Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law

What We Do

Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law


    The Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law (the “Institute”), St. John’s Law’s focal point for real estate law, is dedicated to preparing aspiring real estate attorneys for practice through exceptional academic programs and curriculum, unique career development opportunities, and extraordinary special events. In so doing, it builds upon St. John’s Law’s nearly century-old tradition of producing outstanding real estate lawyers.

    The Institute operates out of dedicated offices on the third floor of the Law School, strategically located across from the Offices of Alumni Relations, Career Development and Admissions. The offices include a conference facility and work spaces for Real Estate Fellows.

    The Institute is named for Joseph M. Mattone, Sr. '53C, '55L, '94 HON, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Mattone Group, whose generous endowment supports the Institute and its programs.    

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    Real Estate Alumni Spotlight

    Headshot of Tara Mulrooney
    Tara Mulrooney ‘01
    Partner, Zetlin & De Chiara LLP

    Which Law School courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in Real Estate Law?

    I was not fully aware of the multitude of opportunities in the real estate sector when I was in law school. The courses I gravitated towards focused on contract law, which sparked my interest in transactional work. When I graduated, I practiced corporate law for several years before shifting my focus to real estate practice. That is why I think today’s St. John’s Law students are so fortunate to have the Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law and the numerous resources it provides, including high-quality academic programs and invaluable career development opportunities. My advice to students is to take full advantage of these unique resources that can provide a head start in developing their careers in the field.

    What part of your job gets you out of bed each day?

    My relationships with my clients are what I love most about my practice. I am so fortunate for the client base I have developed and thoroughly enjoy helping them achieve their project goals. Many of my clients are high-profile and high-net-worth individuals and their projects are truly beautiful, unique, and often complex. I work with them on their most essential projects—their homes. It is an intimate experience. My role is to help my clients achieve their desired results, by structuring their relationships with their design and construction teams and offering solutions to the problems that often arise in the design and construction process.  

     What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?
    Take advantage of any mentorship opportunity that comes your way and actively seek out mentors. Especially coming out of remote work environments, developing relationships with experienced professionals in various roles, watching them in action, and asking questions is truly the best way to learn and to help prepare yourself for facing similar situations and challenges.

     What has surprised you about a career in law?

    Where I ended up. When I started out in law school, practicing construction law was not on my radar. After an initial start in corporate law, I slowly carved out a niche practice in transactional construction law. The work mattered and it involved building structures that people interact with every day. I learned the language of construction, which is about the physical aspects of a project, but also the aesthetic. Construction is not just about cranes and dump trucks, it encompasses materials, the environment, and people.

     Do you have any predictions for the real estate industry over the next year?

    Like everything else in today’s economy, labor and material shortages are challenging the construction community. I foresee technology and AI playing a larger role in construction as a way to help streamline the construction process. In the high-end residential market, as increased flexibility for remote work continues in the post-COVID environment, I believe people will continue to invest more in their homes as they increasingly spend more time there

    Our Program

    Current course offerings include the following:

    (PROPERTY 2050)
    2 credits
    In this seminar, students will explore cutting-edge issues in real estate law and deepen their understanding of concepts related to the financing, development, ownership and operation of real estate not covered in depth in any other course. Topics covered will change from year to year to reflect the most recent developments and trends in real estate, and the instructor’s particular areas of expertise. Case studies of actual and simulated transactions will be used to increase students' understanding of the issues explored. The course will be taught as a mixture of lecture, directed discussion and seminar, and is anticipated to include distinguished guest lecturers with expertise in the particular topics covered. Pre-requisites: Real Estate Transactions and four additional credits of advanced PROP coursework.  Enrollment requires permission of the Program Director.

    (PROPERTY - 2010)
    2 credits
    This course introduces students to the negotiation, drafting and interpretation of commercial real estate leases.  It covers topics distinct from those covered in Real Estate Transactions.  Topics include: letters of intent, term, permitted use, assignment and subleasing, rent, alterations, maintenance, building services, regulatory compliance, options, brokers, casualty, insurance, indemnities, subordination, defaults and remedies.  The course will also address ancillary lease documentation such as non-disturbance agreements, estoppel certificates and guaranties; certain tax consequences of commercial leasing; and ethical issues that arise in commercial leasing practice.  Special attention will be paid to New York State and City laws impacting commercial leases.  Students will gain an understanding of the key negotiating points in a commercial lease, the interests of the parties in relation to those points, and the process of negotiation which results in lease documentation memorializing these interests.  Grades will be based on final examination.  Prerequisite: PROPERTY

    2 credits
    This course examines modern forms of shelter from the viewpoint of the community, the developer, the institutional lender and the consumer. The relative advantages of each form of development, the legal problems involved in selling and re-selling individual units, and the controls that may be exercised over unit owners are examined. The economic, social and legal aspects of conversion of rental properties to cooperative or condominium status are discussed. Rights and remedies in the event of defaults by unit owners/developers are also considered. Students will work with applicable statutes, governmental regulations and documents of existing projects. Grades are based upon a research paper.

    2 credits
    This course is designed to provide students with a working knowledge of the field of construction law, beginning with the parties to a typical construction project, the types of contracts used, the competitive bidding process, labor law issues, and the resolution of disputes, with a concentration on issues related to construction in New York State and City. The students will review a standard construction contract published by the American Institute of Architects, participate in a mock mediation of a construction dispute, review and complete NYC Vendex Questionnaires required of all NYC municipal contractors, and review and complete a notice of mechanic's lien. The objective will be to provide the students with the ability to advise clients working in the construction field in reviewing contracts, participating in the competitive bidding process, handling disputes and labor issues, and filing claims for public and private works projects. Grades will be based on a final examination and class participation.  Prerequisite: CONTRACTS I AND CONTRACTS II

    (PROPERTY - 1050)
    3 credits
    This course is a transaction-oriented course dealing with modern real estate problems. The major work product is a series of drafted agreements. Before undertaking actual drafting, students analyze a hypothetical transaction on an integrated functional basis. This involves primarily the interplay of Property, Partnership, Corporation and Tax rules, and how to use them to achieve maximum objectives. Pertinent background reading is assigned in connection with each transaction. Preliminary analysis leads to particular structuring or restructuring of a transaction and provides the basis for the drafting of the appropriate instruments. Grades are based upon class assignments and a final examination.

    3 credits
    This course covers the legal responses to current environmental problems, including climate change, air and water quality, toxic substances, solid and hazardous waste and the preservation of parks, wetlands and the habitats of endangered species. The course starts with the common law of nuisance and the public trust doctrine, foundations of the current law.  It then traces the development of federal and state environmental statutes and the administrative law that governs agencies implementing these statutes’ provisions.  Grades are based upon a final examination.

    3 credits
    This course surveys the leading legal instruments and approaches to dealing with regional and global environmental problems. It will address transboundary air and water pollution, mass catastrophes, protection and allocation of freshwater supplies, stewardship of ocean resources such as fisheries, protection of the atmosphere (including the ozone layer and climate change), transport and trade in hazardous chemicals and waste, and biodiversity. The course will explore the environmental side of new approaches to economic regulation, including the world trade regime, and emerging ideas about sustainable development. Grades are based upon a final examination.

