This Manhattan boutique is a one-stop shop for real estate law.
WHAT'S in a name? That which we call a law firm, by any other name would meet clients’ needs? Adam Leitman Bailey put this paraphrasing of the Bard to the test when it briefly rebranded as Desiderio, Kaufman & Metz following the temporary suspension of its titular founder – he has since been readmitted and the firm is back to its original moniker. “Everyone stepped up to the plate and the transition periods have been very smooth. We haven’t lost any clients,” juniors assured us. The closest we heard to a complaint was that “the news of the suspension was shocking at first. There were some annoying moments having to explain the name changes!" Bailey tells us: "I’m very proud of the firm. Financially, we have had our best year to date and nearly every department has recorded growth," even in his absence. He adds that the firm “represents clients ranging from individuals and small businesses, all the way up to the largest Fortune 500 companies."
TOP READ: Becoming a real estate lawyer: Adam Leitman Bailey's real estate attorneys tell us about the challenge of keeping up with ever-evolving laws and why it's vital to channel your inner bulldog when negotiating.
ALB, DKM... no matter the name they practiced under, junior sources remained resolute in their perception of the firm as one of the premier real estate boutiques in New York. “We’re a one-stop-shop for all real estate matters,” one source explained; another suggested that “whenever there is a change to the law, we are the first firm that people call on. It sets us apart from the competition.” One factor that clearly separates Adam Leitman Bailey from peers is its size – just 26 attorneys at the last count. Interviewees reckoned that market giants suffer “when there are too many hands in the mix. Here there is always clearly one person in charge who the client knows they can call and get an answer from within 24 hours – it means we have more accountability and are nimbler.”
Strategy & Future
Bailey assures us that there are no plans to rip up the rulebook in the future, explaining that the firm is “never going to do corporate or international law; we don’t even dive into all types of real estate law if we don’t think we are going to be the best at it. The reason we have become so high-profile is because we are very selective in taking on the biggest real estate cases in the city." Even during a multi-year slow period in the real estate market, litigation has remained healthy: “New laws, including landlord/tenant laws that were recently introduced by the government concerning evictions, have taken away an entire practice area of law. Fortunately, we’ve been there to deal with some of the fallout resulting from these laws."
“We get our hands on every sort of real estate matter you could ever think of,” sources confidently declared. There is indeed a mix of transactional work (including purchases and sales of homes and condos) and litigious fare on offer – the latter ranges from adverse possession claims to foreclosure litigation. Teams are inevitably leanly staffed due to the firm’s size, so associates usually end up working exclusively for just one or two partners.
“We get our hands on every sort of real estate matter you could ever think of.”
Associates in the firm's litigation practice get involved predominantly with foreclosures on behalf of banks, title and mortgage litigation, and commercial lease disputes. The firm is also well versed in Yellowstone Injunctions – not arguments over picnic spots in the National Park, but New York Supreme Court proceedings that crop up when a landlord attempts to terminate a tenant’s lease. There was a range of responsibilities on offer for our interviewees; one had so far focused primarily on “the pre-litigation stage. Right now, I’m trying to establish who has legal responsibility for a tree that is threatening to damage our client’s properties.” Others had a penchant for “condo and construction defect cases. I act as the client’s contact at the firm – they are typically the elected representative of a group of unit owners who are unhappy with an aspect of construction. I relay all the problems to the engineers and keep the client updated on proceedings.” Juniors aren’t chained to the office: “We’d typically send an associate to a settlement conference because the processes aren’t too complicated – and it keeps costs down.” Some even got to “attend court up to four times a week! At the very least you’ll likely be heading out once every week,” sources explained.
Clients and cases: West Village House Renters Union, Wells Fargo, Verizon. Defended Bronstein Properties against a $10 million claim alleging a fraudulent scheme of increasing rents based on nonexistent apartment renovations.
In the smaller transactional group, the firm’s books carry the names of major banks who call on Adam Leitman Bailey for assistance with residential mortgages and refinancings; juniors can also assist on bankruptcies and tax incentive matters, in some cases acting as the intermediary between lenders and clients by “communicating with all the sides to ensure documents are in place for a closing.” Due diligence is another common entry-level task, as is “ironing out any issues that crop up post-closing.” We heard plenty of praise for the responsibility levels on offer, the firm’s size meaning that “by necessity you’re a key part of any team early on.”
