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RETURNING TO THE PRIVATE SPHERE, AND FAMILIAR FACES When real estate attorney E. Venessa Henlon left Morrison & Foerster five years ago, she didn’t think she’d ever return to private practice. Burned out, she said, she no longer felt connected to her work. “At one point I really enjoyed practicing law,” she said. “By the time I left MoFo, I was questioning whether it was something I could continue doing in terms of being able to balance my personal life with the work.” This month she returned to private practice, as a partner at Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass. She already had met some of its partners earlier in her career, either working as colleagues or across the negotiation table. Most recently, five years working for the city of San Francisco as a deputy city attorney helped reignite her enthusiasm for the law. While there, she focused on ongoing projects such as the Old Mint building’s redevelopment into a mixed-use museum, retail and restaurant area, and the conversion of the former Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard into a residential and mixed-use complex. She also helped make loans to affordable housing developers. “I got revitalized at the city,” Henlon said. “I was interacting with people who lived in the Hunter’s Point area, volunteering their time � they really cared about what will happen to their community.” Then she got a call from a friend and Coblentz partner, Laudan Raissi, who told her the San Francisco firm was expanding its real estate group. Henlon had met both Raissi and Paul Tauber, also a partner at Coblentz, back when they all used to work at Steefel, Levitt & Weiss. She knew other lawyers at Coblentz, too. Partner Tay Via was the main lawyer opposite Henlon on the Old Mint redevelopment. And she had met name partner Pamela Duffy as opposing counsel back when Henlon was a summer associate at Steefel, Levitt. “I remember there was one point where the parties could not agree on an issue, and she just said, ‘I see we’re not going to agree on this,’ and they just walked out with her clients,” Henlon recently recalled. “It was a negotiating ploy, and she played it well.” Even though Henlon has no book of business, she said she is joining the firm as an equity partner with the understanding that over time, she will develop her own client base. She joined Dec. 3. Henlon expects that her personal time will shrink again, but said the tradeoff is worth it. “I realized how much more I can do as a real estate attorney by having the backing of a private law firm,” she said. “Being here will help me to focus on what I’m really interested in doing, which is representing developers, not just in San Francisco, but outside the Bay Area and beyond.”

Petra Pasternak

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