Most Highly Regarded Firms: Real Estate 2013

This year, we identify 695 lawyers from 347 firms and 35 countries who are considered leading lawyers in the field. “Global giant” DLA Piper leads our research with 25 of its practitioners recognised in this edition from 12 different jurisdictions. Thirteen individuals from Clifford Chance stand out this year, with the Frankfurt office being particularly well represented with four of its partners recognised. “Leading” global firm Linklaters boasts the inclusion of 11 lawyers, 10 of whom are based in Europe, and US firm Ballard Spahr achieves 10 listings. A further five top firms are also recognised.

We also singled out the most highly regarded individuals in the world in this field.

Most Highly Regarded Individuals
Lawyer Firm
Ann Saegert Haynes and Boone, Dallas
Jay Epstien DLA Piper, Washington,DC
Ira Waldman Cox Castle & Nicholson, Los Angeles
Kevin Shepherd Venable, Baltimore
Susan Talley Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann, New Orleans
Joshua Stein Joshua Stein, New York
Mark Senn Senn Visciano Canges, Denver
Joseph Philip Forte DLA Piper, New York
Simon Clark Linklaters, London
Johannes Conradi Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Hamburg






“Global giant” DLA Piper leads our research with 25 of its lawyers recognised in this edition from 12 different jurisdictions. In Washington, DC, chair of the firm’s US real estate practice and co-chair of the global real estate practice Jay Epstien comes very highly recommended for his work in this field. He is a “key figure” in high-profile transactions and is “one of the top leasing lawyers in the country”, according to peers. He is “highly sought after” by both domestic and foreign clients due to his “brilliant advice and creative approach”. At the same office, Frederick Klein is singled out for his “phenomenal transactional abilities” and Jeffrey Keitelman is described as a “superb all-rounder”, who is “particularly strong” in the area of government leasing. The Chicago office is a “hub of activity” with five of its lawyers singled out for their expertise, including senior counsel Charles Edwards , who is considered a “dean of the Illinois bar”. He focuses on complex commercial real estate transactions and clients value his “depth of experience.” The “fantastic” Edward Goldman is the “go-to-guy” for commercial leasing and David Glickstein is the “counsel of choice” for lenders and borrowers for financing transactions and workouts.


A trio of “top-tier” individuals from the firm’s New York office are listed, with the “stunningly good” Joseph Philip Forte coming particularly recommended. He has “unparalleled experience” of the market due to more than four decades of specialisation in this area and is extremely well regarded for his origination, workout and enforcement of portfolio and securitised mortgage loans work. The “exceptionally talented” Martin Polevoy leads the firm’s real estate practice in New York and recent high-profile clients include the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in regards to the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site. Senior counsel Andrew Levy is “greatly respected” for his practice, particularly his involvement in inbound and outbound cross-border transactions. In San Francisco Stephen Cowan is described by peers as “one of the smartest lawyers in the country”, and he is internationally acclaimed for his work on the creation of real estate funds through private placements. At the Dallas, office managing partner Philip Weller is “simply terrific”, especially in the structuring of equity investments and forming REITs, and in Austin the “truly excellent” Jay Hailey is considered a “zoning guru”. The firm also has two partners from its Los Angeles office and two from its Boston office recognised this year.

In Europe, five individuals are selected for inclusion, notably Milan-based Olaf Schmidt who heads the firm’s Italian real estate practice and co-chairs the firm’s global real estate practice. He assists national and international investors and developers in all aspects of real estate law, including investment and tax law and one happy client reported that he has “set new standards of excellence” due to the high quality of work he delivers. Two individuals in Belgium are recognised: Brussels-based François De Montpellier is valued by clients for his “practical approach” and “business acumen” and in Antwerp the “wonderful” Jim Bauwens specialises in commercial leasing. In London Simon Cookson , who leads the UK real estate team, is praised for his “top-notch advice” and at the Vienna office Oskar Winkler is a “very well-known” figure in the market. The firm also fields Hong-Kong based Susheela Rivers , who heads the Asia-Pacific real estate group, and Les Koltai of the Sydney office, who leads the firm’s Australian real estate group, to this edition.

