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Chambers Associate Features Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. in 2018-19 Guide

The 2018-19 Chambers Associate Guide calls Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. the “formidable force” with a “go-getting attitude”

“We eat, breathe and sleep everything real estate” – this bold Manhattan boutique is on the hunt for self-starters with a thirst for litigation.

ADAM Leitman Bailey, the man, the firm, the brand, is a formidable force that seems somewhat larger than a 26-lawyer boutique that practices just one thing: real estate law in New York. Its focus – mainly contentious – is abundantly clear when you visit the website. So, too, is the firm’s go-getting attitude: a squad of marching lawyers dressed for success with Adam at the center; ‘The largest condominium settlement in New York history,’ says one banner; ‘Most New York real estate appellate victories,’ says another; and ‘WE GET RESULTS’ is a permanent fixture.

This raises the question of what the results are, and who gets them? Well, back in 2011 the firm successfully sued Donald Trump into a settlement – this may not be a current story, but it’s indicative of this small firm’s skills, given the President’s stated desire to never settle. It resulted in a 90% refund of the deposits that had been handed over by investors in Trump SoHo in response to their claims of fraud. Clients range from “the home owner who has an issue with their neighbor to companies like Wells Fargo, Verizon and Fidelity National [a real estate insurance giant],” said an associate. ALB promises victory in litigation: this is a bold firm on the hunt for gutsy associates. In return, the firm offers newbies plenty of opportunities in court, transactional juniors a lot of client contact and all associates an environment where they can “eat, breathe and sleep everything real estate.”

The Work

A lot of the firm’s work comes through Bailey himself, after which he assigns it among the senior lawyers. In practice this means newbies have to “go out and find it. At the beginning, it’s harder to get work because you haven’t been able to prove yourself,” so work acquisition has to be about building relationships with senior members. Although the majority of what ALB does is contentious, there is also a transactional team “that does bank closings, contracts and sales.” On both sides there are more specialist areas, with recent associates slotted into foreclosures, landlord/tenant, condominium/cooperative, title insurance, and commercial real estate.

“The partners really molded me into the lawyer I am today and I cannot be more grateful.”

On the litigious side ALB often helps banks with foreclosures, which saw some juniors “mainlywriting and drafting; I could to go court but the type of work I do requires otherwise. But it’s nice that they do give you that opportunity.” We spoke to some sources who were very frequently in court “making oral arguments. We also have motions that need to be written and all kinds of documents that need to be reported and filed. It can be difficult as every county has their own rules and ways for each document.” Not that the challenge of the work was a problem: “l learned so much more than in law school just due to the hands-on experience. The partners really molded me into the lawyer I am today and I cannot be more grateful.” Over on the transactional side, associates could be aiding condo boards and landlords by “trying to cut deals; in practice I’m doing due diligence managing contracts, negotiation provisions and talking to my clients.”

The frequency and type of client contact associates got was mixed. Those doing contentious foreclosures mainly servicing banks found “the partners handle the direct contact, which I am very happy with. I mean if I was a client and had something important being dealt with I would call my attorney and want them to be on the phone!” However, insiders on the transactional side are constantly “talking to clients, leading the calls and coming up with options. It’s very, very rare thatI am not spending at least three hours a day emailing them!” The responsibility did pose an extra challenge, however, as it was not uncommon to have clients who are strong-willed and demanding – “You end up saying ‘that’s what the building department requires, I am not making it up’. But they fight you on everything!”

Culture & Hours

Our sources thought of themselves “as typical New Yorkers,” and there’s an assumption that associates here “are go-getters.” They “take their work really seriously; we want to get and win the best cases,” said an associate. Bailey himself has high standards on presentation and expects his team to look businesslike: “We can’t schlep into the office looking like we have not slept, which does mean I am doing my make up on the train some days.” Some sources put this down to the clients being “very confident, professional people. Everybody has a sophistication to them and they are looking for sophisticated attorneys who have high expectations and want a certain kind of work.”

“We can’t schlep into the office looking like we have not slept.”

In any law firm, take a look at how revenue is generated and shared, and you have a better understanding of the culture. ALB’s pay structure is relatively unique, and one that fosters a sense of ownership among all members: “We share the common goal of trying to be the best lawyers we can.” All attorneys receive a base salary that varies depending on experience. However, there’s plenty of opportunity to earn more at ALB: first, there’s a ‘revenue sharing program’ that enables associates to earn a third of their billable hours (that the firm collects and clients pay); second, there’s a ‘bonus possibility’ scheme that allows each individual (regardless of level) to earn up to 20% of any new business that they bring in. Feelings were somewhat mixed toward the overall system. Some felt it’s “great as you get rewarded for how hard you work, which is the right way to do it.” Others felt it was “a little bit frustrating” that the calculation is not done on the total number of hours billed but rather on the revenue brought in, which left insiders “taking the risk that clients are slow to pay.”

