The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Josh Winefsky, Partner — Real Estate
Josh Winefsky advises and represents clients in sophisticated real estate transactions, both in New York City and nationwide. Equally adept working on traditional commercial real estate transactions or on condominium developments and offering plans, Josh brings a unique multidisciplinary perspective to his work for clients, providing counsel that is both innovative and business focused.
Josh handles a wide range of commercial real estate transactions, including acquisitions and sales, leasing and development, partnerships and joint ventures, and financing for both borrowers and lenders.
Josh also represents developers of high-profile, complex, mixed-use and residential condominium and cooperative projects, guiding clients through the various phases of condominium and cooperative formation and through the sales process, including the preparation and filing of offering plans and applications for no-action letters with the New York State Department of Law.
Josh was named a Crain’s New York Real Estate Rising Star in 2019 and a New York Super Lawyers Rising Star in Real Estate from 2015 through 2019. He earned his J.D. from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University in 2009 and his B.A. from Binghamton University in 2006.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
The Real Estate group at Kramer Levin is composed of intelligent, driven, strategic, and personable attorneys who collaborate on complex and often transformative “dirt” real estate transactions and projects both in New York and nationwide.
What types of clients do you represent?
I represent a broad range of clients, including real estate developers, funds, global insurance companies, public companies, and family offices. This is largely representative of our group as a whole.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
I handle a wide range of commercial real estate transactions as well as condominium and cooperative developments, and I am particularly adept at commercial transactions in which the subject asset is a condominium unit or development.
My transactional practice includes acquisitions and sales, leasing and development, partnerships and joint ventures, and financing for both borrowers and lenders. I recently represented a major U.S. company in the $1.2 billion sale of a multi-building campus on the Upper West Side. The deal included the negotiation of a lease that allowed our client to continue to occupy the campus following the closing.
My condominium practice includes the representation of developers of high-profile, complex, mixed-use and residential condominium and cooperative projects in connection with the various phases of condominium and cooperative formation and the sales process. I am currently representing the owner of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in connection with the conversion of this world-famous property into a mixed-use condominium, including preparing the condominium’s governing documents and negotiating the terms with the property’s long-term hotel manager, as well as preparing and filing the condominium offering plan for the project. In addition, I have represented companies, including Extell Development Company, CIM Group, and El Ad Group, on multiple projects over the past decade.
How did you choose this practice area?
During law school, my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) worked at a real estate PR firm. Her daily stories fascinated me and inspired me to seek work in the real estate group at Kramer Levin while I was a summer associate. She now runs her own PR company, and I’m waiting for the chance to work together on a project!
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
Organized chaos. Each morning, I make a list of the things that I will do that day, which typically includes a mix of drafting/revising documents and speaking with clients, colleagues, and opposing counsel. Typically, that list proves to be aspirational—unexpected issues arise, priorities get rearranged, and new deals come in. Through it all, my goal is to advance as much as possible and maintain regular communication with the people I work with and for. There is never a dull moment, and that is a big part of what makes my job fun.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Throughout a transaction, lawyers are regularly communicating by phone and email, exchanging drafts of documents, and managing the pace of the deal and the people working on the deal. It is critical to know how to communicate effectively, write clearly and concisely, and manage yourself and others you work with efficiently.
What do you like best about your practice area?
The most enjoyable aspect of our group’s vibrant, diverse transactional practice is the variety of deals I work on. Our group aims to equip attorneys with a broad skill set and the ability to work on various transaction types. On a typical day, I spend time advancing four to eight different transactions, and often, the transactions fall into different categories. The benefit of this is twofold. First, there is often an aspect of one transaction that will provide insight to an issue on another. For example, representing a landlord in a lease negotiation may inform how I negotiate a provision in a loan agreement regarding a borrower’s right to enter into leases. Second, and more importantly, the broader your skill set, the more effective counsel you can give to a client.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
We deal with complicated and challenging issues and transactions on a daily basis, and our lawyers have the intellect and creativity to tackle whatever challenges we face. But what sets us apart is the personality of our team. Our lawyers are kind, respectful, and personable. We strive to foster a positive work environment where you can do top-notch work, but also take a break to have a conversation with a colleague about the show you are binge-watching.
What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?
Junior associates are generally staffed on deal teams with a dual purpose: to gain hands-on experience doing “nuts-and-bolts” assignments and to observe the habits and approaches of senior lawyers. Basic tasks (e.g., completing title and survey diligence, managing checklists, and preparing schedules and exhibits) establish a strong foundation for how real estate transactions are structured. A team setting allows a junior lawyer to learn both tangible and intangible skills by observing, while also creating a natural occasion for mentorship. Our group is eager to give any promising junior associate the opportunity to learn new tasks and take on additional and advanced responsibilities.
How important is collaboration in effectively practicing real estate law?
Collaboration is critical, particularly given the complex nature of the transactions and projects that our clients depend on us to handle. Our group generally does not handle “cookie-cutter” deals. Walking around the Real Estate group, you will regularly see lawyers in each other’s offices and doorways, discussing issues and strategizing solutions. New issues that require unique solutions are par for the course, and our deep bench of bright attorneys is our biggest asset.