Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law

What We Do

The Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law, 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.    

Real Estate Alumni Spotlight

Andrew Esposito ‘16 Founder & Principal at Apex Development Group LLC
Andrew Esposito ‘16 Founder & Principal at Apex Development Group LLC

Which law school courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in real estate law?

Ironically, none! I had a very unconventional path entering the real estate industry. I was in finance right out of college, but pivoted to focus on litigation at St. John’s Law because I found it exciting. After earning my J.D., I sort of stumbled into a work opportunity with a real estate developer and the rest is history.


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

Everything. I absolutely love what I do, which I don’t think everyone is fortunate enough to say. It’s one of the key reasons I bounced around a bit and tried different things before settling into a career path, because I recognized that work would consume the large majority of the rest of my life, and I want to love what I do for a living. My job today isn’t "work," it’s a 24/7 component of my life which brings constant excitement, challenges, and stimulation. I love chasing new deals and putting together complicated transactions where my financial incentive is tied to the project’s outcome and my own efforts and acuity. Like the late, great Sam Zell once said, I take risks for a living, I don’t make widgets. 


What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers? 

I would tell them to try things, don’t settle, and find what you love. If you do that, you’ll succeed. A legal background is versatile and can complement nearly any profession. If you’re simply going through the motions or living up to someone else's expectation of your life, you can make a lot of money but may not find fulfillment. 


What has surprised you about your career so far? 

What surprises me is that, even if I had a crystal ball, I couldn’t have predicted where I would be today: from a litigation focus in law school, to joining a development company, to starting my own firm, and now overseeing in excess of $100 million in development projects just eight years after graduating from law school. It reminds me of the famous Steve Jobs Stanford commencement speech where he shared, "You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards." Every single experience is a step in the process. Trust it and keep working hard. It always works out. 


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

With sky-high interest rates, subpar tax abatement programs, and challenging New York City politics, the development market will continue to be sluggish and land valuations/cap rates will fail to make sense. Developers need to be more creative than ever to create value, as run-of-the-mill multifamily housing deals often don’t pencil anymore. I like discretionary land use actions to increase zoning density and reduce imputed land basis, as well as city and state sponsored projects like charter school development and affordable housing. Where there is an established need (especially by a municipality), there will be mechanisms made available in the market to overcome the challenges of high interest rates and land values, such as creative financing structures and alternate real estate tax strategies.


Our Program

Current course offerings include the following:

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- 2070)
2 credits
This course will explore the dynamics of the United States housing market from the perspective of homeowners and renters, developer, investors, local and federal officials, and members of the so-called "NIMBY" and "YIMBY" movements.  We will consider the various federal and New York State programs that have been used to facilitate affordable housing over the past century, including the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), municipal bonds, and other programs that allow the development and revitalization of contextual housing (e.g., affordable housing, supportive housing, transitional housing, senior housing and faith based/mission driven development), and the roles of the various stakeholders, including the federal and state regulators administering these regimes.  We will consider affordable housing as a public policy imperative, and the need for federal and state tax policies and sources of funding designed to facilitate such development. The interrelationship between affordable housing development, economic policy, zoning and land use policy and environmental policy will also be considered.  This course will also lightly touch on alternative avenues to affordability apart from new housing construction, including public housing, voucher programs, middle-income programs, and rent stabilization.  Emerging topics such as the repurposing of disfavored asset classes to housing uses, transit-oriented development, "green" affordable housing, non-profit-private partnerships and public-private partnerships will be addressed.  Grades will be based on a final examination and other grading components.  Pre- or co-requisite: REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS or REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT.

(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 final examination and other grading components.

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

2 credits
The course in Directed Research is designed to afford students the opportunity to prepare a major research paper of publishable quality under the direction of a faculty adviser who has expertise in a particular area of the law. Students are responsible for obtaining the sponsorship of a faculty member prior to registering for the course. Students must complete an "Approval of Directed Research" form with the signatures of the faculty adviser and the Associate Dean to be submitted to the Registrar prior to the end of the semester drop/add period. Academic credit will be awarded only if the student has successfully completed all requirements by the end of the student's penultimate semester at the Law School. Completion of requirements means that the student shall have produced a final writing of at least 6,700 words in length (approximately twenty-five pages), inclusive of footnotes, that, except for the minimum grade, satisfies the guidelines in place at the time of registration and shall have prepared a detailed outline and have satisfied any other preparatory steps required by the instructor.  Pre-requisite: LEGAL WRITING II.  As with any course, Directed Research may be taken only once in a student’s academic program.

