Levenfeld Pearlstein makes the best of a challenging year

Levenfeld Pearlstein’s invitation to a Nov. 5 event read:

“Remember 2006?  Closing dinners featured wine, shrimp, steaks, decadent desserts and more wine!  Plus, the brokers always paid!  Given current economic times, we are scaling back.  It’s time to celebrate all the closings of the past year at one time.  We don’t care if you have closed a buy, a sale, a fund, a lease, a foreclosure or your doors — you are invited.  Come enjoy a burger and a beer with your friends from the LP Real Estate Group.  It’s time to start closing the doors on an infamous 2009 and begin looking forward to 2010.”

And the clients and potential clients turned out.

At least 140 people attended the event at Hackney’s, the famed burger joint in north-suburban Glenview, said Tom Jaros, a partner in  the firm’s real estate and finance practice group and one of the event’s organizers.

“People were looking for an outlet for some good news,” Jaros said. “The energy in the room was sort of like the old days, which weren’t too far ago.”

He said people enjoyed networking with one another and trading ideas. If he can make two clients happy by connecting them, then it’s a success.

“What we hear from our surveys and client interviews is something that clients really want out of the relationship with their lawyers is a connection with the people they do business with,” he said.

Jaros said these days a good portion of his business has involved representing clients through workouts or helping them understand the soft points in their deals for next year’s problems.

Regardless of the numbers — rates, fees or number of transactions — the real estate practice is down about 30 percent, he said.

“Certain firms don’t exist because they focused heavily on one area,” he said. “There are institutional players who are on the sidelines because those practices are suffering.”

But he said his firm has done a good job offering quality service at lower rates than their competitors, while building a client base that would be active in any market.

“Next year, hopefully, the stagnation stops and transactions start,” he said. “That’s what is hurting law firms most: People are not transacting. Once they do you will see some stabilization.”

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