Duval & Stachenfeld's Real Estate Practice Group – In the Right Place at the Right Time
I hope this message finds you well, that 2010 set a predicate for your future success, and that 2011 will be a great year for you.
I thought I would take a moment of your time to let you know what has been going on with us at Duval & Stachenfeld in the past year:
Broader and Deeper Capability at D&S:
Duval & Stachenfeld is not the firm it was before the financial crisis – the revamping of the real estate world presented opportunities for us that we were able to capitalize on. Most critically, we did not dismantle the real estate team that we had painstakingly assembled over the past thirteen years – instead, we kept our team intact and augmented the team greatly. Accordingly:
- We have grown to 37 real estate lawyers – I suspect we now have one of the largest real estate groups in New York City.
- Our Distressed Real Estate Practice Group now numbers close to 50 lawyers.
- Our value proposition (i.e. top quality legal work at about 75% of the cost of major law firms) has resonated with our existing clients and with new clients who have come in.
- We have been hiring aggressively – to meet our client demands and on the assumption that the real estate industry is re-shaping itself and there will be continued demand for our skills. This culminated in nine real estate lawyers joining the firm in September of 2010. I surely hope I am right about my predictions for the future!
- We have found that our highest and best use is for us to focus on high-end complex legal work. We find the best match for our talents are messy, complex, even ugly, matters, in which skill, creativity, and hard work are needed for a positive resolution.
- In response to what we perceive to be watershed events of (i) banks and other financial institutions “putting back” mortgage loans to the investment banks that sold them the loans and (ii) a dramatic increase in so-called “tranche warfare”, we established the Structured Real Estate Dispute Resolution Team as a subgroup of our Distressed Real Estate Group. You may have seen our announcement of this practice group in a recent Commercial Mortgage Alert article.
- Since the recession began, we have become one of the (only?) real estate law firms that can represent all sides of the capital stack. We believe the combination of our – “plain old dirt lawyers” – our pure lender lawyers – our CMBS lawyers – our lawyers with expertise in equity, preferred equity and co-ventures – our litigators and our bankruptcy lawyers – achieves this goal.
In addition to growing our team, we have become more well-known:
Admittedly before the recession we were not that well-known in the real estate world. However, so much has happened for us that we felt comfortable acting as lead sponsor at IMN's 11th Annual US Real Estate Opportunity & Private Investing Forum.
We were pleased to announce that five of our real estate partners were selected for inclusion on the New York Super Lawyers list for 2010. This is a reflection of the respect and recognition our attorneys command in the legal industry.
D&S was named in the vaunted Chambers & Partners legal ranking – the only non-mega-sized law firm so listed.
We were fortunate to be able to represent our clients as they capitalized on the real estate downturn, including the following:
In general, we opened over 200 new matters for our clients this past year – a number that was amazing even to ourselves considering the dramatic falloff in deal-flow over the past few years. This consisted of acquisitions (both debt and equity), restructurings and recapitalizations (including so-called “rescue capital” transactions), 363 purchases, sales and dispositions, structured real estate dispute matters and loan workouts from the points of view of borrowers, lenders and mezzanine lenders.
We represented a client consortium in purchasing a controlling interest in Astrum Investments, which was formed to be engaged in the development of real estate projects in India.
We represented clients in various international acquisitions, including (i) the acquisition of a 125,000 square feet office building located in Akasaka, Japan and (ii) the acquisition and financing of a hotel in London, England.
We represented long-time client Angelo Gordon in its purchases of:
- The Carlton House in New York City.
The debt interests in the Shops at Georgetown Park in Washington, D.C. (in partnership with Vornado Realty Trust). The transaction progressed through a so-called “363 sale” from Capmark in Capmark’s bankruptcy proceeding. Shortly after acquiring the debt interests, we represented them in acquiring the fee interests (through a deed-in-lieu transaction).
- A portion of the $2.3 billion of mezzanine interests in the mammoth $20.6 billion Hilton Hotels debt package.
Becoming “Connectors” for Our Clients:
We believe that a full-service real estate firm, in order to be able to deliver excellent service to its clients, should not only be able to perform excellent legal work but should also have strong and respected relationships with others in the real estate community – with its peer law firms, with non-clients and with other industry players.
In this regard, we have met many players in the real estate industry and find ourselves quite well “connected” to sources of deal flow and sources of capital. For example, many of our money partner clients have been referred to deals and many of our operating partner clients have been referred to capital sources.