The chairman of Cozen O’Connor’s real estate department is leaving the firm to serve as general counsel to client Liberty Property Trust, the company and the firm said late last week.
Herman C. Fala is set to join Malvern, Pa.-based Liberty as general counsel Jan. 1, 2014.
The real estate partner has served as chairman of Cozen O’Connor’s real estate group since his team joined the firm in 2009 when his former firm, Wolf Block, dissolved. Fala had led Wolf Block’s real estate department for 10 years prior to that.
“Herman has represented Liberty on countless transactions over many years,” Liberty CEO Bill Hankowsky said in a statement. “We are very pleased to welcome Herman to Liberty and we are fortunate to have his expertise and insight.”
Fala is replacing former Liberty General Counsel James J. Bowes, who died last month from lung cancer at the age of 60. Bowes had joined the commercial real estate developer from Blank Rome in 1996.
Fala said Friday that the situation has been “surreal.” He worked with Bowes for 18 years and considered him a dear friend. Fala said he anticipated finishing out his career at Cozen O’Connor, a firm that supported his group’s real estate practice when it joined in the depths of the recession in 2009 and helped it grow to be profitable again by 2011. Fala said he supposed he was a natural choice for the general counsel position, however, given he worked with the company since the late 1970s when it was under the name Rouse & Associates.
Fala said he has big shoes to fill when he steps into the GC’s office and he plans on learning from how Bowes operated. The environment won’t be completely foreign, however, considering Fala has worked with just about every department in the company over the years and counts many of its employees as friends.
The legal department at Liberty consists of three lawyers, including Fala and two real estate attorneys. He will report to Hankowsky.
As Hankowsky noted, Fala’s work for Liberty has spanned years and included several deals. One such deal was his representation of the company in the development, leasing and debt/equity financing of the $500 million Comcast Center office tower in Philadelphia.
Fala has worked on a number of other notable real estate projects in the region. More recently, he represented the developer/landlord in the development and leasing of new regional headquarters for GlaxoSmithKline in the Philadelphia Navy Yard Corporate Center. Fala also led a team of real estate attorneys who represented Pennsylvania in closing the transactions for the development of a new $140 million family court building at 15th and Arch streets in Philadelphia.
Throughout his practice, Fala has handled local and national transactions, including portfolio acquisitions, mergers, financings, joint venture arrangements, leases, project finance transactions, syndications, and public and private debt and equity placements. He also has experience in the development of new office buildings and other projects, and in coordinating the substantial partnering with public agencies required for these projects.
Fala has represented banks, pension funds, publicly traded companies, insurance companies, REITs and real estate developers. In addition, he has experience in the management, financing, acquisition, development and franchising of hotels. He also has experience handling transactions involving minor league sports teams.
Aside from his leadership of the real estate practice, Fala has also served since 2011 as a member of Cozen O’Connor’s board of directors. When he first joined Cozen O’Connor, Fala served as co-chairman of the real estate department with Jeffrey A. Leonard, who now leads the firm’s business law section.
Leonard said Philadelphia partner Bernard Lee, also a member of the firm’s board of directors, and New York office managing partner Abby M. Wenzel will now co-chair the real estate group in Fala’s absence. Leonard said the firm would most likely have a special election to replace Fala’s spot on the 17-attorney board of directors.
Cozen O’Connor has spent the last few years building the real estate practice when other firms have moved away from the practice, Fala said. He said the group is currently at a little more than 40 lawyers, with recent additions in Washington, D.C., Florida, Minnesota, Wilmington, Del., and the Philadelphia and New York offices.