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

Nathalia Bernardo—Partner, Real Estate

Nathalia Bernardo is a partner in the Real Estate practice of Paul Hastings and is based in the firm’s New York office. She counsels a wide variety of clients in commercial real estate transactions, including joint ventures, acquisitions and dispositions, development, and management. Ms. Bernardo also advises non-profit organizations regarding real estate and other transactional matters. Notably, she advised the Intrepid Museum Foundation in its acquisition of Space Shuttle Enterprise from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Ms. Bernardo is an Adjunct Professor at Cornell Law School and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation, where she teaches courses on transactional real estate. Ms. Bernardo received her B.B.A. from The George Washington University, summa cum laude, in 2001. She received her J.D. from Boston College Law School, cum laude, in 2004. Ms. Bernardo is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey.

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

My practice focuses on the representation of capital providers and real estate developers, operators and managers of real estate investments, with a particular focus on joint ventures (including all related transaction agreements, such as asset management, property management and development agreements) and acquisitions and dispositions of real estate assets.

What types of clients do you represent?

I represent both “sides” of real estate transactions—real estate private equity funds, institutional investors, family offices and other sophisticated investors, on the one hand, and real estate managers and developers, on the other hand. As examples, I have represented Fisher Brothers, The City Investment Fund, L.P., and William Macklowe Company.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

I am fortunate to be in a position to work on complex, complicated and really interesting real estate transactions, both domestic and foreign. I have represented a real estate fund in its sale of a 4,000 unit residential apartment portfolio in New York City, an institutional investor’s acquisition of unsold condominium units in Florida, a family office’s restructuring and acquisition of additional ownership interests in two New York City office buildings, a real estate fund’s acquisition of a tract of land for development in Africa and a foreign investor’s acquisition of stakes in two residential buildings in Brooklyn, New York.

How did you decide to practice in your area?

I went to law school with the goal of becoming a corporate attorney. I started in Paul Hastings’s Corporate department, and I quickly started working with a partner who represented public company real estate clients in corporate transactions, and also represented some private equity clients in real estate joint ventures. I found my love for joint venture work through these deals, and I eventually switched groups within the firm to join the Real Estate department.

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

It completely varies day to day and week to week, and that’s the best part! I meet with clients, draft documents, negotiate with counterparties, work with junior attorneys, and consult with other departments within the firm on thorny issues. I rarely do the exact same thing two days in a row.

What is the best thing about your practice area?

I love the fact that my deals are tangible. I can walk down streets in New York City and look up at the amazing buildings that my clients have built, bought and sold. I also genuinely enjoy my clients—they are smart, creative, dynamic, nimble and passionately engaged in their work.

What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?

As in any aspect of law, there are attorneys that bluster, condescend and put on a show in order to make a point. In my experience, the best antidote to these personalities is to negotiate forcefully but calmly, doing your best not to raise your voice or lower yourself to their level.

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

I highly recommend a business organizations/corporations class, preferably before starting as a summer associate. It will help you to understand how decisions are made within your clients’ organizations, and you will begin to learn the “lingo” for corporate transactions, which will help you to participate early on in client conversations. I also recommend taking tax, which is often the driving force behind deal structuring.

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

I’ve spoken to some people who think that real estate attorneys either read leases all day or just do residential closings. There certainly are attorneys whose practice areas focus on leasing and residential transactions, but the world of real estate is so much broader than that. I wish I had known that a commercial real estate practice is, in some ways, similar to a corporate practice—I may have taken an interest much sooner, rather than starting in the Corporate department.

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

What makes us unique is that we really, truly enjoy what we do, every day. To be sure, there have been tough times during my tenure at the firm, but the attorneys in our group never lose sight of the ultimate goal of executing exciting and important deals for our clients.

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

I enjoy reading novels and spending time with my husband and son and the rest of my family. I tend to arrive early, and am able to be productive before the phone starts to ring off the hook and the emails come flying in. This helps to free up evenings and weekends for downtime.