    (PROPERTY - 1010)
    3 credits
    This course provides an analysis of the legal and administrative aspects of land use control, and of the problems and techniques of urban planning. The course includes a study of building codes, zoning, subdivision, public acquisition of land tax controls and urban redevelopment. Grades are based upon a research paper of law review quality on a topic approved by the faculty member conducting the seminar.

    (PROPERTY - 1080)
    4 credits
    This course analyzes the various types of property interests, real and personal, recognized under U.S. law, the rights and obligations of holders of property interests, and the legal bases and public policies that lead to recognition of property interests, rights and liabilities. The course may include a discussion of property rights based on possession, including adverse possession, labor, gift and purchase, as well as estates in land, concurrent interests, landlord-tenant law, and land use regulations. Grades are based upon a final examination. 

    (PROPERTY - 1040) 
    2 credits
    This course examines the law and practice of real estate development, including substantive discussion of such areas as: assemblage of a development site; entitlements, air/development rights and permits; ownership structures; construction financing; agreements with contractors, designers, property managers and leasing agents; and exit strategies. Students will be introduced to the economic considerations associated with a real estate development.  Special attention will be given to laws and regulations that impact the real estate development process in New York City.  Students will also be instructed on ethical issues that arise in this area of practice. Grades are based upon a midterm (20% of grade) and a final examination (80% of grade).  Students would benefit from taking REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS prior to or concurrent with enrollment in this course.

    (PROPERTY - 2020)
    2 credits
    This course examines the law and process of commercial real estate finance.  It covers topics distinct from those covered in Real Estate Transactions.  Topics will include real estate finance applications whereby an investor or lender acquires a direct interest in real property, including fee and leasehold mortgages; those in which the investor or lender acquires an indirect interest in real property, including mezzanine loans and preferred equity; and capital markets structures such as CMBS and REITs.  The course will also address participations, syndications, intercreditor arrangements, workouts and foreclosures.  Students will learn to review and analyze key provisions in financing documentation from the perspective of multiple stakeholders.  Federal and New York State and City laws and regulations impacting the commercial real estate finance process will also be covered.  Students will also be instructed on ethical issues that arise in this area of practice. Grades are based upon a final examination.  Students will be required to complete an ungraded take-home midterm examination.   Pre- or co-requisite: REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS  

    (PROPERTY - 1070)
    2 credits
    This course is designed to provide students with a working knowledge of the federal and state consumer protection laws affecting the origination and foreclosure of real estate mortgages, the regulation of the mortgage industry, and the foreclosure process, including title insurance, the priority of liens, the impact of bankruptcy filings and post-foreclosure proceedings such as evictions, surplus money proceedings and deficiency judgments. Grades are based upon a final examination.

    (PROPERTY - 1090)
    3 credits
    Open only to students who have not taken the two-semester sequence of Property I and II and/or Real Estate Transactions-Advanced. This course examines the fundamental legal and business building blocks of real estate transactions. Topics include the role of the lawyer, broker participation and responsibilities, the contract of sale and remedies for breach, deeds and closing, the title system, mortgages and foreclosure. This course provides a foundation for other advanced real estate courses. Grades are based upon a final examination.  Pre-requisite: PROPERTY

    (PROPERTY - 2030)
    2 credits
    This course will examine the consequences of real estate defaults, emphasizing the major current problems faced by real estate mortgagees, landlords, tenants and partners in default situations and mitigating drafting techniques that may be employed in the documentation stage. Among the areas covered will be: negotiating and drafting a workout agreement; lender liability; cram down of bankruptcy plans including classification and "new value" issues; and effect of bankruptcy of a real estate partner. Grades are based upon a research paper and a final examination. Pre-requisite for J.D. students: CREDITORS' RIGHTS OR REAL ESTATE FINANCE: COMMERCIAL OR BUSINESS BANKRUPTCY REORGANIZATIONS

    At St. John’s Law, real estate courses are taught by a renowned faculty including both real estate scholars and seasoned practitioners with experience in a variety of areas of real estate law.


    Kate Klonick

    Jeremy Sheff

    Jacob L. Todres

    Adjunct Faculty

    Melissa Corrado

    David M. Curry

    Kevin Reilly

    Bruce DePaola

    Donna-Marie Korth

    Chris Palmer

    Peter Roach

    Thomas J. Rossi

    J.J. Sherman

    Chris M. Smith

    Francisco Vasquez


    The Real Estate Law Fellowship Program (the “Real Estate Fellowship Program”), provided through the Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law (the “Mattone Institute”), offers an outstanding educational and pre-professional experience for selected St. John's Law students ("Real Estate Fellows") who have a strong interest in real estate law, including real estate development, finance and investment. The Real Estate Fellowship Program provides to each Real Estate Fellow an annual tuition stipend of up to $5,000, which award is incremental to any other scholarship monies. The Mattone Institute provides Real Estate Fellows with a unified program of academic and pre-professional instruction designed to prepare them for rewarding careers in real estate law, including real estate-focused externship, mentoring and clinical programs. Real Estate Fellows will be linked with the Mattone Institute’s strong network of alumni and connections in the real estate industry, and will participate in, and assist with, Mattone Institute networking events, conferences, seminars and continuing legal education programs. Real Estate Fellows will be given preferential access to limited-enrollment real estate law electives. The Mattone Institute’s Director and a dedicated Career Development Counselor with expertise in real estate career options will work closely with the Real Estate Fellows as they make decisions regarding curriculum, publications, internships, externships, and long-term career planning.

    The Application Process

    The Real Estate Fellowship Program is comprised of 2Ls and 3Ls. Students apply for the Real Estate Fellowship Program either in the summer as a rising 2L or 3L or during the winter of their 2L year.  Students are admitted to the program based on a competitive application process. 

    Students apply for the Real Estate Fellowship Program by submitting to the Director of the Mattone Institute: (i) an application form, together with (ii) a brief personal statement, (iii) optional diversity statement, (iv) unofficial self-prepared transcript and (v) current resume. There are two application cycles each year: in the summer (for rising 2Ls and 3Ls) and winter of each year (for 2Ls entering the spring semester).

    The Program Review Committee will select candidates for the Real Estate Fellowship Program based on the following (the “Program Selection Criteria”): (i) academic performance, (ii) a demonstrated dedication to real estate as a career option, including applicable work experience and involvement with real estate law-related activities, and (iii) potential benefits to be derived from the program. Commitments which might limit a student’s ability to dedicate time to completion of the Program Requirements, such as participating in other fellowship programs, may decrease a student’s likelihood of being selected as a Real Estate Fellow. To be eligible to apply for the Real Estate Fellowship Program, students must have not less than 3.3 cumulative GPA in Property and all other real estate law coursework. 