(PROPERTY - 1050)
2 credits
This course provides intensive instruction in the drafting of real estate-related contracts and documents, including contracts of sale, deeds, mortgages, brokerage agreements and leases. Students learn how to translate a business deal into contract concepts, how to structure an agreement, and how to draft contract provisions clearly, precisely, and efficiently. Students will study New York State statutes and caselaw setting forth legal principles relevant to the drafting of key provisions. Students will be responsible for a series of written exercises, culminating in a full-length agreement at the end of the semester. Some negotiation is included. Grades will be based on several short-written assignments (totaling 30%), an initial and a revised draft of a full-length agreement (totaling 55%) and class participation (15%) Students will be required to complete an ungraded take-home midterm examination.  This course satisfies the Advanced Practice Writing Requirement. Pre-/Co-requisites: REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS or REAL ESTATE FINANCE.

1 credit
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 development and trends in real estate, and the instructor's particular areas of expertise.  Grades will be based on a final examination (75%) and class participation (25%).  Pre-requisites for JD students: REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS and four additional credits of advanced PROP coursework.  Enrollment requires permission of the Program Director.

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 - 1070)
3 credits
This course examines the law and process of real estate finance in its many forms. It covers topics distinct from those covered in Real Estate Transactions. Topics will include commercial real estate financing techniques such as leasehold mortgages, mezzanine loans, preferred equity, CMBS and REITs. The course will also address participations, syndications, and intercreditor arrangements. Federal and state consumer protection laws affecting consumer mortgages will be covered, as will foreclosures, in both the commercial and residential contexts. Students will learn to review and analyze key provisions in financing documentation from the perspective of multiple stakeholders. Students will also be instructed on ethical issues that arise in this area of practice. Grades will be based on a midterm (10%) and a final examination (90). Pre- or Co-requisite: REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS or SECURED TRANSACTIONS.

(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

(PROPERTY - 2060)
3 credits
This course is open to second year (or part-time third year) J.D. students, and LL.M. students, who are staff members of the N.Y. Real Property Law Journal. Students will engage in discussions and analysis of significant real estate-related legal issues, with special attention to current legislative and caselaw developments at the U.S. federal, New York State and City levels. Students will participate in a series of research and writing workshops and several writing exercises, the goal of which is to advance their skills in developing arguments and advocating legal positions in written form. These workshops and exercises will culminate in written work product authored by each student. Such work product shall consist of two or more recent decision summaries, legislative updates or blog postings which comprise not less than 6,700 words in the aggregate. In choosing topics for their writings, students will consult with the instructor of the course, and all such topics shall be subject to the instructor's approval. In the course of completing their writings, students will collaborate with the N.Y. Real Property Law Journal Notes and Comments Editors assigned to assist them. Towards the conclusion of the semester, each student shall present a paper of their choosing to the class. Following the conclusion of the course, the instructor will recommend certain recent decision summaries and legislative updates for consideration for publication in the N.Y. Real Property law Journal by the Publications Committee thereof. Subject to satisfaction of the applicable requirements set forth in the Student Handbook, J.D. students completing this course shall satisfy their APWR requirement. Grades will be based on the student's written work product, the student's classroom presentation, and class participation. 

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

Carrie C. Adduci

Gregory Alvarez

Peter Carrozzo

Melissa Corrado

Deborah Goldman

Kevin Reilly

Bruce DePaola

Donna-Marie Korth

Chris Palmer

Peter Roach

Thomas J. Rossi

J.J. Sherman

Francisco Vasquez

About the Program

The Mattone Institute's Real Estate Law Fellowship Program offers an outstanding educational and pre-professional experience for selected St. John's Law students who have a strong interest in real estate law, including real estate development, finance, and investment.

Each Real Estate Fellow receives an annual tuition stipend of up to $5,000 (incremental to any other scholarships) and benefits from a unified program of academic and pre-professional instruction designed to prepare them for rewarding careers in real estate law, including real estate-focused externships and mentoring and clinical programs.