Thirteen practitioners from magic circle firm Clifford Chance stand out this year, with the Frankfurt office being particularly well represented with four of its partners recognised. Cornelia Thaler heads the firm’s German real estate practice and is considered a “prominent figure” in both the domestic and international market. The “first-rate” Klaus Minuth is highly recommended for his work on large-scale portfolio and sale-and-leaseback transactions. The “extremely smart” Jörn Stobbe is valued for his “superb commercial understanding” and Christian Keilich is “very active” on cross-border investments, transactions and development projects. In the UK two lawyers are singled out, including head of the London real estate practice Jonathan Solomon , who is “one of the top lawyers in the country” for joint ventures and developments within this sector. His colleague Tony Briam is “particularly prominent” for advising public authorities, investors and tenants an impressive range of projects. At the Madrid office both Alfonso Benavides and Carlos Portocarrero de las Heras received a high volume of nominations from their peers due to their “superb work” in this field.

In New York Douglas Wisner chairs the firm’s Americas real estate practice group and is the “lawyer of choice” for investment and commercial banks for bridge, mezzanine and permanent credit facilities in domestic and cross-border capital markets and leveraged bank transactions. Prague-based Emil Holub is “one of the finest practitioners in the country” and in 2011 he was involved in the Czech Republic’s largest real estate transaction when he advised Atrium European Real Estate on the acquisition of the Palác Flora shopping and office centre in Prague. Lawyers from firm’s Paris, Moscow and Brussels offices are also recognised for the “high-quality service” and expertise they provide clients.

“Leading” global firm Linklaters boasts the inclusion of 11 lawyers, 10 of whom are based in Europe. London lawyer Simon Clark is one of the most highly regarded individuals in this edition. He leads the firm’s European practice and is considered to be one of the “top real estate transaction tax lawyers in the world”. He has also been centrally involved in the UK property market’s efforts to create a UK REIT. Patrick Plant is the former head of the global real estate group and continues to be seen in “significant” transactions, such as HSBC’s sale and leaseback deal at Canary Wharf. A trio of practitioners from the firm’s Brussels office feature, including global head of real estate Yves Moreau . He is described as a “major player in the European real estate market” with a “truly impressive understanding” of corporate real estate, construction and project development issues. Senior counsel Jacques Périlleux is “greatly respected” for his arbitration skills and Pieter Puelinckx receives praise for his “innovation” in structuring real estate projects.

Françoise Maigrot is a “leading light” in the Parisian market and she heads the firm’s practice there. Moscow-based Xavier Hunter is “in demand” from those in need of advice on investment purchases, sale and leaseback transactions and secured finance. Head of M&A real estate in Sweden, Magnus Lidman , plays a “vital role” in many of the major deals in the country. He advised Commerz Real on its 4.35 billion kronor divestment of the office, shopping and residential property Klara Zenit in central Stockholm to Vasakronan. At the Warsaw office Artur Kulawski has over 15 years’ experience in the Polish real estate market and is described as a “seasoned professional”. Hirofumi Taba is considered a “rising star” in Japan and the “distinguished” Rafael Molina from Madrid is also singled out.

US firm Ballard Spahr achieves 10 listings, with individuals from five of its offices recognised. Four Pennsylvania-based lawyers garner recognition this year, including the “stellar” Philip Korb . Clients praise his ability to produce “top-level work quickly and efficiently”. Former chair of the firm’s real estate department, the “legendary” Michael Sklaroff , is “very highly thought of” and was involved in the first civil rights action in federal court to open the suburbs to multi-family housing and enforce the landmark zoning decision in the Girsh appeal. Shopping centre “guru” David Pollack and special counsel David Gifford are both also listed from this office. Two of the firm’s Baltimore-based practitioners are considered “standouts” in this sector, notably the “exceptional” Raymond Truitt , who is lauded for his commercial financing and leasing advice. Thomas Hauser is greatly admired for the breadth of his expertise and flexible approach. Managing partner of the Bethesda office Roger Winston represents developers, investors and lenders in connection with the planning, development, due diligence and restructuring of many forms of mixed-use and condominium projects, and heads the firm’s team in this area.