Culture & Compensation
A small firm also makes “collaboration” an essential element of the culture. “You can walk into any office, ask a question and expect to get substantive feedback,” sources emphasized. “That’s something that’s extremely useful as a young associate.” Relationships tend to stick to the professional rather than the personal: “It’s not the sort of place where people are joking around and giving each other high-fives all the time. Everyone has their own drive to work hard and advance – that’s just how it is.” A work-focused culture is no bad thing when you’ve got a good office to work in, and juniors were keen to brag about their position in Battery Park, “the best location” in New York, according to one interviewee. “Getting into some areas of Midtown is so stressful because it’s so crowded; down here it’s a lot less hectic and we have amazing views of the Hudson and the Statue of Liberty.” Every associate gets a window office – no FOMO here. Another gushed over the “sleek and professional environment. I travel a lot to do closings and I’ve always loved returning to our space, it’s nice to have a beautiful place to grow."
“It’s an amazing opportunity you don’t get at other firms, as long as you put the work in.”
Adam Leitman Bailey promotes a strong work ethic through its revenue-sharing program, through which associates can earn a third of their billable hours (that the firm collects and clients pay) in addition to their base salary. There's also a bonus scheme with the opportunity for each attorney, regardless of level, to earn up to 20% of any new business that they bring in. “It’s an amazing opportunity you don’t get at other firms, as long as you put the work in,” one source declared. We heard that some associates were able to earn double their base salary through these schemes, though the “downside is that it isn’t based on what you bill, but rather the fees you collect from clients, which can sometimes take years to come in.”
Our interviewees were keen to clarify that the firm isn’t solely fixated on the bottom line and relished a personal touch: “Adam is very big on celebrating people’s birthdays and special occasions. When one of the associates passed the Bar, we threw a party – it was nice to recognize that they’d overcome a challenge in that way.” Aside from a formal event each summer and winter, sources agreed there “isn’t much firm-wide socializing. A few more events could help boost morale.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Morale was fairly high on the diversity front. “In a small office it’s easy to measure diversity looking around,” sources reasoned; they were confident that “for the most part we have a diverse firm. There are a significant number of minorities here and definitely no whitewashing.” They added that “male to female it’s split fairly evenly, and that goes all the way down to the support staff level.” Another cited an article that the firm's founder wrote back in 2015 – 'Why We Do Not Hire Law School Graduates from the Ivy League Schools' – as further proof of the firm's progressive credentials. Click on the media tab above to read more about this.
Hours & Pro Bono
Billable hours: 1,600 target
Even this goal – a more feasible one than at many larger firms – isn’t a mandatory achievement. It is the minimum associates are required to bill to get a bonus, but “the firm is more concerned with how much money you bring in, and if you’re good there, they look the other way with the hours.” Most associates fall somewhere between 1,500 and 1,700 hours “with a couple of outliers who do less and some who do way more.” That leaves time to leave the office at around 7pm on most days, aside from the odd occasion “where you’d be required to work past 8pm” (about once every two weeks for our sources). From their second year, associates can work from home if one of the partners gives them the go-ahead.
If you’re looking to avoid soul-crushing workloads, this might be the firm for you, but our interviewees were also in agreement that “if pro bono is high on your agenda, this firm is probably not the best option as pro bono is very much on the periphery.” There have also been suggestions that the firm’s bonus scheme, geared toward billables, disincentivizes associate pro bono. Opportunities do come in on a case-by-case basis and juniors can get involved if they have the capacity.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per US attorney: undisclosed
“It’s a place I can see myself in ten years, where I can have a family and plant roots.”
Flexible compensation + a lifestyle outside the firm = juniors happy to stick around for the long term. Our most recent survey round backed up the math as Adam Leitman Bailey ranked close to the top for associates intending to stay on at their firm for the foreseeable future. “It’s a place I can see myself in ten years, where I can have a family and plant roots,” a forward-thinking junior declared. “A large part of that comes from the fact that Adam is very much into offering the freedom to enjoy life and the money we make – he recognizes that it makes people better employees.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 23
Interviewees outside OCI: 12
A couple of well-guided Google searches about ALB’s approach to recruiting will probably lead you to an article by Adam Leitman Bailey himself declaring that the firm doesn’t hire from Ivy League schools. In his own words: “I’m a grade snob, but I don’t care which school you went to.”
