turned businessman Dominick D’Alleva, a 1977 graduate of Yale Law School and a former Simpson Thacher associate, has placed on the market.

It’s the weekend, when people like to attend open houses for fun real-estate voyeurism. So let’s take a take a look at D’Alleva’s digs….

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A Westboro Baptist Church protester.

* Does this explain Boies Schiller’s great media coverage? Their PR person is in bed with the media. [Gawker and AllThingsD]

* Speaking of romantic entanglements, here are six rules for law firm dating, in case you don’t follow Rule #1: Don’t. [Sweet Hot Justice]

* McDermott isn’t the only law firm switching digs. The folks at Ropes always struck us as Prudential people. [Ropes & Gray]

* The defendants in the Robert Wone civil case have moved for a gag order — which isn’t surprising, since they have a thing for gags. [Who Murdered Robert Wone?]

* A nice round-up of reactions to Snyder v. Phelps, aka the Westboro Baptist Church case, and the Pincus Family Law firm’s controversial website. [Infamy or Praise]

* Do WestlawNext and Amazon use the same design firm? [Law Riot]

* Is America “drowning in law”? Covington partner Philip K. Howard, author of Life Without Lawyers, thinks so. [New York Daily News]

500 North Capitol Street (click to enlarge).

One of our odd obsessions around here: real estate. Just take a spin through our Lawyerly Lairs archives, which chronicle the adventures of attorneys in the world of real property, residential and commercial. We may not be as real obsessed as the folks over at Curbed, but we’re getting there.

As a former resident of Washington (2006 to 2008), I take a particular interest in D.C. developments. And not just litigation between law firms and burger joints.

So I was interested to learn about McDermott Will & Emery’s big move — to a building that will be named after the law firm. How many law firms get naming rights?

(Not many. The most prominent example might be the Paul Hastings Tower in Los Angeles, which had a cameo in the Transformers movie.)

News of MWE’s move even made the pages of the Washington Post….

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Alan Pomerantz

Many real estate lawyers are also real estate investors. It makes perfect sense: they know the market, they know the intricacies of complex transactions, and they see a lot of deals in the course of their practice. For example, Jonathan Mechanic, the renowned real estate lawyer who heads the practice at Fried Frank, owns retail and office space in Bergen County, New Jersey (where I grew up).

Over the weekend, the New York Times documented the successful real estate investing of another top New York real estate attorney: Alan J. Pomerantz, currently a senior counsel at Orrick, and before that the co-CEO of a real estate investment fund and a longtime partner at Weil Gotshal. In 1994, Pomerantz and his wife, Carol Pomerantz, a psychotherapist, bought a fabulous Upper East Side apartment for $1.6 million. Now, “because they now spend most of their time with family in Northern California and are building a house in the Napa Valley” — sounds like a nice life, doesn’t it? — they are selling the apartment.

The asking price: $5.7 million. Even accounting for inflation and the costs of their renovation, it seems that the Pomerantzes made a wise investment (assuming the co-op sells at or near the asking price, as places are starting to do again here in NYC).

So what do you get for almost $6 million?

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No, we’re not talking about that David J. Stern, the lawyer turned NBA commissioner. We’re talking about David J. Stern of Plantation, Florida, a leading lawyer to banks and financial services companies in mortgage-related and foreclosure proceedings.

Over the holiday weekend, the New York Times ran a lengthy article, by Gretchen Morgenson and Geraldine Fabrikant, focused on Florida’s new foreclosures-only courts. Florida’s court system has been so overwhelmed by foreclosure proceedings that the state earlier this year set aside $9.6 million to establish foreclosures-focused courts around the state, presided over by retired judges.

One of the major players in the new court system is David J. Stern, whom the Times describes as “[t]he lawyer most closely identified with Florida’s foreclosure morass.” And for his troubles, this “mystery man within the foreclosure world” has been richly rewarded — very richly rewarded.

Stern went to a fourth-tier law school, but financially he’s running circles around all those Stanford and NYU law grads who wound up as Biglaw partners. His inspiring story shows that, in the end, success in the law is not about where you went to school, but what you’re capable of doing.

Even if you graduated from a non-top-tier law school, if you’re aggressive and smart and entrepreneurial, you can do quite well for yourself. Let’s take a look at David Stern….

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An attorney's lovely suburban home was allegedly transformed into A DEN OF SEXUAL SIN....

This story — which could also qualify as a Lawsuit of the Day — is fine, funny Friday fodder. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:

Adam Bunge, an attorney, and his wife, Sarah Bunge, a Lutheran pastor, put their Maple Grove home up for sale and headed off to London this year for a four-month “work holiday.”

While they were gone, they allege in a lawsuit filed last week, their real estate agent used their house and possessions for “unauthorized sexual escapades,” staining their sheets, couch, carpet and other surfaces….

“It feels like we have been violated in every sense of the word,” Adam Bunge said in an interview.

The Bunges weren’t the only ones who were “violated.” In every room of the house. And it got pretty messy up in there….

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Skadden partner Hilary Foulkes

Longtime Skadden partner Hilary Foulkes, recognized by Chambers and Partners for his expertise in cross-border M&A work, is quite distinctive-looking. And so is his Cape Cod vacation house, in Chatham — which is causing some trouble with the locals.

Hilary and Tina Foulkes — we thought they were lesbians, until we saw his photo — have given their house a very unusual paint job. The Cape Cod Times describes it as containing “[s]hades of neon green, lime green and citrus yellow.”

Village resident Norm Pacun calls the house “hideous” and “not what’s appropriate.” It certainly stands out in a neighborhood of New England white clapboards.

What do you think? Check out a photo and find out why the Foulkeses may have painted the house this way, below the fold….

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