What are some of your most satisfying successes of 2021, and why?
2021 was a year like none other. Still in the middle of a pandemic, we saw unprecedented volume in residential transactions, particularly high-end, largely cash closings as people from other estates migrated to Florida, while the capital markets for larger commercial transactions we hesitant to consummate transactions. This was particularly true as we entered 2021.
The most satisfying success I experienced in 2021 was the closing of what we informally labeled the Boca Trophy Portfolio: four office and retail properties in Boca Raton. The properties were The Fountains Center, City National Bank Building, The Boardwalk at Boca Raton and the Boca Grove Center, a portfolio of nearly 300 tenants, comprising 17 buildings, in excess of 500,000 rentable square feet and more than 30 acres of property. Work on this $155 million transaction, which included $99 million in financing, began in 2019 and was delayed and nearly canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This transaction was among the first larger deals to close as we saw light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, and was among the largest transactions in South Palm Beach County in several years. Consummating this and other such transactions in early 2021 sent a message to the market that Florida was open for business—in a significant way. Negotiating with tenants in advance of closing, including deferred rent arrangements, helped retain tenants, minimize tenant defaults and added to the success of this transaction.
While 2021 was the most active year in my 30-year career, the closing of the Boca Trophy Portfolio was an encouraging way to begin the year.
Florida’s real estate market is now among the hottest in the country. What are your thoughts on that?
While a strong real estate market is great for our local economy in that it brings with it financially strong buyers and businesses, my concern is that with increasing housing costs, and pricing in the commercial markets, rents (both residential and commercial) are ascending. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find workforce housing, and for small companies to find affordable space. Although wages remain strong, as interest rates rise throughout 2022, we may see a slight shift very an overwhelming and extraordinary seller’s market to a merely strong seller’s market.
What does it take to become a trusted real estate/transactional lawyer in Florida?
There are many superb, outstanding real estate attorneys in Florida. What I find clients appreciate as much as skill and competency is quick communication and turn-around time. The finest attorney adds little value if they cannot be reached. I often exchange emails and communicate with clients (and other attorneys) late into the evening and on Sundays, and am quick to respond to inquiries. This is the advice I share with younger attorneys to help build a practice and forge relationships with clients. I also encourage professional development including seeking Florida Bar Board Certification. In addition to enhancing and building upon critical knowledge in our practice area, Board Certification demonstrates a commitment to one’s personal practice and our profession. We expect our accountants, physicians and other professionals with whom we interact to maintain the highest standard of professional achievement, we should likewise strive to attain such professional credentials. And our clients will be the beneficiaries of our accomplishments.
Dealmakers are extraordinarily busy people. What must firms do to ensure that they remain engaged with pro bono work, their communities and their families?
Giving back to our communities, whether civic organizations, religious institutions, schools, mentoring young attorneys, working with Legal Aid, helping a family in need, and the countless other ways attorneys can contribute our talents where needed is an integral part of profession. And there are multiple ways in which firms can facilitate their attorneys’ involvement in local, philanthropic endeavors. Encouraging involvement in local organizations is key, and firms should consider extending a billable hour budget for attorneys to work on behalf of qualified organizations and making concessions for time spent by attorneys in local leadership roles.
Work/life/family balance is also an important component of a successful career and a well-adjusted attorney. Allowing a measure of flextime, so an attorney can participate in family gatherings, school, and athletic events is important. As an Orthodox Jew, I have spent the entirety of my 30-year career unavailable from sundown Friday until Saturday night, and on numerous Jewish holidays throughout the year. This time away from work, spent with family and friends, has never diminished my ability to successfully represent clients, build a practice, and allow me to enjoy a meaningful work-life balance.