Anyone can “claim” anything about why their law firm is a wonderful place to work – and if you go to any website you are hardly going to hear anything negative. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we asked the partners who had joined the Firm in the past few years to put their thoughts down below:
Stephen Land started the Tax Practice Group on July 1, 2012.
Before joining Duval & Stachenfeld, Mr. Land was
Chair of the U.S. Tax Practice Group at Linklaters for 15 years.
Stephen has the following to say:
When I was looking for a new practice home a couple of years ago, I knew there were two things I could not compromise on. First, there had to be integrity in the tax practice. By this I mean being given the freedom to be creative in finding sensible solutions to tax problems, but also having the support of the firm when I have to say no or give unwelcome advice. Clients deserve the best judgment I can offer, untainted by timidity or wishful thinking. I knew from my first meeting with Bruce Stachenfeld that having the highest standards of practice and professional ethics—always “doing the right thing”—was a core value of the firm,
Second, there had to be a compelling business case. Here again, Duval & Stachenfeld came through, offering a three legged stool: continuing to advise clients I brought with me from Linklaters, offering tax advice for existing real estate clients of Duval & Stachenfeld (who previously had to use other firms), and—most importantly for the long haul—developing new opportunities for the firm by having a tax practice with “big firm” sophistication that could attract blue chip clients and star recruits. As it turned out, all three legs of this stool have provided solid support. Clients from Linklaters were happy to move the relationship to Duval & Stachenfeld, a process aided by the arrival of a couple of my tax associates who followed me here. Over the course of my first year here, 100% of the firm’s real estate clients started using our tax team. Most gratifying of all, the firm has landed some valuable new clients and recruits, who had made it clear that a top-notch tax practice was essential for them.
But it gets even better. In an early interview, I asked Beth Turtz, the Chair of the firm’s Hedgehog Committee, what the Hedgehog Principle was. She said, quite simply, “Love.” I was floored. That was just not a word I was accustomed to hearing in a law firm environment. But it expressed exactly my own view of what it takes for a gratifying and successful law practice: you need to love your clients and your colleagues. I was—and am—delighted to see a whole firm built around that principle.
Coming to Duval & Stachenfeld meant a shift in the mix of my practice, which had focused on international corporate finance and M&A, but now includes a substantial real estate focus, since the Tax Practice is now an important part of the firm’s “pure play” in real estate. But the firm has also fully supported the continuing work of the Tax Practice in areas that go beyond the real estate “pure play,” most notably in the international tax arena.
A positive energy permeates the firm. This has translated into enthusiastic support for all kinds of initiatives, including starting a “Real Estate Tax Networking Group” for in-house finance and tax people, taking on a leadership position in the Tax Section of the New York State Bar Association, and getting some important pro bono work off the ground.
I have the same affection and esteem for my colleagues that they have shown to me. The firm has shown that the Hedgehog Principle is not only consistent with having a demanding and sophisticated practice, but actually helps propel it forward. I am grateful to the founders of the firm for adopting the right values from the very start.
Thomas O'Connor joined the Real Estate Practice Group on February 1, 2013.
Prior to joining Duval & Stachenfeld LLP, Mr. O’Connor was Chair of the Real Estate
Practice Group at Cooley LLP for 15 years.
Tom has the following to say:
My name is Tom O’Connor. I joined D&S in February of 2013. I had a 25 year history as a real estate lawyer in NYC. I thought highly of the Cooley firm but it was not focused on real estate, so I wanted to move to a place where real estate is the core of the firm.
I had a great practice beforehand at the Cooley firm, but I was stunned at what happened at D&S. First – the firm is all about real estate, real estate and more real estate – we call ourselves “the pure play in real estate law”. Second, the entire real estate group (of about 50 attorneys) is the largest in NYC, yet despite its size we all work as a team and this team has gone “all out” to service my clients.
By the way, I brought all of my clients along and they are extremely happy here. Business has increased from all of them. Part of the reason they are so happy is that the firm has a mission to build the business of our clients, and this is not just lip service – it is a way of life here.
Bruce Stachenfeld – the managing partner– spearheads this mission. He is incredibly “connected” in the real estate world and he creates excellent opportunities for the clients. For example, one of my major clients was seeking a strategic investor. Bruce and I brought the client to the firm to discuss this. Based on that discussion
Bruce recommended introductions to no less than 10 of the major funds he represents or has relationships with. This resulted in 8 substantive meetings and ongoing discussions. To say this client is happy is a severe understatement – no law firm does this.
Moreover, Bruce, who meets clients and prospective clients every single day, connected me with two major lender clients, which I now do a lot of work for. Bruce doesn’t do lending himself so he turned the clients over to me lock, stock and barrel. I have origination and billing credit for these clients.
And we are in the process of pitching numerous additional clients that Bruce has found and put me in front of. My practice is on fire like it was before the recession, and no I am not exaggerating.
Oh – and yes – I really like it here – people are really friendly and we all go out of our way to have a good time together.
Finally, the firm’s hedgehog principle (that we really “care” about our clients and our lawyers) is powerful in that it cements people to the firm and also cements clients. I am really happy to be here. I can’t imagine a better place for a real estate lawyer.
Pejman Razavilar joined the Real Estate Practice Group on June 10, 2013.
Prior to joining the Firm, Mr. Razavilar was a member of the real estate department
of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP for seven years.
Pej has the following to say:
Making the decision to join D&S ranks among the best choices I’ve made in my career so far. To tell the truth, when I first interviewed with D&S, I wasn’t looking to leave my prior firm – and so it took me almost an entire year to make my final decision. But something about Bruce and Terri’s message resonated with me.
Bruce and Terri were clear about the fact that they wanted to create the very best real estate practice in NYC, and they wanted to do it with only the best people. Best not only because the department’s attorneys had to possess an exceptional skill set in real estate but “best” because D&S only made room for nice, caring and genuine people who happened to be exceptional real estate lawyers too. That philosophy appealed to my core – and made making the move to D&S from a firm at which I was otherwise exceedingly satisfied, a risk worth taking!
I can safely say after 15 months – I couldn’t be happier to have joined D&S. D&S has offered me a unique platform to work on the most sophisticated real estate deals while surrounding myself with people that I like to be around and am proud to call my partners. My practice is complicated and varied, and every transaction I work on is challenging and cutting-edge. The breadth and depth of the expertise of my partners never ceases to amaze me. At the same time, everyone here is friendly and genuinely cares about people. As a result, I am proud to say that I respect my colleagues not only professionally but also personally.
Bruce and Terri have worked very hard to make D&S the place that it is today. And I feel lucky that I have the privilege of being part of this family.