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

Jonathan L. Mechanic—Chairman of Real Estate Department, and Jennifer A. Yashar, Partner—Real Estate Department

Jonathan L. Mechanic is a partner in, and chairman of, Fried Frank’s Real Estate Department. He earned his B.A. from Brandeis University, magna cum laude, and his J.D. from New York University School of Law, graduating Order of the Coif. He is licensed to practice law in the State of New York.

Jennifer A. Yashar is a partner in Fried Frank’s Real Estate Department. She earned her B.A. from Barnard College, magna cum laude, and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. She is licensed to practice law in the State of New York.

Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails. 

Mr. Mechanic: My practice, and that of the department, is very broad and encompasses all types of commercial real estate transactions—purchases; sales; borrower and lender-side financings including mortgage, mezzanine and construction financing; development deals; leasing, representing both landlords and tenants; and land use.

Mrs. Yashar: As Jon mentioned, our department has the experience to counsel clients on every aspect of commercial real estate. My practice concentrates on large commercial leasing transactions, representing both landlords and tenants.

What types of clients do you represent? 

Mr. Mechanic: We represent owners, developers, landlords, tenants, investors, and lenders, all of whom are active players in New York City’s real estate market. Brookfield, SL Green Realty Corp., Resnick, RFR, Tishman Speyer, Related Companies, and Vornado Realty Trust are just a small sampling of the clients we represent.

Mrs. Yashar: As Jon said, our clients are some of the biggest players in the real estate market. I have worked on transactions for a number of landlords, including Brookfield, RXR Realty, New Water Street Corporation (the owner of 55 Water Street), and Waterman Interests, and tenants, including 21st Century Fox, UBS, Ernst & Young, and Milbank. I have also represented numerous owner-developers, including RXR Realty, the IDB Group, Crown Acquisitions, and Tishman Speyer.

What types of cases/deals do you work on? 

Mr. Mechanic: 2017 was another tremendous year! We continued to do a variety of work for Related at Hudson Yards, including numerous joint ventures and large leases. We also represented Paramount Group in its joint venture with GIC, in which the joint venture managed by Paramount acquired 60 Wall Street (in a transaction valuing the property in excess of $1 billion); Brookfield in its $875 million acquisition of the 4.2 million sf Houston Center office and retail complex; BlackRock in its lease of 850,000 sf at 50 Hudson Yards; E&Y in its lease of more than 600,000 sf at One Manhattan West; Brookfield in its $714 million refinancing of a portfolio of multifamily assets in Upper Manhattan; The Children’s Investment Fund in its $1.25 billion construction loan to HFZ Capital Group for a 950,000 sf luxury mixed-use project at 76 11th Avenue; and the list goes on and on...

Those were just a few of the things we worked on this year!

Mrs. Yashar: I agree with Jon—2017 was a tremendous year! A personal highlight was giving birth to my third child. After my parental leave (my third at the firm!), I was able to jump into some exciting leasing matters while working a flex-time schedule offered by the firm. I represented Brookfield, as landlord, in its leasing of office and retail space at Manhattan West; UBS, as tenant, in all of its leasing matters in the tri-state area; and 21st Century Fox and News Corp., as tenants, in their lease renewals and extensions totaling more than 1.2 million sf at 1211 Avenue of the Americas. Jon and I are also currently representing McKinsey, as tenant, in the lease negotiations for their new headquarters space at 3 World Trade Center. 

How did you decide to practice in your area?

Mr. Mechanic: I have been interested in real estate since I was a teenager. My father was a real estate developer in New Jersey. When I was about 12 he bought a ShopRite, which had gone out of business, and he decided to convert it to an office use. I walked the site with him as they were tearing out the guts of the building and reconfiguring it into an upscale office building. I knew then that I wanted to be involved in the real estate industry. After law school I started working at Fried Frank and was fortunate to be able to work with some great people who acted as teachers and mentors, fostering my love of the industry and the practice.

Mrs. Yashar: I was always interested in transactional work, and I divided my time as a summer associate at Fried Frank between the corporate and real estate departments. I saw firsthand how central real estate work affected every side of a business. It was not only interesting, but also gratifying as I was able to walk down the streets of NYC and see the assets I was working on and how, at times, they changed the landscape of the city. I was also drawn to the tight knit and collegial atmosphere of the real estate group at Fried Frank and the mentors that I found here.

What is a typical day or week like in your practice area? 

Mr. Mechanic: Very busy and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I carry a significant work load that requires me to juggle client and firm meetings, conference calls, and business development. I also attend many industry and charity events—some of which I am involved in directly and some of which I help support on behalf of our clients. I am on the Board of Trustees of NYU Law School, Chairman of the Fur-man Institute of NYU, and on the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors of the Real Estate Board of New York. On Fridays during the spring, I teach a real estate transactions course at Harvard Law School.

