Chambers Associate Ranks Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. as a Leading Law Firm
This Manhattan boutique is a one-stop shop for real estate law.
WHAT’S in a name? That which we call a law firm, by any other name would meet clients’ needs? Adam Leitman Bailey put this paraphrasing of the Bard to the test when it briefly rebranded as Desiderio, Kaufman & Metz following the temporary suspension of its titular founder – he has since been readmitted and the firm is back to its original moniker. “Everyone stepped up to the plate and the transition periods have been very smooth. We haven’t lost any clients,” juniors assured us. The closest we heard to a complaint was that “the news of the suspension was shocking at first. There were some annoying moments having to explain the name changes!” Bailey tells us: “I’m very proud of the firm. Financially, we have had our best year to date and nearly every department has recorded growth,” even in his absence. He adds that the firm “represents clients ranging from individuals and small businesses, all the way up to the largest Fortune 500 companies.”
TOP READ: Becoming a real estate lawyer: Adam Leitman Bailey’s real estate attorneys tell us about the challenge of keeping up with ever-evolving laws and why it’s vital to channel your inner bulldog when negotiating.
ALB, DKM… no matter the name they practiced under, junior sources remained resolute in their perception of the firm as one of the premier real estate boutiques in New York. “We’re a one-stop-shop for all real estate matters,” one source explained; another suggested that “whenever there is a change to the law, we are the first firm that people call on. It sets us apart from the competition.” One factor that clearly separates Adam Leitman Bailey from peers is its size – just 26 attorneys at the last count. Interviewees reckoned that market giants suffer “when there are too many hands in the mix. Here there is always clearly one person in charge who the client knows they can call and get an answer from within 24 hours – it means we have more accountability and are nimbler.”
Strategy & Future
Bailey assures us that there are no plans to rip up the rulebook in the future, explaining that the firm is “never going to do corporate or international law; we don’t even dive into all types of real estate law if we don’t think we are going to be the best at it. The reason we have become so high-profile is because we are very selective in taking on the biggest real estate cases in the city.” Even during a multi-year slow period in the real estate market, litigation has remained healthy: “New laws, including landlord/tenant laws that were recently introduced by the government concerning evictions, have taken away an entire practice area of law. Fortunately, we’ve been there to deal with some of the fallout resulting from these laws.”
“We get our hands on every sort of real estate matter you could ever think of,” sources confidently declared. There is indeed a mix of transactional work (including purchases and sales of homes and condos) and litigious fare on offer – the latter ranges from adverse possession claims to foreclosure litigation. Teams are inevitably leanly staffed due to the firm’s size, so associates usually end up working exclusively for just one or two partners.
“We get our hands on every sort of real estate matter you could ever think of.”
Associates in the firm’s litigation practice get involved predominantly with foreclosures on behalf of banks, title and mortgage litigation, and commercial lease disputes. The firm is also well versed in Yellowstone Injunctions – not arguments over picnic spots in the National Park, but New York Supreme Court proceedings that crop up when a landlord attempts to terminate a tenant’s lease. There was a range of responsibilities on offer for our interviewees; one had so far focused primarily on “the pre-litigation stage. Right now, I’m trying to establish who has legal responsibility for a tree that is threatening to damage our client’s properties.” Others had a penchant for “condo and construction defect cases. I act as the client’s contact at the firm – they are typically the elected representative of a group of unit owners who are unhappy with an aspect of construction. I relay all the problems to the engineers and keep the client updated on proceedings.” Juniors aren’t chained to the office: “We’d typically send an associate to a settlement conference because the processes aren’t too complicated – and it keeps costs down.” Some even got to “attend court up to four times a week! At the very least you’ll likely be heading out once every week,” sources explained.
Clients and cases: West Village House Renters Union, Wells Fargo, Verizon. Defended Bronstein Properties against a $10 million claim alleging a fraudulent scheme of increasing rents based on nonexistent apartment renovations.
In the smaller transactional group, the firm’s books carry the names of major banks who call on Adam Leitman Bailey for assistance with residential mortgages and refinancings; juniors can also assist on bankruptcies and tax incentive matters, in some cases acting as the intermediary between lenders and clients by “communicating with all the sides to ensure documents are in place for a closing.” Due diligence is another common entry-level task, as is “ironing out any issues that crop up post-closing.” We heard plenty of praise for the responsibility levels on offer, the firm’s size meaning that “by necessity you’re a key part of any team early on.”
