Real Estate

Last summer, David Van Zandt announced that he was stepping down as dean of Northwestern Law, in order to assume the presidency of the New School here in New York. In the fall, he put his magnificent mansion on the market — for a whopping $4.7 million. (DVZ bought the 6,300-square-foot house, in Chicago’s tony Lincoln Park neighborhood, for $922,550 back in 1996.)

We were impressed. We wrote at the time: “It seems that Dean Van Zandt’s talents extend to real investing as well as academic administration!”

But some commenters were less enthused. Wrote one, “Let’s wait and see how much he actually gets, shall we?” Said a second, “I live in the area…. he will be lucky to get $3.0M.”

We can now report that a buyer has closed on President Van Zandt’s former home. How much did he get for it?

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I’ve been here since 1977, and they want more money! It’s about ‘My Rent is Too Damn Low.’

Maybe the landlord doesn’t know, but he can’t bulldog me because I know the law.

Jimmy McMillan, of The Rent Is Too Damn High Party, commenting on the attempt to evict him from his rent-controlled apartment. The case is pending in Housing Court.

John J. O'Brien

Remember John J. O’Brien? Back in April 2009, we wrote about the mysterious departure of John O’Brien from Sullivan & Cromwell, where he was a well-regarded and well-liked partner in the M&A department. In a follow-up post in December 2009, we noted : “When partners leave a place like Sullivan & Cromwell, there’s often a story behind the departure.”

In our December 2009 post, we reported that John O’Brien “left Sullivan & Cromwell due to an issue relating to his taxes.” We added that the problem was personal, i.e., that it did not implicate S&C or any of its clients (unlike the fraud of another former SullCrom partner, Carlos Spinelli-Noseda, who defrauded the firm and its clients of more than $500K).

Some readers pushed back on this reporting. They claimed that John O’Brien left voluntarily and for perfectly innocent reasons. They told us to leave O’Brien alone. They accused us of harboring ill-will towards Sullivan & Cromwell (even though, to be honest, large law firms are somewhat interchangeable for us here at ATL; they’re all just potential sources of news to write about).

In light of all the flak we took for our John O’Brien coverage — similar to the criticism we received for covering Theodore Freedman’s departure from Kirkland & Ellis, a few months before Freedman got indicted by the feds — please forgive us for gloating a little. (This gloating is directed at our critics, not at John O’Brien; we have nothing against O’Brien and wish him the best of luck in moving on with his life.)

Today brings news that John J. O’Brien has been hit with federal criminal charges. Like Ted Freedman, John O’Brien has been hit with tax-related charges. But the numbers involved are larger — a lot larger….

UPDATE (7 PM): O’Brien pleaded guilty. See the update appended to the end of this post.

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A busy Biglaw bee.

If you’re bummed about having to shelve your plans for a nice tropical vacation this summer, you’re not alone. According to 43% of survey respondents, this summer is turning out to be busier than the rest of the year.

The top reasons cited for the increased billables are that partners are bringing in more business (63%) and the economy is improving (42%). Some of the other reasons, however, are not as upbeat: respondents report having to pick up the slack for other associates who left their firm voluntarily or involuntarily (28%), or who went on vacation (15%).

Another 30% of survey respondents say that this summer has been slower than other months (while the remaining 27% of respondents report that their workload is about the same as the rest of the year).

Why the work slowdown? Which firms and practice areas are turning up the heat this summer? An which ones are cooling things down?

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I love it when this kind of thing happens. I’ve loved it ever since my very first day of Property class. I love it whenever anybody, anywhere in this country, seeks or gains title to something via adverse possession.

Every time it happens, it’s just tangible freaking proof that laws aren’t just a bunch of grand theories written in tomes that grow lonely from disuse. Adverse possession isn’t an existential contemplation, it’s a real-ass way that property can be transferred from those who are hoarding it to those who can use it.

And the fact that laypeople always freak out when confronted with this most basic of property concepts delights me to no end. Everybody loves private property in this country, but 200 million of them have no idea where it comes from. You’d think “fee simple” is something they would teach in middle school in a country like ours, but you need a graduate degree before people even try to teach you about real property.

I’m trying to say that the man who’s trying to get a $330,000 house for $16 bucks is a great American….