The firm fields two practitioners from its Los Angeles office, with the “first-class” Gary York considered “especially notable” for his financing expertise in this sector. Resort development “authority” David Sampson is also considered a “must for inclusion”. The “fabulous” Beverly Quail , based in Denver, is “nationally respected” for her “brilliant advice” on complicated lease financings, multi-state debt projects and mezzanine loans.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer also has 10 lawyers recognised, four of whom hail from Germany. The “simply stunning” Johannes Conradi is one of the most highly nominated lawyers in our research this year. Based in Hamburg, he heads the firm’s global real estate practice group and is considered an “extremely important player” in the market. He recently advised HSH Nordbank on the sale of its 45 per cent stake in the Europa-Passage, a large inner-city shopping centre, to Allianz. Peers praise his “encyclopaedic knowledge” and “originality” while clients value his “sound counsel” and “business acumen”. At the same office, Niko Schultz-Süchting has an “excellent reputation” as a specialist on the regulatory aspects of German openended funds and their implications for real estate transactions. In Frankfurt Friedrich Heilmann is a “transactional genius” and clients “cannot say enough good things about him”. Cologne-based Heinz Joachim Kummer is considered a “real dealmaker” due to his ability to advise on very complex and difficult transactions.

Four London lawyers feature, including consultant Geoff Le Pard who is renowned for his “impressive list of investment and corporate clients” which includes Scottish Widows, Citigroup and the Bank of England. The “very bright” John Fordham leads the firm’s real estate team in London and has acted for Land Securities, Brookfield Office Properties, HSBC, Société Générale, Blackstone and the Ministry of Defence in prominent transactions. The “extremely good” Chris Morris is a specialist on landlord and tenant and development matters. Mark Wheelhouse is “very active” in real estate joint ventures, sales and leasebacks. Paris-based property acquisitions and disposals “expert” Erwan Le Douce-Bercot and managing partner of the Milan office Marzio Longo are also highly nominated.

Eight “top” practitioners from Baker & McKenzie garnered a substantial number of recommendations this year. The Paris office has two individuals recognised, notably head of the real estate practice Olivier Mesmin , who is “one of the leading real estate tax lawyers in Europe.” He has a “magnificent reputation” amongst international and domestic clients, who consider him “the go-to guy” for tax planning in this sector. Marc Mariani is “very well known” in the Parisian market and is a “familiar face on notable deals”. He also advises clients on foreign investment financing and financial lease agreements. In Belgium the “incredible” Dominique Lechien and “remarkable” real estate environment expert Rudy Dupont are singled out.

The firm’s Buenos Aires offices fields two highly regarded practitioners, with the “greatly respected” Miguel Menegazzo Cané being “valued for his “deep experience” in this area. His colleague Gustavo Boruchowicz is sought after by clients for his “comprehensive and proactive approach”. Co-head of the firm’s real estate transactions group in Zurich, Alexander Wyss is often seen as lead adviser for local and foreign investors and developers in landmark buildings in Switzerland. In Moscow, Konstantine Kouzine “superbly” leads the real estate and construction practice and is “fast becoming a big name in the market”.

Newly created global firm Dentons, which was formed earlier this year as a result of a three-way merger between Salans, Fraser Milner Casgrain and SNR Denton, fields eight professionals to this edition from five different jurisdictions. In Illinois the “terrific” Mark Mehlman is renowned for his work in troubled loan workouts. His colleague, the “splendid” Eric Schiller , is lauded for his expertise at bridge and mezzanine loans, as well as complex multibank financing transactions and equity investment transactions. At the Warsaw office Paweł Debowski leads the firm’s Central European real estate group and “definitely has to be included” in this publication according to peers due to his “unparalleled skills” at large cross-border transactions. Partner Piotr Szafarz is “extremely well regarded” for his work involving shopping centre and hotel developments and transactions.

In Prague Evan Lazar is at the “vanguard” of major real estate transactions in the region alongside his colleague Olga Humlová , who is also renowned for her knowledge of construction law. Henry Lazarski is of counsel in the firm’s Paris office and is considered a “dean of the commercial real estate market in France”. He is especially noted for his advice on the structure and set-up of real property funds. In Madrid, Jesús Varela is “much admired” for his work on private equity deals, structured financings and debt trades in the Spanish market.

Recently formed “world-class firm” Herbert Smith Freehills has eight of its practitioners from Europe and Asia-Pacific featured, three of whom hail from the firm’s London office. James Barnes is “highly thought of” for his advice on the real estate aspects of major infrastructure projects. He was recently involved in the property aspects of the High Speed 1 rail link and the operational leases of the new East London Line stations. Patrick Robinson is a “leading authority” on town and country planning and has been advising on the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station. Managing partner Ian Cox is “simply stellar” at establishing alternative vehicles for property investment.