    Additional Program Terms and Conditions

    Real Estate Fellows will agree to comply with the following requirements (the “Program Requirements”):

    • Curriculum: Real Estate Fellows must make a good faith effort to take at least one course from the list below each semester and must complete a minimum of 15 credits comprised of the following courses:
      • Core Foundation Courses: Both Business Organizations (BUSI-3000) (4 credits) and Tax – Basic Federal Personal Income (TAXL-1030) (3 credits); and
      • Real Estate Foundation Course: Real Estate Transactions (PROP-1090) (3 credits).  
      • Advanced Courses: Real Estate Fellows will earn the balance of the required credits from one or more of the following Advanced Courses:
        • Condominiums, Cooperatives and Homeowner Associations (PROP-1000) (2 credits)
        • Construction Law (BUSI-4050) (2 credits)
        • Drafting – Real Estate Transactions (PROP-1050) (3 credits)
        • Land Use Planning (PROP-1010) (3 credits)
        • Commercial Real Estate Leasing (PROP-2010) (2 credits)
        • Real Estate Finance (PROP-2010) (3 credits)
        • Real Estate Development (PROP-1040) (2 credits)
        • Environmental Law (ENVR-1000) (3 credits)
        • Advanced Topics in Real Estate Law (2 credits)
        • Real Estate Workouts & Bankruptcy (PROP-2030) (2 credits)
        • Other electives that may be specifically approved by the Director from time to time on a case-by-case basis, e.g., for students interested in a cross-disciplinary area of real estate practice, one or more other electives in related fields
    • Experiential Requirement: Real Estate Fellows must satisfactorily complete one of the following:
      • An approved externship in the field of real estate law for which the student receives academic credit, or, with the approval of the Program Review Committee, other work experience in the field of real estate law over the course of law school;
      • A writing of substantial quality on a real estate-related topic (a work used to satisfy the Scholarly Writing Requirement which has received a grade of B+ or better may be used to satisfy this requirement); or
      •  With the approval of the Program Review Committee, participation in a clinic focusing on real estate issues for which the student receives academic credit. 
    • Participation Requirement:  Real Estate Fellows will assist the Mattone Institute with event planning, alumni and student outreach, curriculum development, research, and other projects for not less than ten (10) hours during each semester and, as required, during any “pre-session” period preceding each semester. Such hourly requirement is subject to downward adjustment in the reasonable discretion of the Director. Real Estate Fellows are required to make a good faith effort to (a) meet with the Director of the Mattone Institute at least monthly and (b) participate in all Mattone Institute events. Real Estate Fellows are required to attend any event designated by the Director as mandatory, absent a valid excuse. 

    Participants in the Real Estate Fellowship Program will be referred to as “Real Estate Fellows” for the duration of their participation in the program and may refer to themselves as “Real Estate Fellows” in resumes and similar materials following graduation if they satisfactorily complete the Program Requirements. 

    Any terms, conditions or requirements of the Real Estate Fellowship Program may be waived in the discretion of the Program Review Committee.

    Ubaid Bandukra

    Ubaid Bandukra '24
    Ubaid is a second year law student at St. John’s Law, and is working as the Director of Operations at S&S Group, a property management and development firm based in Long Island. A graduate of University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, he now oversees commercial and residential leasing, renovation projects and ground-up development from acquisition to construction. He is currently managing the development of a 23,000 square foot multi-family community in Oceanside, NY and continually assesses viability of sites for prospective projects. Ubaid is a member of the Real Property Law Society at St. Johns, and hopes to incorporate his experience in the field when addressing client concerns. As a real estate fellow, he hopes to gain more exposure to real estate law with a focus on zoning and real estate development.



    Natalie Borukhov '23
    Natalie is a J.D./M.B.A. student at St. John's Law and serves as a Senior Staff Member on St. John's Law Review. Natalie is a WX scholarship recipient, an organization that promotes the advancement of women in real estate. She is a member of the Dispute Resolution Society, President of the Corporate and Securities Law Society, and Director of Alumni Relations of the Real Property Law Society. During her 1L summer, Natalie was an intern at the Queens District Attorney's Office in the Frauds Bureau. She went on to extern at Ladder Capital and spent a semester at Federman Steifman, a boutique firm specializing in complex and sophisticated real estate matters. Natalie hopes to continue exploring the real estate industry as a Real Estate fellow and network within the industry's NYC community.


    Maria Budis

    Maria Budis '24
    Maria serves as a Staff Member of the St. John’s Law Review, Teaching Assistant for Professor Colleen Parker’s Legal Writing I course, and Chair of 1L Outreach for Corporate and Securities Law Society. Maria is also a member of St. John’s Real Property Law Society and Women’s Law Society. During Maria’s 1L summer, she interned with Hon. Joseph F. Bianco in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and was an award recipient of the Summer 2022 Federal Scholars Program. Maria graduated from Boston College Carroll School of Management in 2021 with a B.S. in Management, Concentration in Finance and Entrepreneurship. During her college summers, Maria gained experience working on real estate transactions with two different Queens-based firms. As a Real Estate Fellow, Maria is looking forward to exploring her interest in real estate law.


    Michael Forlini

    Michael Forlini '23
    Michael is a 3L from West Nyack, New York. He graduated from the University of Miami in 2017, where he earned a B.A. in Economics. At St. John’s Law, Michael is an Associate Managing Editor of the New York Real Property Law Journal and a member of both the Real Property Law Society and the Corporate and Securities Law Society. During his 1L Summer, Michael interned for the Honorable Thomas P. Zugibe in the Supreme Court of New York. In his second year, Michael worked as a Law Clerk for Shiryak, Bowman, Anderson, Gill & Kadochnikov LLP. As a rising 3L, Michael worked as a Summer Associate at Meister Seelig & Fein LLP, where he worked on a range of corporate and commercial real estate transactions. As a Real Estate Fellow, Michael looks forward to increasing his knowledge and passion in real estate law and connecting with members of the St. John’s Law community.


    Nicholas Hasbun

    Nicholas Hasbun '23
    Nicholas is a 3L from Forest Hills, NY. He graduated magna cum laude from St. John’s University in 2020 with a B.S. in Legal Studies. During his time at St. John’s Law, he was a judicial intern for the Honorable Lena M. James, United States Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of North Carolina and gained clinical experience at the Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic. This summer, Nicholas worked on real estate matters as a Summer Associate with Belkin Burden Goldman, LLP where he will continue working part-time. Currently, he serves as Executive Notes & Comments Editor of the American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review, and is a member of the Real Property Law Society and Latin American Students Association. 


    Daryll Boyd Jones Jr

    Daryll Boyd Jones, Jr. '23
    Daryll is a 3L at St. John's Law and a Queens, NY native. In 2018, Daryll graduated from the City University of New York: Baruch College with a double major in a Corporate Communications and Political Science. Prior to law school, Daryll worked in the financial services and B2B/B2C sales industry with companies such as J.P Morgan, Northwestern Mutual, and various businesses across different fields. During his 1L year, Daryll was awarded the New York City Bar Association's Diversity Fellowship and worked as a Summer Legal Associate at Morgan Stanley where he rotated across the Private Equity, Technology and Data, and Litigation practice groups within the firm. During Daryll's 2L summer, he worked as a Summer Associate at Dechert LLP where a majority of his work concerned various real property matters such as Commercial Mortgaged Backed Securities, Commercial Loan Origination and refinancing, and Asset Finance and Securitization. At St. John's Law, Daryll is a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society, Corporate and Securities Society, and Real Property Law Society. As a Real Estate Fellow, Daryll looks forward to building connections within the elite real estate industry in New York City and further developing his real estate law knowledge and skills.


