Chris Smith, a real estate lawyer who joined Shearman & Sterling more than 40 years ago after law school, is making his first lateral move at age 67 to DLA Piper.
The longtime Shearman partner, whose clients include real estate mogul Sheldon Solow and AIG Global Real Estate, joined DLA on Thursday as co-chairman of its New York real estate practice. Smith’s practice focuses on joint ventures, funds, financing, direct investments, development and acquisitions as well as leasing and renovations.
Smith is clear that he is leaving Shearman on his own accord. “I’m a full equity partner, doing very well at Shearman,” he said Wednesday, his last day at Shearman. “This move is not a push out the door. It’s a decision to go to a platform” offering greater opportunities for his clients, he said.
Smith was not bumping up against any age registrations at Shearman, he said, noting he had already obtained exceptions to the firm’s mandatory retirement age of 65. “I think I’ve got a lot of gas in the tank. I know I want to practice for a long time,” he said.
Smith said he’s moving from the Wall Street firm to the global Swiss verein because “there’s a worldwide breadth of the real estate group at DLA that doesn’t exist at Shearman.” He said he was impressed with DLA’s expansive practice, with real estate partners across the globe who have “back-and-forth dialogue working together.” Shearman has a New York-concentrated practice, with fewer real estate partners internationally, he said.
“Clients are everywhere,” he said. “It’s very helpful to say there’s someone over there [in overseas locations] who we know who can help.”
DLA has 600 real estate lawyers firmwide, including 200 in the U.S., said John Sullivan, chairman of the firm’s U.S. real estate practice. “One of the ways that make us truly unique among big, global firms is that we have a major commitment to real estate,” Sullivan said, noting the importance of that commitment due to the increase in the cross-border flow of capital in real estate.
Smith said he has been exploring the move to DLA for a few years, talking with Eugene Pinover, the other co-chairman of the New York real estate practice, who joined the firm from Willkie Farr & Gallagher in 2016. His move “was not a snap decision,” Smith said, adding many of his clients are joining him.
In a statement, Shearman thanked Smith for his contributions to the firm and wished him “all the best in his future endeavors.”