Real Estate

Bruce Stachenfeld

I guess at heart I am a competitor. I want my law firm to be the absolute top law firm in the world – at least in our niche of being The Pure Play in Real Estate Law.

I would like us to be loved by clients — loved by lawyers — incredibly profitable — the greatest law firm that ever hit the legal world. And to do this I need to crush my competition — right?

Or maybe not right. Let’s think about this a bit and see what happens….

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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]


Bruce Stachenfeld

Of all the regrets I have in life, one of my greatest is that I never had the chance to meet Peter Drucker before he died.

Drucker is one of my intellectual heroes. He was able to look at the same world that everyone else was looking at but see things that others couldn’t see. He literally invented a science. And like all science, it is around you from the start but you just can’t see it till someone shows you the way.

The science he invented was the science of “management.” Before Drucker, people just ran things and sometimes good things happened and sometimes bad things — no one really delved too deeply into the “why” of it all. But then along came Drucker, who made order out of chaos and realized that there were principles that, if followed, would increase the likelihood a business would be successful.

All those leadership books you sometimes read, all those “how to” books you sometimes read, all of that thinking evolved from his groundbreaking analysis into the science of “management.” Drucker’s books are utter masterpieces. Indeed, there was an epiphany for me on every single page of his amazing book Management (affiliate link). I think I learned more about how to run my law firm successfully from Drucker than from any other source.

Here are two thoughts from Drucker that hit me like a bolt of lightning when I read them. Honestly, my business — and even my whole life — was never the same again.

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If television producers put up this Craigslist ad because they were casting for a reality show about a bunch of lawyers living in a D.C. house, then this would make sense. Every week, two of the housemates have to argue why they should stay and another should go. People would watch it.

But this isn’t a television producer being polite, this is law graduates being real. A group of self-described, recent law school graduates are looking for another roommate who must also be a recent law grad — preferably one who is clerking or working for a Congressional committee.

It seems like instead of looking for a roommate on Craigslist, they should be using LinkedIn…

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High five! Foreclosures! Woo!

Back in 2011, a Buffalo, New York, foreclosure law firm — a foreclosure mill, if you will — was caught in a very embarrassing predicament. Some of its employees decided that for their Halloween costumes, they’d dress up like people who had lost their homes in the foreclosure process. The story made the New York Times, and the public reveled in all of the sheer schadenfreude.

Today, we’ve got another foreclosure mill for you to point and laugh at. It seems that this firm’s building was foreclosed upon, and now it’s facing eviction from the office where its employees once billed up to $100,000 for throwing people out of their homes.

Karma is real, people…

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* The SCOTUS decision in the Pom Wonderful case could have serious repercussions in terms of deceptive labeling litigation under the Lanham Act. Even Justice Kennedy was misled! [Huffington Post]

* Dewey know when to WARN people? This failed firm apparently didn’t, and now it has to pay a $4.5 million class-action settlement to the employees it laid off without adequate notice. [WSJ Law Blog]

* After getting bumped out of the Am Law 100 after a 17-year run, Shook Hardy & Bacon is letting go of three floors of office space it “no longer needs.” Secretaries Paper takes up a lot of room! [Am Law Daily]

* Minutes after this career criminal was released from jail due to his accidental acquittal, he was stabbed to death with a steak knife. But for the jury’s crazy mistake, he would still be alive. Yikes. [Fresno Bee]

* LMU’s Duncan Law, perhaps better known as the little law school that couldn’t, is still trying to get ABA accreditation. At least this time they’ll be able to use law schools’ national decline as a scapegoat. [WBIR]

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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Bruce Stachenfeld

I give credit for the inspiration of this article to a writer named Seth Godin who wrote a book called The Purple Cow (affiliate link). My law firm benefited hugely from this book.

The theory of the Purple Cow in a nutshell is that you should try to STAND OUT like a purple cow would stand out from the other mere brown cows. If you don’t STAND OUT, then you just blend in, and you are nothing at all.

Okay, so that is a good point – as if you didn’t know that already. But it is not that simple. And here is why. Our instincts and everything we learn every day – our emotions, our colleagues, and our loved ones – all lead us in the safe (and wrong) direction.

And the reason for this is very simple:

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Now that Patton Boggs is safely in the hands of Squire Sanders — minus a few notable defectors, such as Ben Ginsberg’s high-profile election-law team, which is leaving for Jones Day — observers of Biglaw are looking around for other possible trouble spots. And some of them are focusing on Bingham McCutchen.

Back in February, we covered some less-than-positive developments at Bingham: “tumbling profits, partner departures, and unfortunately timed staff layoffs.” What has happened since then?

As we mentioned earlier today, partner departures continue at the firm. Who are the latest partners to leave Bingham, and where are they going?

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