    Leeal Kahen

    Leeal Kahen '24
    Leeal Kahen is a second-year student from Long Island, New York. She graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University in 2021 with a BA in Economics and Social History. At St. John's, Leeal is a staff member of the N.Y. Real Property Journal, serves as DEI Chair of the Real Property Law Society, and is a member of the Public Interest Law Student Association, Women’s Law Society, Jewish Law Students Association and Federal Bar Association. This summer, she interned for Hon. Alexandra Murphy in the Supreme Court of Westchester County. She has several years' experience working at a Queens-based real estate firm. As a real estate fellow, Leeal looks forward to engaging with St. John's students and alumni, and networking with the New York real estate industry. 


    Sara Leston

    Sara Leston '23
    Sara is a second-year student from Queens, NY. She graduated cum laude from Binghamton University in 2020 with a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish Language and Literature. At St. John's, Sara's positions include being a Staff Member of the New York Real Property Journal, Research Assistant for Professor Kate Klonick, and the First Year Liaison for the Latin American Law Student Association. During her 1L summer, she interned for the Honorable Maria Ressos in the Queens Housing Court and was a recipient of the Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law Summer Public Interest Fellowship. In Sara's second year, she worked in the Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic and is currently a legal extern at Mattone, Mattone, Mattone LLP.  As a real estate fellow, Sara hopes to further her legal education in real estate law and connect with the St. John's community. 



    Billy Michaca '23
    At St. John’s, Billy is the current Managing Editor of St. John’s Law Review and the President of the St John’s Real Property Law Society. He is a four-time teaching assistant having assisted Professor Mark L. Movsesian's Contracts and Introduction to Law courses; Professor Rosemary Salomone’s Constitutional Law course; and Professor Elaine Chiu’s Criminal Law course. In addition to academic and professional aspirations, Billy has made a concerted effort to foster diversity in St. John’s Law and the wider legal community in his roles with the St. John’s Law Review, Real Property Law Society, and as a member of the Latin American Law Students Association, Black Law Students Association, and Ronald H. Brown Scholars Program. This past Spring, Billy interned for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals under the Honorable Denny Chin. After graduation, Billy will continue his work with corporate department of Lowenstein & Sandler where he will focus on issues relating to New York City Commercial Real Estate.



    Daniel Mosayov '23
    Danny is a member of the Executive Board of the Real Property Law Society and a senior staff member of the American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review. This summer, he worked with the Venture & Growth team at DLA Piper. His previous experience includes work at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Resource America, an asset management firm that specializes in real estate investments.


    Paul Spagnoli

    Paul Spagnoli '24
    This past summer, Paul worked on real estate transactions and litigation at Durante, Bock & Tota PLLC, and will extern at Ladder Capital Inc. this coming fall. Last year, he worked for in house counsel at Standard Motor Products, Inc. and spent much of his time working on two multi-million-dollar acquisitions. He serves as Director of Communications for the Real Property Law Society, and as a staff member of the American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review. Paul also serves on the E-Board of the Catholic Law Students Association and the Italian American Law Student Association.

    The Mattone Institute benefits from the support and guidance of a distinguished Advisory Board, which includes leaders from across the real estate industry.

    • Fredric Altschuler '72: Senior Counsel, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
    • Maria Castiglie '15: Counsel, JP Morgan Asset Management*
    • Lawrence A. Ceriello '81: Partner, Morrison & Foerster LLP
    • Alfred C. Cerullo, III '86: President/CEO, Grand Central Partnership; Commissioner, City Planning Commission 
    • Benjamin Clack '15: Real Estate Counsel, Curaleaf*
    • Colleen Collins '88: General Counsel, Heatherwood Luxury Rentals
    • David Curry '03: Partner, Farrell Fritz LLP
    • Bruce S. DePaola '91: Partner, Paul Hastings LLP
    • Meryl P. Diamond '99: Partner, Alston & Bird LLP
    • Joseph Giminaro '83: Partner, Stroock, Stroock & Lavan LLP
    • Peter J. Irwin '96: Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
    • Christopher Jaskiewicz '96: President, ICON Orlando 360
    • Sean R. Kelly '05: Partner, Ariel Property Advisors 
    • Michael Kavourias '89: Partner & Chief Operating Officer, Mandrake Capital Partners
    • Donna-Marie Korth '86: Partner, Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman, LLP
    • Michael X. Mattone '91: EVP and CFO, Mattone Investors, LLC
    • Pamela McCormack '96: Co-Founder, President and Board Member, Ladder Capital Corp.
    • Krista Miniutti '96: Partner, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
    • Max Patinkin '13: Principal, High Tide Capital LLC
    • Kelly Porcella '07: General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer, Ladder Capital Corp.
    • Stephanie Rainaud '14: Associate, Holland & Knight LLP*
    • Max Rayetsky '14: Associate, Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone, LLP*
    • Michael J. Rhee '98: Senior VP and General Counsel, The Durst Organization
    • J.J. Sherman '00: Principal, Law Offices of J.J. Sherman, P.C.
    • Chris M. Smith: Partner, DLA Piper LLP
    • John V. Terrana '84: Partner, Forchelli Deegan Terrana LLP
    • Corey Trail '17: Associate, Lester Bleckner & Shaw LLP*
    • Nicole Woolard '09: General Counsel and Senior Vice President, Barr & Barr Inc.*
    • Angela DeMeo Works '78: Retired Partner, Cassin & Cassin LLP

    *Emerging Leaders Committee member

    The N.Y. Real Property Law Journal is the official publication of the New York State Bar Association’s (NYSBA) Real Property Law Section, which “serves New York real property lawyers and the public, promotes the successful transaction of real estate business in New York State, and contributes to the sound development of real property law in New York State.” As part of its mission, the Section aims to “publish a high quality journal to keep section members informed of developments and the latest thinking in real property law.”

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    The Externship Program at St. John's Law places students with a variety of pre-approved employers where they work directly with an assigned mentor attorney on real legal matters. Externship placements provide students with actual litigation and transactional experience and, in some cases, students are exposed to case management and policy issues. All placements give students a substantial lawyering experience and prepare students for the practice of law in specific areas. Students choose placements based upon their interest in a substantive area of law or their desire to learn or sharpen particular lawyering skills.

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    Students interested in building practical skills in the area of real estate law while doing real work for New Yorkers in need may choose to participate in our Tenants’ Rights Advocacy Clinic, in which students engage in the various stages of landlord-tenant litigation on behalf of income-eligible tenants residing in Queens who are facing eviction; or our Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic,  where students have the opportunity to represent low-income, elderly Queens residents in cases that include deed theft, foreclosure defense and home improvement fraud.

    The Mattone Institute builds upon St. John’s Law’s long tradition of producing exceptional real estate attorneys. Our Featured Alumni showcases on a rotating basis the accomplishments of a few members of our distinguished alumni network.

