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The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.

Gregory LaHood is a Real Estate associate in Mayer Brown’s Chicago office. He represents equity investors and developers in connection with acquisitions, financings, and dispositions of multifamily, office, hotel, industrial, and other commercial real estate assets. He also represents insurance companies and other institutional investors in credit tenant lease financings and ground lease financings.

Laura Franklin is a partner in Mayer Brown’s New York office and a member of the Real Estate practice. She focuses her practice on real estate acquisitions and sales, leasing, and complex real estate financing transactions. Laura routinely represents institutional owners and public and private companies in the ownership and leasing of Class A office buildings. She also represents office, retail, and telecommunications tenants and helps her clients negotiate and draft effective leases and understand all of their implications.

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Gregory: The Real Estate practice group at Mayer Brown is multifaceted, and associates have the opportunity to experience many different aspects of the practice. I focus most of my attention on financing work (particularly credit tenant lease financing transactions, ground lease financing transactions, and other similarly structured transactions) and purchase/sale work. 

Laura: I am what is known in the real estate world as a “dirt lawyer.” That may not sound very flattering, at first! Essentially, it means that I have a well-rounded real estate practice, representing clients in acquisitions, dispositions, borrower-side finance, joint venture, development, and leasing transactions. 

What types of clients do you represent?

Gregory: The clients that we represent in the credit tenant lease transactions and ground lease financing transactions are insurance companies and investment managers for insurance companies. I also represent large institutional clients (asset managers, private equity firms, etc.) in their purchase, sale, and financing of real estate. Others within the group represent traditional bank clients, parking structure owners and operators, and hotel brands, among others. 

Laura: I represent a wide variety of clients and routinely deal with institutional owners of real property, private developers, and asset managers. In my leasing practice, I also work with several global and national retail banks, restaurants, corporations, telecommunications providers, and media companies. 

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Laura: Primarily, I handle commercial leasing, ancillary asset management matters, and borrower-side financing transactions. In my leasing practice, I represent both landlords and tenants. On the landlord side, I represent the owners and asset managers of several high-rise, class A office towers in Manhattan and handle the drafting and negotiation of all office and ground-floor retail leases at those buildings. I also routinely advise our landlord clients on the day-to-day issues that arise in the ownership and operation of real property, including in their dealings with property managers, real estate brokers, tenants, and adjacent property owners. On the tenant side, I have had the chance to represent office tenants, retailers, banks, restaurants, and telecommunications and media companies in their leasing matters. 

How did you choose this practice area?

Gregory: I went into law school with the goal of focusing on real estate work. The primary draw for me is that real estate is tangible. While it is not necessarily easy to explain the intricacies of my practice, at the end of the day real estate practice is what makes the exchange and development of individual properties (and, on a larger scale, communities) possible. 

Laura: I knew going into law school that I wanted to be a transactional lawyer. Being in a courtroom didn’t appeal to me, and I really enjoyed the writing and analysis that forms an integral part of transactional practice. After my first year of law school, I worked as a summer intern in the Town Attorney’s Office of my hometown on Long Island, and I was assigned to assist the real estate attorney in all of the town’s real-estate-related matters. I was exposed to a host of interesting real estate issues and had a chance to see how the ownership, operation, and development of real property can shape and affect the community around us. I was hooked.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

Gregory: Honestly, exciting. Our deals oftentimes move at a fast pace and involve unique issues for which we must work to develop solutions (often through drafting of complex contractual provisions and negotiating the same with opposing counsel). I spend about 25 percent of my time emailing with clients, opposing counsel, fellow Mayer Brown attorneys, and other third parties. Another 25 percent of my time is spent preparing for and participating in phone calls, (including regular status calls to keep transactions on track and to counsel clients). The remainder of my time is spent drafting and revising documents, reviewing due diligence deliverables, and engaging in other miscellaneous tasks such as title and survey review.

Laura: I spend a significant amount of my time drafting and negotiating contracts. I review and analyze contract drafts, identify open issues, and communicate those issues to our clients in ways that are accessible and easy to understand. I negotiate with opposing counsel and ultimately redraft the documents to reflect the agreement between the parties. 