Bonus pay is determined by an attorney’s billable rate, which is set by Bailey, and he has “the authority to lower or raise them based on performance.” Billable hour targets can be anywhere between 1,600 and 2,000, but “it’s normally 1,860 to 2,000.” This translated into a starting time of around 9:30am and leaving at 7:30 to 8:30pm.These hours may appear on the more reasonable end of New York law, but one lawyer did mention that “I only really have time to eat at my desk.” Late nights were not completely unheard of. Sources had been up till “3:30am and then had to wake up three hours later to go to work. But that’s not the norm.” Associates were happy that “typically, we try not to work on the weekends, but with emails being what they are today, I am on 24/7.”

Pro bono hours

    • For all attorneys: undisclosed
  • Average per attorney: undisclosed

Office & Social Life

Although not unique to ALB, sources did note that maintaining a social life can be hard and involves “a conscious effort to make time for friends.” But insiders did feel the office as a whole was “very social. Adam likes to encourage us to feel we are all family. There are two holiday parties: one in the summer and one at Christmas. He basically requires that everybody go because he wants to make sure the firm keeps its family type of environment and everyone’s face is seen. We also celebrate all members’ birthdays and get their favorite cake, and have wine parties when people are hired, and when new associates pass the bar.”

“Views of the Hudson river and the statue of liberty.”

Reassuringly for these New York real estate connoisseurs, its Battery Park offices are “a comfortable and beautiful space. They really take care of you! Each associate has their own office and there are beautiful conference rooms with views of the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty.”

Training & Development

Like much at the firm, ALB’s approach to training is pragmatic and one that fosters a lawyerly independence.Associates work directly with a senior lawyer who then reports on their progress to Bailey. Feedback and training mainly come in the form of getting “told ‘you did a hell of a job’ or ‘listen, we could do a better job next time’.” Experiences with this approach were mixed: some thought “it’s the one thing you will get the most complaints about. You are expected to be your own boss, do your own work and then ask for help if you need it.” Our sources were mainly comfortable with this style, though, and found that “constructive feedback is given on a daily basis.” But views varied and some were effusive: “So far they have been giving me the training to be the best attorney I can possibly be.”

“They have been giving me the training to be the best attorney I can possible be.”


Insiders felt ALB was “very open to diversity, Adam is a proponent and would love to have even more.” As evidence they pointed to the firm’s scholarship program, which offers underprivileged high school students a full ride to college along with mentoring and internships at the firm. One source also felt that the presence of “two very strong female partners” further demonstrated that there “is definitely equality of opportunity.” In concrete terms diversity at the firm translated to a third of the firm’s associates being female along with 20% of the partners, and a number of recent hires coming from minority backgrounds. But one area in which the firm notably diverges from the BigLaw norm is in educational backgrounds. ALB famously does not hire graduates from top-ranked schools, preferring instead to focus on high flyers in mid to low-ranked schools. Of the sources we interviewed, none had gone to the T14 and all were from local schools in New York State.

Strategy & Future

According to Bailey, “ten years ago, we represented one Fortune 500 company and now we have just over 100 of them and represent just about every bank in the US.” This was done in part through cultivating clients entirely by referrals, relying upon the strength of their recommendations, and through a breakthrough with a huge condominium settlement: “We found a way to use the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (ISLA) to assist owners purchasing over 100 units in all newly constructed buildings to be able to terminate their contracts or receive a large discount off of the purchase price – that rocked America.  In many ways, we were wreaking havoc on developers and now many of our former adversaries have hired us to represent them. It has become too dangerous for developers not to hire us even if only to conflict us out from suing them in the future.” Bailey insists he is intensely focused on the present: “I know that in order for this law firm to excel in the long-term future, the only thing I must focus on is how we strive for greatness today. Today, if we have the best attorneys in New York in our office, the future of the firm should excel with this model of excellence.My motivation is excellence and not prestige and mega-profits for myself. Hence, the focus is on New York and real estate and the quality of our product.”

Full review, “Bonus Features”, and firm profile

Read the 2019 Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. Chambers Associate Inside View Here

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