    Fredric Altschuler ’72

    Fredric Altschuler

    “I am thrilled and honored to be part of the Institute. What excites me most (and why I wanted to become involved) is what I view as the importance of  exposing   the real estate legal and business community to law school students and the amazing benefits that will be derived.   I received an excellent education at the Law School , however,  until my first day as a first year associate , I had never met a real estate lawyer nor real estate professional or actually knew what a real estate lawyer did for the ten to fifteen hours each workday.  it is this “gap” that I see the Institute closing.”

    After earning his B.A. from Syracuse University in 1968, Mr. Altschuler graduated the Law School in 1972.  He started his career at Milbank Tweed in the Real Estate Group before joining Breed, Abbott & Morgan in 1981 to help develop a real estate practice. In January, 1992, Mr. Altschuler  joined Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, where he continues to practice today as Senior Counsel (after more than two decades as a Partner).  Mr. Altschuler represents a variety of clients in connection with the origination of construction, interim and permanent financings; workouts and foreclosures; the origination and securitization of commercial mortgage loans, mezzanine loans and preferred equity interests; and the acquisition, financing, restructuring and disposition of performing and non-performing loans and properties.  Particularly active in the public sector over the course of his career, his clients have included Battery Park City Authority, including with respect to the World Financial Center, the Holocaust Museum, the first residential leasehold condominium project in NYS, the relocation of NYMEX and new Stuyvesant High School; the City of New York, including with respect to the Metrotech Project in downtown Brooklyn; and the State of New York Urban Development Corporation with respect to the Times Square Redevelopment. He has been recognized as one of the country’s leading real estate lawyers by Chambers USA, Super Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America and Who’s Who Legal.

    Bruce DePaola ’91

    Bruce DePaola ’91

    "SJU Law’s founding, development and operation of the Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law is a singularly bold and inspired move which dramatically increases the profile of SJU Law within the New York City real estate community.  The Institute will provide SJU Law students with numerous unique opportunities to interact with and learn from many of SJU Law’s most notable and well-established  alumni, including real estate practitioners in some of New York City’s preeminent law firms and in-house counsel at numerous real estate companies and institutional lenders and investors.  I have no doubt that those SJU Law students who take full advantage of the tremendous opportunities offered by the Institute will be uniquely qualified and extremely well-positioned to make an immediate impact in, and be a significant contributor to, any real estate department."

    Bruce S. DePaola ’91 is a partner in Paul Hastings LLP’s New York office, specializing in the representation of real estate developers, private equity investors, real estate opportunity funds, institutional investors in real property and hotel managers which are involved in innovative real estate transactions across the globe. Recently, he represented (i) Vladislav Doronin of the Moscow-based Capital Group in connection with its ongoing restructuring, recapitalization and redevelopment of the upper floors of the NYC landmark, the Crown Building; (ii) Nordstrom Inc. in its acquisition and development of its proposed 285,000-square-foot flagship New York City store, which will be located at 57th/58th Streets and Broadway in New York City; (iii) New York City Football Club LLC, in connection with its acquisition of  a Major League Soccer franchise and the acquisition and development of a first team training facility in Orangeburg, New York; (iv) Nobu Hospitality in connection with hotel management agreements and restaurant leases/licenses in existing or pending mixed-use projects in Las Vegas, Miami,  Toronto, Chicago, London, Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Malibu, Marbella, Ibiza, Palo Alto, Toronto, and London; (v) Investcorp International Realty Inc. in connection with acquisitions of multi-family and student housing projects in Raleigh, Nashville, Phoenix and Boca Raton and office parks, storage, industrial and retail projects in Boston, Atlanta, Denver and Chicago, (vi) HFZ Capital in connection with its development of, and hotel management agreement with Six Senses Hotels and Resorts for, 76 Eleventh Avenue, in New York City and (vii) L&L Holding Company in connection with its investment in, and development of, 1568 Broadway, in New York City.

    Peter Irwin ’96

    Peter Irwin

    "The Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law will be an excellent addition to the St. John’s University School of Law academic offerings. Having practiced real estate law in New York for over 20 years, I know firsthand the importance of staying on top of current issues and understanding market trends. Through its dedicated programs and curriculum, the Institute will provide an invaluable opportunity for students to contextualize their experiences in the classroom and help prepare them for practice."

    Peter J. Irwin ’96 is a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and Chair of the firm’s Real Estate Group. Mr. Irwin regularly advises clients on real estate acquisitions, dispositions, joint ventures, financings, restructurings and leasing transactions.  He received his B.S. from Cornell University in 1993 and his J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law in 1996. He was selected as a David Rockefeller Fellow for the class of 2012 by the Partnership for New York City. Mr. Irwin is a member of the New York State Bar Association’s Real Property Law Section and a member of the Real Estate Board of New York.

    Christopher Jaskiewicz ’96

    Christopher Jaskiewicz

    “New York City is the real estate capital of the world. Being involved with designing, building, owning and operating real estate projects in New York is exciting. These processes require smart people with good judgment, which are traits that have long been identified with SJU Law graduates.  Giving our law students a ‘head start’ in the industry through the Mattone Institute is a wonderful idea and a tremendous benefit to students."  

    Chris is President of Gotham Properties & Hospitality and Chief Operating Officer of Gotham Organization, Inc. Over the past 100 years, Gotham has built over 40 million square feet of space. The firm currently owns/is developing 4.1 million square feet of residential, commercial and retail properties.  Chris leads the company’s property management and hospitality divisions, which manages residential and commercial space for Gotham’s 4,000 residents and 35 commercial tenants and he was the executive in charge of launching Gotham West Market in 2013, a first-of-its-kind marketplace named "one of America's best food halls" by Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine and others, and he recently launched Gotham Market at The Ashland in Brooklyn. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bon Appétit, the Urban Land Institute and others call on Chris as an expert source in real estate and hospitality trends.  Chris is also Gotham’s Chief Operating Officer with responsibility for transactions, commercial negotiations, human resources, risk management, contracts, litigations and crisis control, while also leading the company’s retail and commercial portfolio.  Christopher joined Gotham in 2003 after representing the company as an attorney for Proskauer Rose LLP. 

    Pamela McCormack ’96 and Kelly Porcella ’07

    “Ladder Capital Corp, a $6 billion commercial real estate finance REIT, currently benefits from a prestigious roster of St. John’s Law alumni, including two board members, the president and the general counsel, as well as two members of its corporate legal department and a senior member of its transaction management team. Having experienced the advantages of St. John’s prevalence in the real estate industry, we look forward to the Mattone Institute providing both a forum for the numerous alumni practicing real estate to give back and a centralized resource for law students who would like to practice in the real estate field.”

    Pamela McCormack

    Pamela McCormack ’96  is a co-founder and the President of Ladder Capital. Ms. McCormack most recently served as Ladder’s Chief Operating Officer and previously as the Company’s Chief Strategy Officer and General Counsel. Before forming Ladder, Ms. McCormack served as Head of Transaction Management – Global Commercial Real Estate at both Dillon Read and UBS. Prior to joining UBS, Ms. McCormack was Vice President and Counsel at Credit Suisse and an associate at leading global law firms. Ms. McCormack received a B. A. in English, cum laude, from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law.