With this in mind, the firm recruits from “all of the local New York City law schools and surrounding areas such as Hofstra, in addition to Syracuse University College of Law. Adam Leitman Bailey is also an alumnus and participant of the NYCEx recruitment program,” associate Carly Clinton tells us. Associates often take part in on-campus interviews – especially if they are alumni of the school. Clinton explains: “Our attorneys will ask a range of questions to get a feel for candidates’ work ethic, experience and personality. There are no formal criteria, besides being a top performer, hard worker and creative thinker.”
Top tips for this stage:
"Candidates should demonstrate their qualifications through any existing legal experience and/or professional experience, as well as held positions of responsibility (such as law journal positions). Aside from having a top GPA, it’s important candidates exhibit their strong writing skills. They should also give insight into what drives them, what their goals are, and what they are looking for in a firm." – associate Carly Clinton
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 9
Callback interviews are held with “at least two attorneys (usually, one department head/partner and one associate).” Clinton tells us: “Candidates are asked to complete a questionnaire, provide multiple writing samples along with their resume, and answer questions specific to the department in which they are being considered for a position.” When it comes to advice, an associate told us: “I’d recommend reading Finding the Uncommon Deal, as well as any articles our attorneys have written recently. It’s always a good idea to review the website, as well.”
Top tips for this stage:
"Be confident, show us that you strive for greatness and how, and don’t be afraid to tell us why you think you belong here." – associate Carly Clinton
Those who land a spot on ALB’s summer program “can expect to gain experience in all aspects of the job, from researching and writing memos to drafting motions to assisting with the preparation of published articles which will bear their name.” Clinton tells us: “Partners and associates will seek out the assistance of the summer associates on an open and rotating basis, so some associates will stick mainly within one or two departments while others may get to experience a wider range of work.” Summers will also be able to take part in the perks on offer for attorneys, including “'Summer Lunches' and 'Spa Fridays' – every Friday during the summer months, attorneys and staff will eat as one large group or several departmental groups, and every other Friday throughout the year, the firm provides free massages and manicures in the office. There is also a firm Summer Party and occasional happy hours set up to encourage socializing and a work/life balance,” Clinton explains. Associates told us: “You absolutely have to be a self-starter and take the initiative to go to attorneys and ask for work.”
Top tips for this stage:
"Ask questions, and don’t be shy about approaching associates and partners for work or advice. Those who do this the most will benefit the most from their experience here – especially as many of our attorneys are some of the best in their respective fields. We recruit based on talent and drive for greatness." – associate Carly Clinton
“Adam Leitman Bailey recruits to bring the best of the best to its quest for greatness, regardless of race, nationality, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, etc. To the firm, greatness equals passion, love for the law, and devotion to achieving results for our clients.” – associate Carly Clinton
Becoming a real estate lawyer
Interview with firm founder Adam Leitman Bailey
Chambers Associate: How has the past year been at the firm?
Adam Leitman Bailey: I’m very proud of the firm. Financially, we have had our best year to date and nearly every department has recorded growth. The firm is now over 20 years old and for the first ten I was involved in almost every case. We are no longer that firm. We now have clearly defined departments headed by leading attorneys that I have trained. Some of them started their careers with Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. and have grown to become incredible attorneys with us. There is also a real and tangible firm culture that is helping to produce the very best lawyers across all levels – it makes me very proud.
CA: New York is a very crowded legal market. How does a firm like Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. compete with some of the giants of the market?
ALB: I don’t think the firms you are referring to are giants or can even be considered bigger than us in a relative comparison. This is because we only practice one type of law, in one state, in one city, so in that sense we are the biggest. When you look at the departments which practice real estate law in New York, you’ll find that many of the individuals also do finance or corporate law as well, not purely real estate.
We, however, are never going to do corporate or international law; we don’t even dive into all types of real estate law if we don’t think we are going to be the best at it. The reason we have become so high-profile is because we are very selective in taking on the biggest real estate cases in the city.