In Sydney Murray Dearberg leads the firm’s property team and has a “formidable history of being involved in major deals”. He especially well known for his work in the retail sector, where he has acted for the principal developers and owners in the development of prime regional and smaller shopping centres from greenfield sites. His colleague, the “outstanding” Julie Couch , is also well respected within the Sydney market. Managing partner in Brisbane, Michael Back , is “in demand” for his counsel in the area of property sales and acquisitions. In Paris Pierre Popesco is described as a “fantastic all-rounder” with particular knowledge of planning law, while Singapore-based Simon Taskunas handles all aspects of real estate investment for global clients across Asia and Australia.

Greenberg Traurig has seven practitioners from across their offices in the US recognised for their talents in this sector. Robert Ivanhoe is co-chairman of the firm’s New York office and chair of the global real estate practice. He focuses on sophisticated real estate structures, financings, workouts, restructurings, acquisitions and dispositions of all asset classes of real estate. At the same office Stephen Rabinowitz “stands out” for his representation of financial institutions, private equity funds and developers. In New Jersey Steven Fleissig is described by clients as “amazingly responsive” and Californian lawyer Toni Wise is an “acquisitions and leasing superstar”. Michael Fishman is co-head of the firm’s real estate group in Chicago and peers consider him a “real force in the market”. He is renowned for his involvement in the creation of domestic and cross-border real estate funds. In Florida both Albert Quentel and Jonathan Gelman are considered “experienced professionals who know the market inside out”.

Other notable practitioners include Ann Saegert of Haynes and Boone in Dallas who is the most highly regarded individual in our research this year. She is the former chair of the firm’s real estate practice and is “undoubtedly at the top of her game” according to peers. She is “the first port of call” for funds, pension plans and advisers, REITs and other institutional investors seeking transactional advice. She is also “internationally acclaimed” for her traditional, structured and leverage finance arrangement abilities. The “unbelievably good” Ira Waldman at Cox Castle & Nicholson’s Los Angeles office is considered “one of the most technically gifted lawyers in the world”. He receives particular praise for his secured lender remedies, ownership entity formation and property disposition skills.

At Venable’s Baltimore office Kevin Shepherd is considered to have “one of the pre-eminent practices in the US”. He is co-chair of the firm’s real estate practice group and a “point of reference within the market”. New Orleans-based Susan Talley of Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann is “greatly esteemed” by her peers for her “incredibly strong” practice. She co-chairs the firm’s real estate group and is chair-elect of the American Bar Association section of real property, trust and estate law.

At his own firm, practitioner Joshua Stein is a “legendary figure” in the New York market and a “true scholar” of the real estate finance bar. Peers and clients heap praise on him due to the “high-quality service” he provides and his “unrivalled breadth and depth of knowledge” of this sector. Denver-based Mark Senn of Senn Visciano Canges is “the top guy for leasing in the US, if not the world”, although as one peer commented, “He can just about do anything in the commercial real estate area.” He is also well known for his writing and speaking on commercial real estate leases.

At Ritch Mueller in Mexico City Rodrigo Conesa Labastida is managing partner of the firm and leads its real estate practice. He is a “phenomenal” transactional lawyer and an expert on Mexican REITs.

The “gifted” Neerav Merchant of Majmudar & Partners is a “huge figure” in the Mumbai market and is praised for his “very sophisticated approach” and “sharp business mind”. In Germany both Wolfgang Usinger of SammlerUsinger and Jan Lindner-Figura of GÖRG Partnerschaft von Rechtsanwälten are leading individuals who are greatly admired by their peers for their strong practices and excellent expertise.

Yingying Wang of Fangda Partners in Shanghai boasts a “remarkable” client list which includes, JP Morgan, Citigroup and Hilton International. According to peers she is “at the forefront of the Chinese real estate bar” and is highly sought after by foreign corporations and private equity firms for acquisitions, investment and development projects. At Blake Cassels & Graydon the “truly exceptional” Jim Hilton has over three decades of experience in the sector and has “work on every kind of transaction imaginable”. He is considered a “point of reference” within the Canadian market and is renowned for his dedication to his practice.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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