Mrs. Yashar: My typical day or week is also very busy. It can range from focusing on one all-encompassing matter or juggling multiple smaller matters, and it includes a lot of negotiating, drafting, and interacting with clients and opposing counsel. I also work closely with other partners in multiple disciplines and supervise and train associates. In addition, I attend many industry, charity, and client events. 

What is the best thing about your practice area?

Mr. Mechanic: The landscape of NYC is constantly changing. It is very satisfying to look around and see the projects we have touched in the city. I can be in a car or walking down the street and see any number of buildings where we have been involved in the acquisition, development, leasing, or some other aspect of the building’s history. Some of those buildings include the Westside Yards (including the development by Related, Brookfield and Tishman Speyer), the GM Building, The Plaza Hotel, Brookfield Place, The World Trade Center, 200 Park Avenue, 299 Park Avenue, 550 Madison Avenue (the SONY Building), the Empire State Building, and One New York Plaza, the location of our firm’s headquarters. And, of course, we travel into Brooklyn to Metro-Tech, The Barclays Center, and so on. After being a part of this industry for so many years, it has made me feel totally connected to the city in a way that I never dreamed possible.

Mrs. Yashar: I have the opportunity to work on the most interesting and exciting deals in the most dynamic neighborhoods alongside the most talented group of real estate attorneys in the business. Because of their complexity, no two deals are alike and the work is always challenging and engaging. It’s very satisfying helping clients close their deals and finding creative ways to problem solve and achieve their goals.

What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?

Mr. Mechanic: Each deal is different and presents its own set of challenges. We all strive to balance protecting our client’s interests and addressing the other side’s legitimate concerns to end up with a deal that can be consummated. The uniqueness of each deal is what makes the practice so exciting.

Mrs. Yashar: The most challenging aspect of my work is juggling the needs and time constraints of clients and closing complex deals under pressure and in compressed time frames. Though a constant challenge, I have been successful at balancing the demands of my job and my family. With great support from colleagues, family, and clients, and through my flex-time schedule, I have been able to find great satisfaction in both.

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

Mr. Mechanic: Students interested in New York real estate should read the real estate columns in the local papers—The Wall Street Journal’s “Property Report,” Charles Bagli’s pieces in The New York Times, Steve Cuozzo’s column “Realty Check” in The New York Post, and Lois Weiss’s column “Between the Bricks” in The New York Post. Of course, an undergraduate degree in finance, economics, or urban plan-ning doesn’t hurt either.

Mrs. Yashar: I recommend those real estate columns as well. When I was in law school, I took an interdisciplinary real estate class between the law school, business school, and architecture program which gave me great exposure to the world of real estate. I also recommend taking general corporate, tax, and bankruptcy classes in law school because
these disciplines are helpful. The best training, though, is on the job.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?

Mr. Mechanic: I think the biggest misconception about real estate is that the work can be tedious. I never imagined that it would be such a vibrant and engaging practice. I love being able to walk around the city and see the many ways in which I have participated in changing its face. What could be more satisfying? To me, nothing!

Mrs. Yashar: I agree with Jon. I was worried that after practicing for a while, the work would become repetitive and boring. However, given the variety and complexity of our deals and the constantly changing landscape of NYC I am constantly learning and being challenged.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm, and how has it evolved since you have been at the firm?

Mr. Mechanic: We have an incredibly talented, close-knit group that feels more like an extended family. We enjoy each other’s company. That feeling has grown stronger with each year, even as the group has grown in size. We are capable of representing parties on any side of a transaction and in any type of deal, and expanded to include the number one Land Use Group in New York City and a highly sophisticated lending practice. I do not know of any other group that approaches the depth and breadth of our practice.

Mrs. Yashar: Our practice has evolved in the 11 years that I’ve been here in that we continue to diversify both in terms of practice areas and talent. Over the past few years we have developed a lending practice, and we continue to attract talented and smart lateral attorneys in order to expand and diversify our department. We have become a “go-to” firm for large headquarter leases, especially in new developments like World Trade Center, Manhattan West, and Hudson Yards. We have also greatly increased the number of female attorneys in the group. I am proud to be the first woman to have started a career at Fried Frank and been elected to partnership in the real estate department, and that our department continues to hire, retain, and promote bright and capable female attorneys (including four other female partners, one of whom also started her career at Fried Frank and had her children while at the firm).

What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them? 

Mr. Mechanic: I am an avid tennis player and golfer. Early mornings, late nights, weekends—I squeeze in games where and when I can. I think it is important to make time for activities with friends, many of whom are also clients.

Mrs. Yashar: Spending time with my husband and children, reading, traveling, cooking, and trying out new restaurants with friends. There are never enough hours in the day, but I maximize the time I have with my family in the mornings before we all leave to school and work and on the weekends. I do a lot of online ordering so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time on errands!