Three Questions About Real Estate Law with A. Eli Leino
We spend much of our time in buildings—at home, work, the grocery store, our favorite restaurants—but we rarely think about how those buildings came to be. Bernstein Shur real estate attorney A. Eli Leino, a member of the Real Estate Practice group with a particular focus on land use law, has built his career helping clients navigate the challenges of real estate permitting—an essential and often complicated step needed before construction can move forward.
How do you get to know your client’s business objectives and how their real estate projects fit into or further those objectives?
Most of my practice is dedicated to working with landowners and developers to permit new development projects. My projects span various sizes: from permitting a residential subdivision with a golf course to meet the town’s open space requirements, to transforming an antique shoe factory into 100 apartment units, to securing permits for green energy projects, each project is unique in scope and industry. In each case, it is critical to understand: 1. The client’s objectives, and 2. The local and state regulations affecting the property. As is often the case in the practice of law, frank and open conversation with the client, along with flexibility and creative problem solving, is paramount. For example, if a client hopes to achieve a high return on investment by seeking maximum density on a project, it often falls to me, along with project engineers, to demonstrate how an alternative that’s more harmonious with the neighborhood (and therefore less likely to be appealed) could save the client time and money.
What does success look like to you as a real estate attorney?
Success is watching clients receive a certificate of occupancy for a new building, open for business at their new location, or receive the necessary permits to expand or grow. To reach those broader goals, there are many checkpoints along the way, including negotiating a lease or purchase and sale agreement for new space, receiving a variance at the zoning board or site plan approval at the planning board, or helping a client close on a necessary loan. At every checkpoint, I offer representation and support for the various real estate related needs. The foundation to that success is having a good understanding of the client’s proposal and then determining how that fits into the local regulations. Zoning and subdivision regulations have similarities across municipalities, but no project or town is “one size fits all”—and my approach is personalized to each client.
As a real estate attorney, how do you work with lawyers in other practice groups to help further your clients’ businesses?
Everything touches real estate in some way. I have helped clients who may have originally come to Bernstein Shur on a business litigation matter buy property. Similarly, many developers and property owners will create new LLCs or corporations to own or manage their real estate holdings. Additionally, there are several complex tax questions that arise in these transactions. Being able to spot these issues as they happen, and tap the knowledge of my Bernstein Shur colleagues who are versed in many areas of the law, allows me to help our clients with a holistic approach when the unexpected arises.