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Gregory: I recommend taking any courses that provide an opportunity to practice drafting skills. While everyone in law school takes Contracts and learns about what is required for a contract to be created, enforced, terminated, etc., surprisingly, a core part of the curriculum at most law schools is not contract drafting. One of the most beneficial courses that I took in law school was one that delved into the intricacies of drafting contracts, including hands-on practice. As a transactional attorney, the lessons learned in a course like this will be invaluable. I also recommend any real-estate-specific courses that you are able to fit into your schedule. While most learning in a real estate practice will be on the job, the few real estate-related courses that I was able to take in law school served as a wonderful primer for practice. 

Laura: One of the most useful classes that I took in law school was an introductory course in contract drafting. Most of my other classes were litigation focused (reviewing opinions, writing briefs, etc.), and my drafting class gave me my first taste of what it might be like to work as a transactional attorney. Drafting may seem relatively simple at first, but it requires a great deal of analysis and thought. It’s our job as attorneys to try to think about, and draft for, otherwise unforeseen circumstances, and having some experience with this in class made me feel better prepared for life after law school. I even brought my textbook from the course to the office with me when I started my first job!

What do you like best about your practice area?


  1. No two deals are exactly alike. 
  2. The fast-paced nature of most of our transactions.
  3. The complexity of most of the transactions that land on my desk.
  4. Working with sophisticated clients that are leaders in their respective fields.
  5. The sense of fulfillment that comes with each closing (associates in our group typically close dozens of deals a year, so you get this quite often).
  6. The tangible nature of most of our deals.

Laura: The wide variety of matters and issues that I encounter—no two days are alike! I am also very fortunate to have a great group of colleagues to work with and long-term clients who I’ve had the chance to get to know well over the years. It makes it fun to come to work each day. 

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

Gregory: Our real estate group focuses predominantly on real estate deals, as opposed to support work for other practice groups (though we certainly assist when called upon to do so by our colleagues). It is something that I think sets Mayer Brown’s Real Estate group apart from those at many other firms (and something any associate interested in real estate should ask about before joining a firm). The benefit of a practice structured this way is that it enables associates to be central to the whole deal, as opposed to a small piece of a much broader deal in which the real estate issues are ancillary.

Laura: Mayer Brown’s Real Estate practice represents premier clients of the firm in a wide variety of real-property-related transactions around the globe. We have a sophisticated practice with top-notch clients for whom we do interesting and intellectually challenging work. Mayer Brown’s Real Estate group offers the best of both worlds: we have a deep bench of smart and sophisticated attorneys and all of the resources that you would expect from a large firm, but the group is also small enough that we are able to truly get to know our colleagues, invest in and train our younger attorneys, and support each other as we work together to grow our practice. 

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area? 


  1. Review and organize diligence items (zoning reports, environmental reports, property assessment reports, appraisals, etc.).
  2. Prepare and manage closing checklists to track the status of transactions.
  3. Run due diligence status calls.
  4. Prepare initial drafts of ancillary contract documents and assist with revising documents. 
  5. Perform title and survey review.
  6. Participate in calls (status calls, document negotiations, etc.).
  7. Prepare abstracts of documents (leases, financing documents, declarations of restrictive covenants, etc.).

Laura: Junior lawyers get hands-on experience at an early stage. They may begin by assisting with due diligence matters, such as reviewing title (real property records), surveys, contracts, leases, and other documents affecting the real property, or by preparing and updating a “checklist” for a closing to track all required documents and deliverables for the deal and to keep the team on target. They also assist with preparing initial draft documents and drafting issues lists for clients. We try to get juniors involved in matters early on and to avoid giving discrete tasks without context. Once junior attorneys are assigned to a matter, they typically become part of the deal team and work with the team until the matter is closed.  

What kinds of experience can summer associates gain at this practice area at your firm?


  1. Sit in on calls (status calls, document negotiations, etc.).
  2. Review contracts and prepare closing checklists.
  3. Assist with title and survey reviews.
  4. Prepare abstracts of documents (leases, financing documents, declarations of restrictive covenants, etc.).

Laura: The Real Estate group assigns junior-level client work to our summer associates, to give them real world experience right out of the gate. Some of the best experience also comes from mirroring senior attorneys (joining a meeting, sitting in on a conference call or negotiation session, etc.). We understand that it can be difficult for law students to know exactly which practice area they would like to join, so it is our goal to help our summer associates gain a better understanding of what we do on a day-to-day basis so they are able to make an educated decision about their career.