Culture & Compensation
A small firm also makes “collaboration” an essential element of the culture. “You can walk into any office, ask a question and expect to get substantive feedback,” sources emphasized. “That’s something that’s extremely useful as a young associate.” Relationships tend to stick to the professional rather than the personal: “It’s not the sort of place where people are joking around and giving each other high-fives all the time. Everyone has their own drive to work hard and advance – that’s just how it is.” A work-focused culture is no bad thing when you’ve got a good office to work in, and juniors were keen to brag about their position in Battery Park, “the best location” in New York, according to one interviewee. “Getting into some areas of Midtown is so stressful because it’s so crowded; down here it’s a lot less hectic and we have amazing views of the Hudson and the Statue of Liberty.” Every associate gets a window office – no FOMO here. Another gushed over the “sleek and professional environment. I travel a lot to do closings and I’ve always loved returning to our space, it’s nice to have a beautiful place to grow.”
“It’s an amazing opportunity you don’t get at other firms, as long as you put the work in.”
Adam Leitman Bailey promotes a strong work ethic through its revenue-sharing program, through which associates can earn a third of their billable hours (that the firm collects and clients pay) in addition to their base salary. There’s also a bonus scheme with the opportunity for each attorney, regardless of level, to earn up to 20% of any new business that they bring in. “It’s an amazing opportunity you don’t get at other firms, as long as you put the work in,” one source declared. We heard that some associates were able to earn double their base salary through these schemes, though the “downside is that it isn’t based on what you bill, but rather the fees you collect from clients, which can sometimes take years to come in.”
Our interviewees were keen to clarify that the firm isn’t solely fixated on the bottom line and relished a personal touch: “Adam is very big on celebrating people’s birthdays and special occasions. When one of the associates passed the Bar, we threw a party – it was nice to recognize that they’d overcome a challenge in that way.” Aside from a formal event each summer and winter, sources agreed there “isn’t much firm-wide socializing. A few more events could help boost morale.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Morale was fairly high on the diversity front. “In a small office it’s easy to measure diversity looking around,” sources reasoned; they were confident that “for the most part we have a diverse firm. There are a significant number of minorities here and definitely no whitewashing.” They added that “male to female it’s split fairly evenly, and that goes all the way down to the support staff level.” Another cited an article that the firm’s founder wrote back in 2015 – ‘Why We Do Not Hire Law School Graduates from the Ivy League Schools’ – as further proof of the firm’s progressive credentials. Click on the media tab above to read more about this.
Hours & Pro Bono
Billable hours: 1,600 target
Even this goal – a more feasible one than at many larger firms – isn’t a mandatory achievement. It is the minimum associates are required to bill to get a bonus, but “the firm is more concerned with how much money you bring in, and if you’re good there, they look the other way with the hours.” Most associates fall somewhere between 1,500 and 1,700 hours “with a couple of outliers who do less and some who do way more.” That leaves time to leave the office at around 7pm on most days, aside from the odd occasion “where you’d be required to work past 8pm” (about once every two weeks for our sources). From their second year, associates can work from home if one of the partners gives them the go-ahead.
If you’re looking to avoid soul-crushing workloads, this might be the firm for you, but our interviewees were also in agreement that “if pro bono is high on your agenda, this firm is probably not the best option as pro bono is very much on the periphery.” There have also been suggestions that the firm’s bonus scheme, geared toward billables, disincentivizes associate pro bono. Opportunities do come in on a case-by-case basis and juniors can get involved if they have the capacity.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per US attorney: undisclosed
“It’s a place I can see myself in ten years, where I can have a family and plant roots.”
Flexible compensation + a lifestyle outside the firm = juniors happy to stick around for the long term. Our most recent survey round backed up the math as Adam Leitman Bailey ranked close to the top for associates intending to stay on at their firm for the foreseeable future. “It’s a place I can see myself in ten years, where I can have a family and plant roots,” a forward-thinking junior declared. “A large part of that comes from the fact that Adam is very much into offering the freedom to enjoy life and the money we make – he recognizes that it makes people better employees.”