    Kelly Porcella

    Kelly Porcella ’07  is General Counsel of Ladder Capital Corp. Ms. Porcella is responsible for strategic and corporate governance, legal, human resources, financing and regulatory matters. Prior to being appointed as General Counsel of Ladder, Ms. Porcella served as Associate General Counsel. Before joining Ladder in March 2009, Ms. Porcella worked at Dillon Read and UBS, serving as a key member of the Global Commercial Real Estate asset management team. Ms. Porcella received a B.S. in Marketing, summa cum laude, from The Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John’s University and a J.D., magna cum laude, from St. John’s University School of Law.

    Tianja Samuel ’13

    Tianja Samuel

    “With the real estate market on the rise, the Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law could not have come about at a better time. This institute will allow St Johns students to gain practical experience in the real estate industry and benefit from the increased opportunities that will be created by the rise in the market.”

    Tianja Samuel ’13 is an associate at Kriss & Feuerstein LLP in New York.  Ms. Samuel’s practice is real-estate based, with a particular focus on finance, representing both institutional and private lenders in the financing of commercial real estate. Ms. Samuel also handles transactional matters including acquisitions, sales and financing of commercial properties. Prior to joining Kriss & Feuerstein LLP, Ms. Samuel was an associate in the banking and financial services practice group of a Long Island-based firm where she represented institutional lenders in the financing of commercial properties.  Ms. Samuel received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Florida International University in 2003 and a Master of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University in 2010. She attended St. John’s University School of Law on a full academic scholarship and graduated in the top 25% of her class.  Prior to attending law school, Ms. Samuel worked as a Licensed Financial Specialist with several major financial institutions where she originated and negotiated consumer loans, small business loans and various other banking products. She also held Series 6 and 63 securities licenses and used these licenses to counsel consumers on the various securities and insurance products offered by the lenders.

    John V. Terrana '84

    John Terrana

    John V. Terrana is the partner-in-charge of the Tax Certiorari practice group at Forchelli Deegan Terrana LLP, a law firm headquartered in Uniondale, NY, employing more than 60 attorneys.  Over the course of his career, Mr. Terrana has obtained millions of dollars in real estate tax refunds and savings for clients, including national, regional and local owners and tenants of commercial and residential property.  He started his career as a Deputy County Attorney for Nassau County. Mr. Terrana was the Glen Cove City Attorney, and counsel to the Glen Cove Community Development Agency and the Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency, before joining the firm in 1993.

    He has published numerous articles, and has lectured extensively on, tax certiorari issues. Mr. Terrana has received the following honors and awards: “Real Estate Ones to Watch” (New York Real Estate Journal, 2018); “Ones to Watch in Real Estate, Architecture, Engineering and Construction” (Long Island Business News, 2018); named to the 2009-2010 & 2015-2018 New York Super Lawyers lists (Real Estate: Business);  “Who’s Who in Tax Certiorari Law” (Long Island Business News, 2007, 2014 & 2015); “Who’s Who in Real Property Tax Certiorari Law” (Long Island Business News, 2015); “Leadership in Law” (Long Island Business News, 2013); “Legal Eagle and Long Island’s Most Unbeatable Lawyer in Real Estate Tax Certiorari Law” (Long Island Pulse, 2012); “50 Around 50” (Long Island Business News, 2011); “Long Island Executive of the Month” (New York Real Estate Journal, 2009) and “40 Under 40” (Long Island Business News, 1999). He has achieved a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating. Mr. Terrana is a member of the Mattone Institute Advisory Board, the Nassau County Bar Association (former Chairman of the Tax Certiorari and Condemnation Law Committee), the Suffolk County Bar Association (former Co-Chair of the Tax Certiorari and Condemnation Law Committee), The International Council of Shopping Centers and the Institute for Professionals in Taxation.  He earned his J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law in 1984 and his B.S. from St. John’s University in 1991.

    Alfred M. Williams ’14

    Alfred Williams

    “The Mattone Institute is slated to be a fantastic resource for future St. John’s Law students and for the real estate industry as a whole. Interested students will be exposed to a valuable array of information and a network of accomplished professionals in an exciting, sophisticated area of the law. Thank you to the Mattone family for your exceptional generosity in making the Institute a reality.”

    Alfred M. Williams ’14 is an associate in Morrison & Foerster LLP’s Real Estate Group in New York. Mr. Williams’ practice includes a broad range of real estate matters, with a particular focus on financing and joint venture investments.  Recent matters on which Mr. Williams has advised include a joint venture for a high-rise mixed use condominium project at 45 Broad Street, New York, a $600 million acquisition financing for the historic Sony Building in New York, and an investment of up to $1 billion by an overseas institutional investor in a domestic real estate investment trust. Prior to joining that firm, he was a judicial intern for the Honorable Arthur D. Spatt of the Eastern District of New York. While at St. John’s Law, he was the Managing Editor of the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development, and he received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence in Suretyship & Mortgages, Business Organizations and Legal Writing, and the Wann Family Foundation Award in Business Planning. He received his B.A., magna cum laude, in economics from Siena College, where he was elected to Omicron Delta Epsilon.

    Nicole Woolard '09

    Nicole Woolard

    "The Mattone Institute continues to enhance St. John’s Law’s success in graduating leaders in the real estate, development and construction industries. The Institute’s interdisciplinary approach and NYC focus aims to provide numerous opportunities and resources to students and alumni for years to come.”

    Nicole Woolard is an Associate at Duane Morris LLP in New York. She concentrates her practice in the areas of construction law and commercial litigation, representing owners, developers, non-profit institutions, tenants, contractors, construction managers, owner’s representatives, building managers and design professionals. Nicole negotiates construction, design, vendor, access, easement and development agreements. Nicole assists clients in disputes and litigation arising from public and private construction projects. At Duane Morris, Nicole serves on the Women's Impact Network for Success. She provides assistance pro bono to survivors of commercial sexual exploitation through Duane Morris' alliance with GEMS, a not-for-profit corporation. Nicole volunteers with the Justice Resource Center's Mentor program for local high schools and also serves on the programming and membership committees for the Professional Women in Construction. At St. John’s Law, Nicole was part of the Moot Court Honor Society.

    Peter Chang Headshot
    Peter Chang '03
    Principal, Chang Law Firm, PLLC

    Which Law School courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in Real Estate Law?
    I had a background in real estate as my father was a commercial real estate broker and was always interested in the real estate field. So when I entered law school, I already knew that I was going to pursue a career in Real Estate Law. I tried to take some courses that would help in that regard. In Real Estate Transactions with Professor Parella, I was struck by his real-world approach. I used many of the documents we went over in class when I first began practicing, and what I learned from him gave me a bit of a jump on understanding some of the practice area’s terminology and language.

    What part of your job gets you out of bed each day?  
    Knowing that we are playing a small, yet very important part of a client’s life is inspiring. Purchasing or selling a home is one of the most important transactions a person can make in their life. Being able to help new buyers navigate that often complex and confusing process is very rewarding. It sounds cliché, but seeing the look on a client’s face when they finally close makes everything worth it. Also, when a client goes out of their way to tell us what a great job we did, or how important we were in providing the information and services they needed, that really means a lot.