Real Estate Fellows also engage with the Mattone Institute’s strong alumni network and forge other connections in the real estate industry as they participate in, and assist with, networking events, conferences, seminars, and continuing legal education programs. Real Estate Fellows get preferential access to limited-enrollment real estate law electives, as well as support from the Mattone Institute's director and a dedicated Career Development Office counselor, who work closely with the Real Estate Fellows as they make decisions regarding curriculum, publications, internships, externships, and long-term career planning.

Application Process

The Real Estate Fellowship Program is open to St. John's Law 2Ls and 3Ls. Students are admitted to the program based on a competitive application process. 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. Students may apply for the Real Estate Fellowship Program in the summer as a rising 2L or 3L or during the winter of their 2L year. Students who apply to the Program but are not accepted are free to re-apply in a future application cycle for which they are eligible.

Students apply for the Real Estate Fellowship Program by submitting an application form to the Director of the Mattone Institute, together with:

  • A brief personal statement
  • Current resume
  • Optional diversity statement
  • Unofficial self-prepared transcript

The Program Review Committee selects candidates for the Real Estate Fellowship Program based on the following criteria:

  • Academic performance
  • Demonstrated dedication to real estate as a career option, including applicable work experience and involvement with real estate law-related activities
  • 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.

Additional Program Terms and Conditions

Real Estate Fellows will agree to comply with the following requirements:

Curriculum Requirement

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:

  • Business Organizations (BUSI-3000) (4 credits)
  • Tax – Basic Federal Personal Income (TAXL-1030) (3 credits)
  • Real Estate Foundation Course: Real Estate Transactions (PROP-1090) (3 credits)

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
  • Advanced Topics in Real Estate Law (PROP-2050) (2 credits)*
  • Real Estate Workouts & Bankruptcy (PROP-2030) (2 credits)
  • Affordable Housing Law and Practice (PROP-2070) (2 credits)
  • Research and Writing: Real Property Law (for NYRPLJ Members) (PROP-2060) (3 credits)
  • Emerging Issues in Real Estate Law Seminar (Intensive) (REAL ESTATE-2000) (1 credit)

*Real Estate Fellows are strongly encouraged to take Advanced Topics in Real Estate Law in their final semester at St. John's, as the course provides an outstanding "capstone" experience.

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 (including, as required, over Thanksgiving Break and Spring Break) 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:

  • Meet with the Director of the Mattone Institute at least monthly
  • Participate in all Mattone Institute events
  • 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 modified or waived from time to time in the discretion of the Program Review Committee.

Ubaid Bandukra '24

Ubaid Bandukra

Ubaid is a third-year student and works 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.

Maria Budis '24

Maria Budis

Maria serves as Associate Managing Editor of the St. John’s Law Review, President of the Hellenic Law Student Association, and Chair of Mentorship for the Corporate and Securities Law Society. Maria is also a member of St. John’s Real Property Law Society and Women’s Law Society. Maria was a 2023 Summer Associate at David Polk & Wardwell LLP, where she will be returning after graduation. 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.

Piero Sauñe Casas '25


Piero, a second-year student from Lima, Peru, graduated cum laude from Manhattanville College in 2021 with a BA in Political Science. Prior to law school, he gained experience at a real estate boutique firm in Great Neck. At St. John’s, Piero is involved in various organizations, including the New York Real Property Law Journal, where he serves as a staff member, and the Real Property Law Society, where he holds the position of director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. Additionally, he is an active member of the Latin American Law Students Association. Piero recently completed an internship with the New York Attorney General Office in their Westchester Office. As a real estate fellow, Piero aspires to develop his passion for real estate law by learning from mentors and alums.

Myaysa Evans '24

Myaysa Evans

Myaysa is a third-year student from Long Island, NY. She graduated cum laude from St. John’s University in 2020 with a B.S. in Legal Studies and a minor in English. Prior to law school, Myaysa worked for the Internal Revenue Service as a student volunteer and moved to a full-time position. At St. John’s Law, Myaysa serves as Editor-in-Chief of the N.Y. Real Property Law Journal and Treasurer of Corporate and Securities Law Society. During her second year, she was a Law Clerk for Federman Steifman LLP where she worked on commercial real estate transactions and gained clinical experience at the Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic, where she represented low-income Queens residents with real estate matters. During her third year she will be a law clerk for Abruzzo & Kinn LLP working on federally funded multi-family lending and affordable housing finances. As a Real Estate Fellow, Myaysa hopes to build her knowledge of real estate law and connect with the real estate industry of New York City. 

