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BOSTON � Law firms are cashing in on this city’s robust commercial and development market and adding real estate attorneys to collect the spoils. The building frenzy, coupled with brisk sales of high-rise buildings, is boosting revenue at the city’s legal real estate strongholds, including Boston’s Goulston & Storrs; Goodwin Procter; and Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo; and national firms DLA Piper and Nixon Peabody. The Boston DLA Piper office started with 33 mostly real estate lawyers from the now-defunct Hill & Barlow in January 2003, and has since expanded to about 60 lawyers, with the majority specializing in real estate. Elliot Surkin, the firm’s Boston managing partner, said low office vacancy rates are driving the building surge. “We don’t go home anymore, nobody has a family; we’re very, very busy,” Surkin quipped. DLA represents the developer of Fan Pier, a 21-acre South Boston waterfront site that has 3 million square feet of development in the works, and the developer building a 49-story, 1 million-square-foot office tower above the South Station train and subway station. A tight office market is motivating developers to build long-permitted projects, said Goulston’s co-managing director, Douglas Husid. “For a firm that does real estate, it’s been a very, very healthy last several years,” Husid said. Husid also said the real estate work spawns corporate, tax and litigation work. Goulston is involved in the “lion’s share” of downtown development and sales, including representation of Beacon Capital Partners when it sold the John Hancock building for $1.3 billion late last year. Boston Redevelopment Authority spokeswoman Susan Elsbree said there are 75 ongoing development projects, for buildings larger than 50,000 square feet, worth $3.3 billion. Another 100 worth $5.6 billion are permitted and slated for the fall or early next year. Real estate work has picked up dramatically in the last three to four years, said Mintz Levin’s David Gilbert, a Boston lawyer who manages the firm’s real estate section. The firm has about 45 Boston real estate professionals, up from 35 three years ago, including lawyers, paralegals, environmental law attorneys and four staffers at the firm’s government-relations consulting subsidiary ML Strategies, who spend most of their time on real estate issues. Mintz Levin is advising Procter & Gamble Co., which bought the Gillette shaving company a couple of years ago, on a factory expansion. A more complicated project involves helping an out-of-state developer wade through waterfront-development regulations to build 600 residential units in East Boston on land owned by a quasi-public agency. “There are a lot of things in the pipeline, Gilbert said. “We think we’ve positioned ourselves to work with ML Strategies colleagues so we can speed permitting and development issues.” Speed matters Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels’ addition of three government-relations professionals in May, including an attorney, is key for the Boston-based firm’s real estate business, said Boston partner Ed Hershfield. The firm’s clients include a California life sciences real estate investment company that bought 600,000 square feet of life sciences space in Cambridge, Mass., this spring, including some space already under construction. “There’s lots of people who are good lawyers,” Hershfield said. “What clients are looking for is ‘Can I get this done and how quickly can I get this done?’ “ Hershfield tracks the department’s growth through billing, which has climbed more than 15% during the last couple of years. Goodwin Boston partner R.J. Lyman said that out-of-state developers are increasingly willing to brave the Boston area’s complex and lengthy approval hurdles. Goodwin is representing a Maryland developer new to the Boston market that is proposing a 5.5 million-square-foot, mixed-use site two miles north of Boston in Somerville, Mass. Nixon Peabody’s Andrew I. Glincher, a real estate lawyer and managing partner of the firm’s Boston office, said he doesn’t remember a time when the real estate market was stronger. To support clients involved in purchase and development deals worth at least several hundred million dollars, Nixon Peabody has boosted the department’s associate ranks during the past several years. The firm plans to add eight real estate associates across the firm this fall. “We have been very fortunate to ride this wave,” Glincher said. “Business is booming; it’s never been better.”

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