    What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?  
    Students should understand that law school teaches you the basic skills you need become a lawyer. But the practical knowledge you gain through learning and experience after you graduate is also invaluable. It takes time to become a good lawyer. Soak up as much information as you can. You will make lots of mistakes, but you can learn from them. Employers understand that you do not know everything. What they want to see is that you want to learn and have the tools to absorb and grow independently. Initiative really goes a long way. Too many new employees are passive and wait to be told what to do. Great first-time employees look for things to do and go the extra mile.

    What is one thing that’s surprised you about a career in law? 
    What I love about practicing Real Estate Law is that every transaction is unique in its own way. People often assume that the practice consists of template contracts and the same day-to day-drudgery. That is true in some respect with all jobs. But with transactional real estate in general, the people are different, the property is different, and the circumstances are different. Even after so many years in the business, I still see novel situations. Laws change, the market changes, and the economy changes. We have systems in place now that we did not have in place 10 years ago. Many things are the same, but many things have changed dramatically as well.  

    Do you have any predictions for the real estate industry over the next year?  
    Unfortunately, with the way rates are, a further cool down is inevitable. Inflation and frequent fed rate increases are pushing the economy towards a recession that is already resulting in price reductions across the country. There seems to be an uptick of activity over the last month indicating that buyers who were waiting on the sidelines are now ready to buy before mortgage rates increase even further. Unlike the mortgage crash of 2008, the market fundamentals still appear to be strong. So, a significant downturn of that size and scope is unlikely. Mortgage rates may be higher than they were just a couple of years ago, but they are still decent from a historical perspective.  

    Yosefa Heber '13 Headshot
    Yosefa Heber '13
    Deputy General Counsel, iStar Inc. and Safehold Inc.

    Which Law School courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in Real Estate Law?
    I enjoyed all my transactional classes. In particular, the late Professor Robert Parella taught my 1L Property class and my 3L Introduction to Real Estate class. Professor Parella was amazing.  He encouraged his students to think practically and not focus on the grade. The final for the real estate class involved getting a purchase and sale agreement and being tasked with marking it up first from the perspective of a seller and then as a buyer. You can’t get more practical than that! Those courses prepared me for the work I did as a law firm associate and that I now do in house.

    What part of your job gets you out of bed each day?
    I’m fortunate to work with a bright group of people, who find innovative and creative solutions to the issues that sponsors face. Safehold’s modern ground lease structure doesn’t reflect the older, archaic ground leases of the past. With that modernization comes the task of educating the market, including sponsors, lenders, and their respective counsels. Our team is exceptional at identifying a concern and addressing it in a way that mutually benefits the leasehold and the fee. Our collective goal is to make the leasehold estate sellable and financeable, so pushing back without good reason and without a creative solution is not how we conduct our negotiations.

    What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?
    If you’re just starting your career, be dedicated and stay focused. It’s the people who go the extra mile that end up on top, and your reputation is everything. If more senior people see that you care, that you raise your hand and ask questions, and that you volunteer, those are the qualities that they are going to remember. The commercial real estate industry in particular is (relatively) small, and you come across the same people repeatedly. When I decided to go in house, it was partly because I worked with the company’s Chief Legal Officer when I was a junior associate. So, it’s about putting your head down, doing the work, learning what you need to, and forming those relationships.

    Do you have any predictions for the real estate industry over the next year?
    It’s an interesting market environment right now. Between people returning to cities that they moved out of during the pandemic, to rising real estate prices, inflation, and now rising interest rates, I think we’re going to see prices stabilize a bit. And I think we’ll see more non-traditional capital opportunities, including ground leases.

    John Lansden
    Hon. John Lansden'91
    Supervising Judge, Queens Housing Court 

    Did any St. John’s Law courses, clinics, or experiences spark your interest in real estate and housing law? 
    I really enjoyed Real Property II and found the course material particularly fascinating. I also enjoyed the courses covering title insurance and co-ops and condominiums. During my time at St. John’s, I worked for a solo practitioner that had a general practice. I was also a summer associate at Rosenberg & Estis, where I truly got immersed into the real estate world by following the attorneys to NYS Supreme Court and Housing Court.   

    What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers? 
    Be open to everything. When I started at St. John’s Law, I thought I was going into the medical malpractice field and even worked part time for a medical malpractice defense firm as a 1L. I happened to get the chance to interview with a real estate firm last minute on a Friday night and took the interview. I ended up working there the following summer, and the rest is history. There is no interview that is at an inconvenient time and there is no opportunity that should be overlooked!   

    Do you have any predictions for the real estate industry over the next year? 
    Yes, I believe there will be a recognition that the foundation of the real estate industry is going to have to change. Prior to COVID-19, the industry’s foundation was possession. But the post-pandemic world has shown us that companies don’t need office space to conduct their business. So, I anticipate that a more flexible licensing and leasing arrangement will proliferate in the industry because it will be more molded to the individual’s needs. In Housing Court specifically, I anticipate that the use of technology will improve. Currently, appearances are presumptively in person, but judges are allowed to permit virtual appearances if necessary. In terms of percentages, we’re still seeing a higher percentage of virtual appearances than in-person. Improving the technology in the courts would naturally increase efficiency.   

    What part of your job gets you out of bed each day? 
    Housing is one of the basic needs of society. As such, I think what I do makes a difference, and I love the role I play by applying the law to the best of my ability. I’ve been on the bench for 19 years and have never dreaded going to work.  As a Housing Court judge, you have unique insight into one of the most pressing issues of our time: housing instability and evictions.

    How can aspiring lawyers help play a role in mitigating this crisis? 
    My answer to the question is for young attorneys to stay involved. There are many programs and internships that provide opportunities to law students. When law students get involved in these issues, they may not be glamorous, but they deal with the largest issue many of their clients will have to face, where they will live. Nothing impacts their lives in a greater way. Anything and everything a law student does to help someone who needs help to stay in their home, will impact that person’s life for years to come.  

    Meryl Diamond
    Meryl Diamond '99
    Partner, Alston & Bird LLP

    When and how did you become interested in Real Estate Law?
    I’ve always had an interest in real estate and worked full time as a real estate paralegal handling residential closing while attending St. John’s Law at night. I enjoy the variety that comes with a real estate finance practice, including its mix of, among others, dirt law, finance, bankruptcy, UCC, environmental, corporate, tax, bank regulation, and ERISA laws. I don’t have to be an expert in all of these areas, but I do need to recognize when they impact a matter I’m working on. St. John’s gave me a legal education in core practice areas while allowing me to explore other areas that interested me. I gained the analytic and drafting skills necessary to succeed in my real estate finance law practice.

