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

 Megan Watts, Associate—Real Estate

Megan Watts is an associate in Goulston & Storrs’ Boston office and is a member of its real estate practice group. As an attorney at Goulston & Storrs, she has practiced in most areas of real estate: leasing, acquisitions and dispositions, financing, equity investment and structuring, affordable housing, and some permitting. Her clients reflect the diversity of her practice, ranging from individual developers of single affordable housing projects to multi-national real estate investment companies. She has recently worked on the acquisition of several different office buildings in Texas, California, and Virginia, and the investment and development of low income housing tax credit financed multifamily developments. Megan earned an S.B. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and attended the University of Cambridge (at Jesus College), where she graduated with an M.Phil in Technology Policy. She received her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. Megan is a member of the Urban Land Institute and Commercial Real Estate Women (“CREW”) Boston, and serves as a co-chair of the title and conveyancing subcommittee of the real estate committee of the Boston Bar Association.

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

As an associate in Goulston’s real estate group, I work on a wide range of real estate matters—acquisitions and dispositions, financing, affordable housing, and joint ventures. I have focused on joint venture work and affordable housing projects more recently, but continue to work on all types of deals.

What types of clients do you represent?

Goulston & Storrs’ real estate clients run the range from local family-owned and non-profit developers, such as Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (a community development corporation in Boston) to large institutional investors and lenders like Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Bank of America. It’s a challenge to meet such a diverse array of demands but because our real estate group is so large, we have experience to match those needs.

What types of deals and/or cases do you work on?

I have done a significant amount of “deal” work—buying or selling or financing properties, where, in addition to negotiating the terms between two parties, you have to coordinate the logistics of closing on the transaction. Recently, after our bankruptcy group shepherded a non-profit client through the acquisition of a property out of bankruptcy, I worked with a large team of our real estate attorneys to close on the acquisition within an extremely short timeframe. In addition, I work on a lot of joint ventures, where there are fewer logistics and the focus is on negotiating a single, complex agreement between parties for the investment in a real estate project— it’s still a significant amount of work but requires more quiet time to concentrate on crafting language that says what you need it to say.

How did you decide to practice in your area?

I was interested in transactional work (as opposed to litigation) because I wanted to focus on arriving at a positive conclusion for everyone involved. Real estate was appealing because of the tangible nature of the projects you worked on. Now that I am more familiar with the work, while I don’t think those were bad or wrong reasons to pick real estate, I’d say the most important factor in enjoying my practice has been the people I work for and the sophistication of the projects I work.

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

I probably have one to three in-person meetings or conference calls a day, to discuss the status of ongoing projects and brain- storm ways of solving problems on those projects, and field other calls from clients directly to address questions as they come up throughout the day. Otherwise I hope to have at least some uninterrupted time to work on drafts of documents that I am responsible for getting out to clients or to the other side. I try to have lunch in our café with colleagues fairly regularly, just to get a break in my day, and attend networking events with groups that I have been involved with for several years, like Urban Land Institute and Commercial Real Estate Women (“CREW”) in Boston.

What is the best thing about your practice area?

Although I work on a lot of national projects, it’s a treat when I work on a project in Boston because, as a real estate attorney, you get to see the results of your hard work. I have had the good fortune to work on a number of affordable housing projects and have several for-profit and non-profit affordable housing clients that I work with in Boston—it’s such a win-win when we’re able to contribute to the community at the same time as having interesting work that furthers our practice.

What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?

I find business development and client management to be something that I spend a lot of time thinking about these days. I’m fortunate to be able to rely upon those more senior than I to help me make good decisions in these areas and to support networking opportunities. Even though I’ve been at it for a while, I still find that it can be daunting to attend an event where you don’t know many people, though as the years go by that is less true because I have started to develop a community of friends and colleagues that are often at the same events.

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

Being extremely well organized and having an attention to detail is a good base to start from (I think this is true for any starting attorney, no matter the practice area). Especially when you are first beginning your legal career, a large part of what you need to do is be available so that you can gain experience working with others and the more reliable you are, the more opportunities you will have. It is also an advantage to have had experience working in the business of your clients (in my case, commercial real estate). Though I did not have that experience, I think it’s very useful to know what is most important on a project from your client’s perspective. I also have a science background and enjoy the chance to figure out the numbers behind the deals that I work on—so some basic accounting skills and familiarity with financial statements, while not necessary, is also a benefit.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

As a result of our reputation and the large number of real estate attorneys in our firm, we are lucky to have an extremely wide range of clients that rely on us for advice on all sorts of issues. There’s never been a point in my career so far when I haven’t felt challenged or lacking in the opportunity to learn new things—both because senior attorneys I work with consistently take an interest in my growth and because we are fortunate to get to participate in a diverse assortment of sophisticated projects thanks to our clients. It is a priority of Goulston & Storrs’ to keep up on the latest trends so I think we have evolved along with the real estate market in terms of what work we’re doing and how we’re advising clients.

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

I’m a mother of two beautiful young daughters so my life is pretty full outside office hours. I have a limited repertoire of knitting projects and love a good movie in the theaters when I can find the time (and babysitter). Extra time is in short supply but now that I have a more established practice I appreciate the autonomy of being an associate at Goulston & Storrs and the flexibility to make time for important events during a typical work day. 

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