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Manhattan's Biggest Real Estate Practice?

New York
Manhattan's Biggest Real Estate Practice?

Terri Adler and Bruce Stachenfeld (L to R)

Don't knowDuval & Stachenfeld?With the addition of a50threal estate attorney, they believe they're now thebiggestconcentration of such lawyers in New York City. Managing partnerBruce Stachenfeld(above with real estate chairTerri Adler) started building the firm 15 years ago with fellow Latham alumPatrick Duval. But Bruce says the biggest driver of its growth was a"gut-wrenching"decision during the recessionnot to downsize, but to wait it out andpreserve the talentthey had taken so much time to assemble and train. By 2009, he says, they were expanding again, stealing a march on firms that hesitated. Fast forward four years and they've doubled in size.

Thomas O'Connor and Alan Cohen (L to R)

They've also broadened their practice. In the past, they've been noted forhelping ownersandborrowerslike Angelo Gordon buy, structure, and sell; but increasingly, they alsorep lenderson mezz debt and preferred equity, and recently they launched a new specialty inmortgage loan originationswith clients like Cantor Commercial Real Estate Lending and NorthStar Realty Finance. That's where two new star arrivals--former Cooley national real estate chairTom O'Connorand his partner,Alan Cohen, above--come in, as well as previous laterals like former Thacher Proffit'sSam Lee,DLA'sZach Sampton, and Linklater's US tax practice chiefStephen Land. Bruce doesn't rely solely on the firm's lure as a larger real estateplatformthat thrives on what he calls "messy" and even "ugly" situations. Over breakfasts at Pershing Square Cafe, Bruce and Alan also discovered a shared love ofmovie quotes. No, we're not talkingJohn Gielgudsoliloquies from Julius Caesar, butArnoldin Kindergarten Cop:"I'm the party pooper."


Which suggests the firm's culture, intended to be fun and spirited: regular evenings devoted to ping pong,karaoke, and bowling; a"wine committee"to pick best labels for clients; and an innovation committee to"attack complacency." There's alsonimbleness in structure, including an "opportunity associate program" for recent law gradswithout the pedigreeof top schools: They can try out at a lower starting salary with the potential after a year or two to become afull associateat full pay. (And, of course, the right to join the rest of the firm at its yearly retreats inFlorida.)

Any Pittsburghers out there? NY reporter Amanda Metcalf is headed back "home" for a few days next week. Email if you know what "Want some fries on that sandwich?" means.