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The Bisnow on Business Top 25 Power Lawyers in Washington Commercial Real Estate 2006

Washington DC

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As usual, we make no pretense to scientific method. This is just a brazenly subjective list of who we see as the top real estate attorneys around town. Not necessarily the only great lawyers. But the ones people most know and talk about — and hire if something’s really important.

How did we decide who fits that description? We asked both clients and other lawyers, then roughly added up how much certain ones were mentioned and in how awed a tone of voice. Since our fearless publisher knew most of the contenders only very superficially, you could argue he was the least qualified person to do this list — or, perhaps, the most qualified because he had no strong views of his own and was forced to synthesize lots of other people’s opinions. In any case, if you disagree with our selections, hey, that’s what next year’s list is all about.

By the way, within the categories, names are alphabetical.

The Dean

David Osnos, Arent Fox — He’s not only had two of the region’s top clients in Abe Pollin and Jim Clark (for 48 and 39 years respectively), but Dave is a reason they are top clients; Clark credits him for the introduction to Pollin that led to building the MCI Center. Somehow he kept Cafritz out of bankruptcy court. And yes, he’s got an encyclopedic knowledge not only of law but of everything from wine to basketball. But here’s the most impressive thing: Is it really possible for a lawyer to be a saint? Ask anyone who knows him.

Assistant Deans

Dick Beyda, Grossberg Yochelson — Representing a Who’s Who of old line powers over the decades like Coyne, Smith, Brandt, and Kogod, he’s known for the ability to simplify transactions and make them work. Since he originally went to work for Sol Grossberg, the man who practically invented real estate law in DC, he’s gotten a lot done with a big intellect and big smile.

Joe Fries, Arent Fox — He’s spent 46 years guiding the property interests of major institutions of the region like Marriott, Republic Properties, AARP, Quadrangle, and many big law firms. In the process, he’s changed the face of the city, from the National Theatre and Reagan Building, to 1001 Penn and the Portals. Talks slowly but thinks fast, and seems a quiet guy — except when it comes to hockey and opera. If he ever retires, look for him to reprise his 1981 role as an extra with the New York City Opera in Tosca.

Stef Tucker, Venable — Okay, so he’s not technically a graybeard, but a gray mustache. But the guru of tax and estate planning to many of the family entrepreneurs of Washington — Bender, Small, Haft, Westreich, Fried, Checchi — came to do much of their real estate as well. His 50-attorney Tucker Flyer had a 25 year run until merging into Venable six years ago, giving the Michigan double major from Flint slightly more time to fly back at least once a season for Wolverine football.

Top Land Use and
Zoning Lawyers

Tony Calabrese, Cooley Godward — Young gun of the toll road, with jazzy clients like AOL and Capital One, the former McGuire Woods upstart helped zone Reston Town Center and is now working to re-zone 3.5 million square feet at Tysons I. But his workaholic ways will truly be tested now that he at last gave into marriage and (after a new arrival shortly) will have three girls under 4.

Maureen Dwyer, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman — The First Lady of Zoning deals with complicated sites whether they’re university campus plans (think G-Town, GW, and AU) or re-zoning the Anacostia waterfront for the Southeast Federal Center. Somehow she also finds time to run her large DC law office.

Phil Feola, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman — Phil has the Linowes and Wilkes lineage, plus storied clients like Horning, Hines, and Clark Realty, and a cutting-edge future representing Boston Properties on Square 54. But he still won’t carry a Blackberry.

Chip Glasgow, Holland & Knight — What he hasn’t learned as Whayne Quin’s protégé he probably picked up at the kitchen table from legendary dad Stormin’ Norman and the old crew at Wilkes Artis. At least enough to advise Jemal, Carr, Monument, Donatelli, Hoffman, the Arena Stage, and Shakespeare Theatre.

Whayne Quin, Holland & Knight — A Tennessee farm boy who grew up to become senior statesman of the DC zoning bar, has long advised top developers like Ben Jacobs, Albert Small, and Bernie Gewirz, and top institutions like the IMF and World Bank—in the process helping create Washington Harbour and MCI Center. And he hasn’t slowed down: he just orchestrated new zoning for DoT headquarters and is working away on Hope VI.

Barbara Sears, Linowes & Blocher — The queen of Montgomery County zoning, Barbara has spent the last 30 years representing developers in Maryland, from the Petersons to Pulte, Foulger-Pratt to Penrose, and EYA to KB, on the likes of Park Potomac, Rockville’s King Farm, and the re-development of downtown Silver Spring.

Art Walsh, Walsh Colucci — Art is the zoning king of Arlington, a longtime stalwart for Charles E. Smith and JBG projects in Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Rosslyn. But he’s also done the rezoning for Fairview Park at Route 50, a public-private partnership between Smith/Artery and Fairfax Government Center, worked with Tishman on Woodland Park out on the Dulles Access Road, and helped Gannett gain approval for its new headquarters in Tysons. Now he’s working with 30 landowners to bring rail there, but also spending more time in Florida, longing for the days when Clarendon was farmland.