The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Meigan Serle, Associate—Real Estate
Meigan Serle is an associate in the firm’s Real Estate practice in the New York office. She represents leading developers and investors in luxury and mixed-use commercial, retail, and residential projects, with a particular focus on condominiums and cooperatives. She guides clients through all phases of the planning, development, structuring, and implementation of sophisticated ownership, operation, and management regimes, as well as the registration, marketing, and sale of luxury and mixed-used condominium and cooperative public and non-public offerings. During her time at Kramer Levin, she has played an integral role in implementing creative condominium solutions for her clients and facilitating the creation and sale of many of the marquee luxury condominium and cooperative offerings in New York City. Ms. Serle graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. degree from Syracuse University and holds a J.D. from Cornell Law School, where she served as Senior Notes Editor of the International Law Journal. New York Super Lawyers named Ms. Serle a Rising Star in Real Estate in 2018.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
I am a real estate associate with a focus on condominium and cooperative law. There are two major components to my practice area. The first is advising clients on the planning, structuring, and implementation of sophisticated ownership regimes. This involves drafting and negotiating condominium and cooperative governing documents and advising clients as to the applicable legal and regulatory requirements. I also facilitate public and non-public offerings through the preparation and filing of offering plans and applications for no-action letters with the Attorney General’s Office. This allows our clients to sell in New York or to New Yorkers as early in the construction process as possible.
What types of clients do you represent?
My clients are real estate developers, owners, and lenders, including The Related Companies, Toll Brothers, Ceruzzi Properties, HFZ Capital Group, Extell Development Company, universities, and telecommunications providers.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
One of the best aspects of my practice area is that I have the opportunity to work on some of the most exciting, innovative, and complex real estate deals in the country. I’m currently representing The Related Companies and Oxford Properties in their development of Hudson Yards, the largest private real estate development in the United States. When completed, the 28-acre, $18 billion project in midtown Manhattan is anticipated to include more than 18 million square feet of commercial and residential space, five state-of-the-art office towers, more than 100 shops, a collection of restaurants, approximately 5,000 residences, a unique cultural space, 14 acres of public open space, a 750-seat public school, and a luxury hotel with approximately 200 rooms. My work on the project to date involves assisting with both the creation of a project-wide ownership association and management regime that will govern and facilitate the interconnectivity of all the individual development parcels on the site and the distinct condominium structures for each of the project’s individual buildings. I also prepared public offerings of more than $1 billion for the residential units.
How did you decide to practice in your area?
As a law student, I thought I wanted to be a litigator. After graduation, I quickly realized that I wanted to turn my passion for real estate into a legal career.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
Our practice is client driven; if a client comes up with a novel idea, conceptualizing solutions to make that a reality will govern my day. I spend most of my time speaking with developers, architects, and marketing teams, and it is part of my job to translate the information they provide about how a building is being designed into legal text and to implement a legal structure. I review floor plans, draft offering prospectus and governing documents, ensure marketing materials comply with regulatory requirements, negotiate provisions with opposing sides, and interface with the attorney general’s office.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Real estate and property classes are certainly helpful for law students hoping to work in real estate law. It is very easy to get caught up in law school with the litigation side of law; I would recommend a student diversify his or her course load with negotiation, writing, and even business courses. It is also useful to join a journal. Journals allow law students to develop strong writing skills and gain the ability to explain complex topics to readers who are less familiar with that legal issue.
What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?
The most challenging aspect of practicing in this field is also what makes it so exciting. Our transactions are client driven, so each day is slightly unpredictable and unexpected. No two developments are identical; there is no “form.” We need to approach each project with unique, creative, and innovative solutions to help each individual client accomplish its goals.
What do you like best about your practice area?
The best part of my practice area is the people I interact with. Everyone is really passionate about what they do. The clients are innovative and reshaping New York City, and we assist them in redefining the skyline. My colleagues are smart, hardworking, and compassionate. I love that I do not need to be argumentative to be successful and am able to be involved in the business or design aspects of real estate developments, many of which I walk by every day.
What is unique about this practice area at your firm?
By working at Kramer Levin, I have gained expertise in condominium and cooperative law, a very niche area of real estate law. With these skills, I am able to play a more active role and provide guidance on many aspects of real estate transactions. Kramer Levin is a large law firm with a small-firm feel. We have an open-door practice, and I am just as comfortable interacting with fellow associates as I am with partners.
How important is collaboration in effectively practicing real estate law?
Real estate transactions often have tax, corporate, or land use impacts. Collaboration with experts in these other areas of law is often crucial to the real estate deal. In order to close a deal or transaction, everyone must work cooperatively to achieve that goal. Also, you often work with the same people on a variety of developments (although, sometimes in different capacities), and there is a sense of collegiality.