Leeal Kahen '24

Leeal Kahen

Leeal Kahen is a third-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. 

Evgenia Mallas '25


Eva is a second-year student from Brooklyn, New York. Before coming to St. John’s Law, Eva graduated from Fordham University. During her undergraduate experience, she interned at two real estate law firms, as well as a real estate management firm. She currently serves on multiple boards including the Real Property Law Society, Health Law Society and the Hellenic Law Student Association. She is also a member of the Dispute Resolution Society. During her 1L summer she interned at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York. Eva is looking forward to exploring her interest in real estate law through this fellowship.

Jennifer Milo '24


Jennifer is a third-year student from Long Island, New York. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from St. John's University with a B.S. in criminal justice. She is a staff member of the International Law Journal and on the Eboard of the Real Property Society, serving as the director of events. Throughout her academic career, Jennifer has worked in a real estate law firm with a prestigious client base of developers, condominiums and cooperatives, companies, municipalities, and high-profile individuals. Throughout her time there, she has become proficient in handling the transfer department of coops and condos and manages closings from start to finish at the firm. As a real estate fellow, Jennifer looks forward to engaging with her peers and real estate professionals.

Gennaro Priolo '24


Gennaro is a third-year student from Staten Island, NY. He graduated from Wagner College in 2021 with a B.A. in Government & Political Science and a minor in Sociology. Prior to pursuing a legal education, Gennaro interned with Hon. Catherine DiDomenico in the Supreme Court of Richmond County. During his time at St. John’s Law, he was awarded the SAME New York City Post Scholarship for his dedication to construction law. Currently, he serves as the Director of Alumni Relations for the Real Property Law Society and is a member of the Corporate and Securities Law Society. In addition to interning at several private firms during his legal education, Gennaro completed an externship at KI Legal Group where he focused on complex real estate matters. This upcoming semester, Gennaro will serve as a Teaching Assistant for Professor Patricia Montana’s Legal Research course. As a Real Estate Fellow, Gennaro is committed to expanding his knowledge and making significant contributions to the field of Real Estate Law.

Zachary Rozycki '24

Zachary Rozycki

Zach is a third-year student from Hopewell Junction, New York. He graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a B.S. in Financial Economics. Prior to law school, Zach worked for a property management company in Poughkeepsie, New York. After his first year in law school, he externed at Ladder Capital where he worked on real estate finance and corporate issues. Currently, Zach is Executive Notes and Comments Editor of the American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review, and is a member of the Real Property Law Society and the Corporate and Securities Law Society. This past summer he worked as a Summer Associate at Belkin Burden Goldman, LLP and will continue working there part-time throughout the school year. 

Imrajdeep Sahota '25


Imraj is a second-year student from Brampton, Canada. He graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 2021 with a degree in Accounting and History. Imraj received his Real Estate license in Ontario and gained experience as a Real Estate Broker Assistant. This past summer, Imraj worked as a summer law clerk at Rosenberg & Estis, P.C. This academic year, Imraj will serve as a staff member on the New York Real Property Law Journal and a member of the South Asian Law Students Association. As a real estate fellow, Imraj aims to develop his real estate law skills by participating in the program at every opportunity. 

Paul Spagnoli '24

Paul Spagnoli

This past summer, Paul worked with in house counsel at The Durst Organization and served as a Research Assistant with Professor Sein in the Mattone Institute. During his 2L year, he worked in house at Ladder Capital Corp. Paul worked on real estate transactions and litigation at Durante, Bock & Tota PLLC. Prior to law school, 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 Co-President for the Real Property Law Society, and as an Articles and Notes Editor 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. He is a recipient of the Columbian Lawyers Scholarship and the American Immobiliare Scholarship for Commercial Real Estate.

Eric C. Wagner '24


Eric is a third-year student from Long Island, New York. He graduated from Stony Brook University in 2020 with a BA in Economics and Political Science. At St. John's, Eric is an Associate Managing Editor of the St. John’s Law Review and serves as President of the Federalist Society and Co-director of Alumni Relations for the Real Property Law Society. This past summer, he interned at Fried Frank in New York, assisting primarily with real estate litigation and land use matters. Before law school, Eric worked in state and local government on issues relating to property taxes and rezoning. As a real estate fellow, Eric is looking forward to learning more about real estate law and its practice in New York City.