    What part of your job gets you out of bed each day?
    First and foremost, it’s the people. The professional and personal relationships I’ve forged over the years make my complex real estate finance practice a lot more enjoyable. We work long hours and tackle tough issues, so it makes a big difference that I truly like who I work with. Next is the intellectual challenge of my practice. I love helping clients structure their loans and dealing with challenging issues on both the business and legal side. The more complex a deal structure and the more challenging it is, the more I enjoy handling the transaction. Lastly, I love the thrill of a closing. When parties are working to meet a common goal, it’s very satisfying when you reach that goal and the client pushes the button to wire funds to a borrower or sends an email that a deal has closed.

    Do you have any predictions for the real estate industry over the next year?
    As a lender’s counsel, my practice was thriving most of the first half of 2022 and we were expecting record lending and borrowing this year. Unfortunately, due to volatility in the capital markets caused by things like interest rate hikes, inflation, the war in Ukraine, and supply chain issues, the real estate lending market will be slow this summer. We’ll have to see if the volatility in the capital markets, generally, and the real estate market, specifically, lasts through the remainder of the year or runs its course by the end of the summer.

    What advice would you give to current law students who are interested in Real Estate Law?
    Taking a bankruptcy course in addition to your real estate courses benefits any lawyer, in any transactional practice. Network whenever you can, because you never know who you’ll meet. Also, if you’re having difficulty finding a job, don’t get discouraged. Real estate is an everchanging landscape. Take the opportunity that’s presented to you. You can never learn too much, and any work in transactional law and/or business will help you reach your real estate goals. Lastly, the Mattone Institute is available to you with amazing classes, opportunities, and programs, as well as unparalleled connections to St. John’s Law alumni. Take advantage of this incredible resource!

    Christopher Palmer
    Christopher Palmer '94
    Managing Partner, Cullen and Dykman LLP  Adjunct Professor, St. John’s Law

    What sparked your interest in Real Estate and Banking Law? 
    I had Professor Bob Zinman for both Property I and II and he brought real-world experience to the classroom, having served as Vice-President and Investment Counsel for MetLife. His keen ability to make a relatively mundane subject interesting, and even exciting, piqued my interest in this practice area. 

    Where and how did you get your start in the profession?  
    During law school, I worked in the legal department at a major bank. I learned what a financial institution’s general counsel handles on a day-to-day basis, made great connections, and gained broad experience. That experience helped me secure a full-time associate position at Bleakley Platt Remsen Millham & Curran, a boutique banking firm with a tremendous reputation. St. John’s Law alumnus Jack Curran hired me upon passing the bar. He was an amazing mentor who is now my partner at Cullen and Dykman.

    What is a hallmark of your current practice at Cullen and Dykman? 
    We pride ourselves on providing full-service representation and counsel through all our major department groups and practice areas. My background, however, has been banking and real estate.  There’s nothing we can’t do for our banking clients. In our banking area, we handle compliance and regulatory matters, facilitate lending, oversee restructuring and workouts, and advise on creditors’ rights and bankruptcies. We serve as general counsel to our clients, but they all know they get personal, hands-on service from us, so our goal is to make all clients feel as if they’re our only client.  

    What are the biggest rewards of challenges of being managing partner? 
    One of the most rewarding things about being managing partner is that I get to address the short-term demands and challenges of running a law firm while also strategizing and planning for the long term. The pandemic was a perfect example of that. There were many challenges to address and hurdles that we had to overcome. But we as a firm rose to the occasion by keeping the well-being of our people and clients in mind. Fortunately, most of our clients were considered “essential”: banks, financial institutions, colleges and universities, not-for-profit organizations, energy and utility companies, and religious organizations, to name a few. We knew we had to make sure their operations, which were critical to getting us all through the pandemic, continued to serve their customers smoothly and seamlessly. 

    Do you have any advice for newly minted lawyers? 
    Be flexible. While I’m a big believer in following your dreams, with that comes a need for flexibility. I went to law school assuming I’d become an Assistant District Attorney. After all, my father, brother, and sister were New York City police officers. But my experience working in-house at the bank opened my eyes to a new path forward. The legal landscape is never static or fixed. You must remain willing to adapt. And never fear change, because with change comes great opportunities.  

    Mattone logo


    The Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law Writing Competition (the “Competition”) is intended to encourage and reward writing on the subject of real property law by St. John’s Law students, and to foster additional scholarship and interest in this area.

    Official Rules

    1. Eligibility: Entrants must be enrolled as J.D. or L.L.M. students at St. John’s University School of Law in good standing at the time of the submission and at the time of the selection of a winner.
    2. Topic: To be eligible for submission, a paper must be the student’s original writing on a topic relating to real property or land use law. “Real property or land use” shall be interpreted broadly to include related areas such as, inter alia, environmental, finance and banking law, if the paper topic has significant implications for real property or land use law.
    3. Other Requirements: Notes, articles and other papers are eligible for submission, including those written for law school classes. There is no minimum or maximum length requirement. Submissions must be in Microsoft Word, double-spaced, in twelve-point font, with one-inch margins; citations must be set out in single-spaced footnotes and should conform to the current edition of the Uniform System of Citation (Bluebook). In submitting a paper for consideration, an entrant is deemed to represent and warrant that the paper is the entrant’s original work, written without substantial unattributed input from others.
    4. Submission and Selection Process:
      1. Papers must be submitted by the author or may be nominated for consideration by a St. John’s faculty member. In either case, papers must be submitted to Robert J. Sein, Director of the Mattone Institute at [email protected] by no later than 11:59 PM Eastern Time on March 31 of each year.
      2. Submissions will be judged by the Director of the Mattone Institute and other reviewers the Director may designate from time to time (collectively, the “Judge”), with a view towards the following criteria: creativity, timeliness, novelty and significance of the topic; quality of research, analysis and writing; and quality of organization and citation format. 
      3. Each year, the Judge will select a winner from among the papers submitted.  However, the Judge reserves the right to not select any winner if the Judge determines that no entry is of sufficient quality to merit selection. All selections shall be final. 
      4. Winners will be notified by email by not later than April 30.
    5. Awards. The winner will receive: (i) a $500 cash prize, (ii) recognition via the Mattone Institute’s newsletter and social media platforms, and (iii) assistance and support from the Director and other relevant members of the Law School administration and faculty for the publication of the winning paper in relevant law reviews and journals. No representation or warranty is made that any winning article will in fact be published in one or more publications.

    Past recipients:

    2021: Holly Constants '22, “Freedom to Contract Injunction Waivers in Commercial Leases”

    2022: Joe Mottola '23, “Theft of the American Dream: New York City’s Third Party Transfer Program”

    Summer Public Interest Fellowship

    The Mattone Institute Summer Public Interest Fellowship has been offered annually since 2021 in coordination with the St. John’s Law Public Interest Center. The fellowship is awarded to qualified first or second year St. John’s University School of Law students for summer positions with non-profit and governmental organizations representing traditionally underrepresented clients, groups, or interests relevant to real estate law, including housing, land use, environmental, development, landlord-tenant and/or community redevelopment.

    Past recipients:
    2021: Sara Leston ’23 (Queens County Housing Court)
    2022: Nadia Balkaran ’23 (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

    Contact Us

    Robert J. Sein
    Director, Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law
    St. John’s University School of Law
    8000 Utopia Parkway
    Queens, NY 11439
    [email protected]