CA: What does the firm’s client base look like?
ALB: Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. represents clients ranging from individuals and small businesses, all the way up to the largest Fortune 500 companies. Unlike a lot of firms that regularly go to court, we pride ourselves on our chess-like prowess – the ability to predict results and strategize to prevent future problems and assist clients in reaching their goals. Practicing one type of law in one city and one state, we can lose business to firms that provide companies with a more holistic service, practicing several types of law; however, our expertise has allowed us to retain hundreds of clients as general counsel that need a full-service real estate firm. We are known as a firm that handles litigation, crisis management and bet-the-company matters, as well as cooperative/condominium matters, title insurance litigation, property disputes, landlord/tenant matters and transactional deals.
We only take cases where we know we can succeed for the client by winning or settling their case. We have clients that have been with us for two decades, and that says something.
CA: What’s the state of the real estate market in New York?
ALB: New laws, including landlord/tenant laws that were recently introduced by the government concerning evictions, have taken away an entire practice area of law. Fortunately, we’ve been there to deal with some of the fallout resulting from these laws. Our firm has been asked to litigate for some of the most important cases on the remaining issues of the new laws and interpretations of some of the older laws. Many of our clients have been looking in other markets to invest, which is not good for New York real estate, or for a law firm that only practices in New York.
CA: What is your approach to recruitment and compensation?
ALB: I have never really compared myself to anyone else. I don’t care what color skin you have or what school you went to – I hire based on talent and I think the results show. We have more award-winning attorneys than any other firm. As far as money goes, it’s simple: you will make more money at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. as long as you can bill the same hours as some of the big firms in New York City. Equally, if you want to bill less hours and have more of a social life, you can do so. We’ve had one associate recently earn a little over a million dollars; the work is here if you want it. We also take a very robust approach to wellness. Health is extremely important to me, and so it’s imperative we provide a sound, balanced environment for all of our employees. We want you take your lunch breaks and we don’t want you to work weekends.
Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C.
1 Battery Park Plaza, 18th Floor,
- Head Office: New York, NY
- Number of domestic offices: 1
- Number of international offices: 0
- Partners (US): 12
- Associates (US): 13
- Languages spoken: 12
- Main recruitment contact:
- Carly Clinton(email@example.com)
- Hiring partners: Adam Leitman Bailey
- Diversity officer:
- Carolyn Rualo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 2
- Clerking policy: Yes
- We offer externships for the Fall and Spring semesters and an associate program during the summer
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020: 2 based in New York
- Summer salary 2020: 1Ls/2Ls/3Ls: receive a per diem based on a $100k/year salary
- Split summers offered? No
Main areas of work
• Real Estate
By uniting many of the best real estate attorneys of our generation, Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. has become one of New York’s most prominent real estate law firms. The firm excels by solely practicing real estate law and only taking on projects and cases where it is among the best in the field. Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. has achieved groundbreaking results in the courtroom, in the board room, at the closing table, in the lobbies of legislative bodies and in every other venue where talented legal advocacy is key to its clients’ interests.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. advertise for externship positions on our website as well as through various law schools.
Summer associate profile:
We choose the most talented applicants. When interviewing candidates for these positions, we look to see whether they have the potential to be future lawyers at our firm. Once we hire someone, the training, mentoring and teaching never stops. We strive for greatness in everything we do and expect our interns to do the same. We encourage you to express your opinions and share your ideas to improve our work.
Summer program components:
Our interns become lawyers in training and are part of the legal team and learn on the case or deal. Being assigned to active cases and made part of the team has given externs and interns the ability to produce amazing results. Only the very best law school students will make it at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. as we are considered among the best, if not the best, real estate law firm in New York City. Because Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. practices only one type of law, all of our associates rapidly become experts. We have exciting cases that require hard work and sweat as well as the smartest most aggressive, passionate, loyal and committed students who are ready to change the world one real estate case at a time.
Interns will participate in a wide range of tasks that may include conducting case investigation, legal research and discovery; meeting with clients and experts; and preparing memoranda, briefs and other legal documents for administrative, judicial and transactional proceedings.
Firm website: https://www.alblawfirm.com
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020
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