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Edward De Sear

On Friday we brought you the story of Edward De Sear, a former partner at several top law firms who now faces a charge of child pornography distribution. De Sear — a graduate of Columbia and UVA Law, who is now one of the nation’s leading capital-markets lawyers — has been a partner at Allen & Overy, Bingham McCutchen, McKee Nelson, Orrick, and Milbank Tweed. As we mentioned in our prior post, the charges against De Sear came as a shock to fellow New York lawyers and to neighbors of his in Saddle River, New Jersey (my hometown — I can walk to De Sear’s place from my parents’ house).

After our story appeared, a former colleague of Ed De Sear came forward, to share some recollections. “I’m completely stunned,” said this attorney.

What could our source recall about De Sear?

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Edward De Sear

I grew up in the town of Saddle River, New Jersey, a suburb about 40 minutes outside of New York City. With its wooded rolling landscape and small-town charm, Saddle River is a pleasant place to live. Large houses, a mix of stately older homes and well-executed McMansions, sit on sizable plots of land, thanks to two-acre zoning.

It was a peaceful and bucolic locale, and when I visit my parents, it seems much the same. My colleague Staci Zaretsky, our newest full-time contributor here at ATL, also grew up there — and concurs with my assessment.

But Saddle River, like the suburbs depicted in such films as American Beauty and Happiness, is not without its drama. Yesterday Edward De Sear, 64, a resident of Saddle River and a capital-markets partner at the distinguished international law firm of Allen & Overy, was arrested at his home and charged with distributing child pornography. The charge of distributing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

UPDATE (12:00 PM): Make that a former partner of Allen & Overy. De Sear has resigned from the firm, according to a statement issued by A&O. Read it in full after the jump.

Let’s learn more about the allegations against Ed De Sear, hear from someone who knows him, meet his high-powered defense counsel — and check out his beautiful and historic home….

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Ted Freedman

Last October, we wrote about the mysterious departure from Kirkland & Ellis of Theodore Freedman. Freedman was a prominent bankruptcy and restructuring partner at the firm, based out of the New York office.

As we mentioned in the story, our coverage of Freedman’s departure was prompted by “interesting rumors.” We hoped that our post would result in additional corroboration of what we were hearing. Alas, our write-up just prompted the usual attacks from Kirkland Kool-Aid drinkers, who accused us in the comments of harboring ill-will toward K&E and engaging in shoddy journalism.

Well, this time we’ll enjoy the last laugh (not because we have anything against K&E — we don’t — but because we like being proven correct). We can share what we know about Ted Freedman, because the rumors are now embodied in a federal criminal indictment….

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The Mandarin Oriental in Boston.

Some readers have issues with the often irreverent commenters here at Above the Law. While ATL commenters sometimes say hurtful or offensive things, like anonymous commenters all over the internet, they also provide significant value. They serve as copy editors, highlighting our typographical mistakes; they work as tipsters, pointing us in the direction of news stories; and they function as fact checkers, identifying errors in reporting.

Relying upon the estimable Boston Globe, we recently reported that Henry Rosen, a real estate lawyer at Choate Hall & Stewart, purchased a fabulous $13 million penthouse condominium. But a commenter came along and disputed that: “[Rosen's] just a straw — he purchased it as trustee for a trust.”

After seeing this comment, we raised the issue with the Boston Globe reporter who wrote the original story. And as it turns out, Henry Rosen is not the real party in interest. He is not the true purchaser of the prime penthouse at the Mandarin Oriental in Boston.

Let’s look at the Globe’s correction….

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The Mandarin Oriental in Boston.

CORRECTION (7/13/11): Alas, it appears that this apartment is not a lawyerly lair. Please see this correction.

It’s time for a new installment of Lawyerly Lairs, Above the Law’s behind-the-scenes look at luxurious lawyer residences. As we close out the week that started off with the Fourth of July, it’s fitting that we turn our attention to Boston, the city some call “The Cradle of Liberty.”

Ain’t freedom grand? One Boston attorney has enough free cash flow to buy the most expensive condominium ever sold in Boston — the very best penthouse at the Mandarin Oriental Residences, on tony Boylston Street.

Let’s find out who this lawyer is, where he works — and, of course, what $13.2 million buys you in Beantown….

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