The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
George W. Evans III, Associate—Real Estate
George Evans is a real estate attorney who represents owners, operators, developers, borrowers, investors, lenders, landlords, and tenants. George works closely with clients to help them achieve their objectives whether they are acquiring, financing, investing in, selling, or leasing multifamily, office, or hospitality assets across the United States. In doing so, George negotiates and structures joint ventures for the acquisition or repositioning of properties. He also handles all aspects of drafting, negotiating, and filing commercial condominium documents. George has experience advising publicly traded REITs on securities law matters as well.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
The Real Estate group at Goulston & Storrs works across all sectors of the real estate industry, covering a very wide range of deal sizes. We handle acquisitions, dispositions, joint ventures, debt capital markets, equity capital markets, bankruptcy, and litigation for multifamily, commercial, industrial, and mixed-use developers, owners, operators, investors, and lenders up and down the capital stack in Boston; New York; Washington, DC; and throughout the country.
What types of clients do you represent?
I represent a wide range of clients from family offices and New York developers like Silverback Development to national multifamily REITs and financial institutions like AvalonBay and State Street.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
I have a fairly broad practice area within our Real Estate group. The largest parts of my practice are representing buyers and sellers of multifamily or mixed use properties in New York and across the country and joint venture work, representing both GP’s and LP’s. I frequently work on borrower side financings in connection with property acquisitions and joint ventures and also work on lender-side financings. Finally, I work on REIT securities offerings from time to time.
How did you choose this practice area?
I initially chose real estate because I’ve always been interested in architecture and urban development and because I liked deals that focus on a tangible asset. I came to Goulston & Storrs as a lateral associate in my fifth year. I had been in the real estate group at two previous firms, and I wanted to work at a firm with a strong local and national real estate practice that represents clients at all levels in the capital stack and in all sectors of the real estate industry. I also wanted to work for a firm where the real estate practice group was a core part of the firm and its prospects for future growth.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
As a senior associate, I am the primary draftsperson on almost all deal documents, so I spend a good amount of time drafting purchase and sale agreements, joint venture agreements, and loan documents. I also frequently negotiate these deal documents, both with and without participation from partners. Many of our clients like to bring us into deals at an early stage, so I spend quite a bit of time discussing deal strategy and ownership structures with clients, and then I work closely with our Tax group in setting up ownership structures.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
An understanding of real property is very important, so property law is an important class. And then it is important to spend time on developing skills to understand title and survey. A large part of the practice is drafting and negotiating contracts, so a strong understanding of contract law is also important. In my practice, assets are most commonly owned by partnerships and limited liability companies, so I would recommend a strong understanding of the forms, powers, and limitations of business entities. Tax plays an important role in many real estate transactions, so understanding tax issues well enough to be able to flag them for tax specialists is very helpful. Finally, clients appreciate it when you understand their business objectives, so understanding net present value and the time value of money have been very helpful for me.
What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?
The most challenging aspect of my real estate practice is balancing competing client demands. Law is a client service business, and it is essential to be responsive to your clients; nevertheless, it can be very difficult to balance the demands of needing to get two contracts out at the same time or closing multiple transactions. Fortunately, our firm is quite supportive and collaborative, and my colleagues are willing to help provide the extra hands needed to provide excellent work product for our clients.
What do you like best about your practice area?
I find real estate fascinating. We all need shelter, and where and how buildings are built has a huge impact on where we live, where we work, and how we get around. I love that my deals almost always focus on a physical property that you can see, so I generally start each deal by checking Google Maps and Google Earth to get a sense of the property and its surroundings. I always appreciate the opportunity to walk a site because that gives you an even better understanding of your client’s plans. Finally, I love seeing and walking around inside buildings for which I’ve worked on the deal. I’m sure my wife gets tired of me pointing these buildings out to her, but I never do!
What is unique about this practice area at your firm?
The scope and quality of the Real Estate group at Goulston & Storrs is unique. We have one of the largest real estate practice groups in the country, and we are very strong players in our local markets of Boston; New York; and Washington, DC, which are some of the most exciting markets in the country. We also have a truly national practice. In addition to geographic scope, we also work on all types of deals, including “dirt” development work, sales, acquisitions, financing on both the lender and borrower side, joint venture investments, and other means of equity financing. Finally, we work at a very wide range of price points, which means that junior associates are frequently able to gain valuable experience earlier in their careers by taking larger roles in smaller deals.
What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?
Our junior lawyers typically start by working on title and survey and other diligence matters and prepare basic corporate documents, such as simple limited liability company agreements.They also authorize resolutions and ancillary deal documents like bills of sale and assignments. Junior lawyers can expect to receive more complex assignments and more responsibility as they demonstrate capacity. We want to challenge our junior lawyers to operate outside of their comfort areas, while providing close support and instruction to ensure that our junior lawyers have the resources they need to learn effectively and perform at a high level.