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
  • Matthew Donoghue '12: Counsel, Greenberg Traurig
  • 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
  • Krista Miniutti '96: Partner, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
  • Max Patinkin '13: Principal, High Tide Capital LLC
  • Stephanie Rainaud '14: Associate, Holland & Knight LLP*
  • Max Rayetsky '14: Associate, Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone, LLP*
  • Juan Restrepo '07: Co-Managing Partner, Richter Restrepo PLLC
  • 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.”

Learn More

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.

Learn More

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 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


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.


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.

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.

Submission and Selection Process

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.

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. 

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. 

Winners will be notified by email by not later than April 30.


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

2023: Maria Budis '24, “Community Opportunity to Purchase Act and Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act Will Put CLTS in the Game, an Acquisition Fund would help CLTs Win”
2022: Joe Mottola '23, “Theft of the American Dream: New York City’s Third Party Transfer Program”
2021: Holly Constants '22, “Freedom to Contract Injunction Waivers in Commercial Leases”

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

2023: Jesper Chitsaz '25 (NYS Division of Homes and Community Renewal, Tenant Protection Unit)
2022: Nadia Balkaran ’23 (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
2021: Sara Leston ’23 (Queens County Housing Court)


The Mattone Institute Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Series is focused on delivering to our alumni and the real estate law community at large quality continuing legal education taught by leading thinkers and practitioners on cutting-edge and timely topics. 

St. John’s Law is an accredited provider of New York State Continuing Legal Education.

Past CLE Programs

St. John's Law alumni can view recordings of many of our past CLE programs for credit. Current students may view our CLE content for free. Please email [email protected] for more information.

Cannabis Complications in NYC Real Estate
Adam Lindenbaum '03, JP Amato '20, Harris Davidson
1 credit
November 8, 2023  

The Ins and Outs of Construction Access Agreements
Juan C. Restrepo '07, Chris Tarnok '08
2 credits
June 14, 2023

Reviewing, Drafting and Negotiating Multifamily Purchase and Sale Agreements
Tom Maira '96
1.5 credits
June 7, 2023

Crucial Issues Every Real Estate Attorney Needs to Know About Joint Venture Agreements
Tom Maira '96
1 credit
March 1, 2023

Title Review and Title Insurance 101
Christina Colbert '92, Anthony Vozza '88, Antonio G. Vozza '17 and Giacomo Billisi '22
1 credit
November 7, 2022

What Attorneys Need to Know About Cooperative Apartment Due Diligence
Chris Kidonakis '09
1.5 credits
October 12, 2022

Things that Make You Go Hmmm... Part III: Points Every Real Estate Attorney Needs to Know
Vincent J. Gallo, Paul Malon '81, Catherine Schiavone, Hon. Philip Straniere and Chris Kidonakis '09
2 credits
September 14, 2022

Affordable Housing in New York 101
Juan Restrepo '07 and Richard Yao
2 credits
July 13, 2022

Part II of Things that Make You Go Hmmm….Points Every Real Estate Attorney Needs to Know
Vincent J. Gallo, Joseph M. Mattone Jr. '86 and Hon. Philip Strainiere
2 credits
February 9, 2022

The End of the Shell (Company) Game: New Disclosure Requirements in NY Real Estate Transactions
Tom Gebert '86
1 credit
November 10, 2021

Pandemic-Related Real Estate Litigation: Where Do We Stand?
Scott Mollen '72, Andrew J. Wagner, Alan R. Lyons and Scott T. Tross
1.5 credits
October 13, 2021

Commercial Leasing in a Pandemic
Ally Hack, Scott E. Mollen '72, Deborah L. Goldman, and J.J. Sherman '00
1.5 credits
August 4, 2021

The Most Important Number in the World: The Endgame for LIBOR
Joe Forte '73
2 credits
July 20, 2021

Things That Make You Go Hmmm…Points that Every Real Estate Attorney Needs to Know
Vincent J. Gallo, Paul Malon '81, and Hon. Philip Strainiere
2 credit
June 30, 2021

Real Estate Joint Venture Agreements: Crucial Provisions and Issues
Tom Maira '96
1.5 credits
June 9, 2021

NYC's Climate Mobilization Act – Practical Implications and Updates Nearly One Month Away from the First Deadline
Joseph Giminaro '83, Raymond Pomeroy, Alexis Saba
1 credit
May 26. 2021

What Real Estate Lawyers Need to Know About the UCC and Mezzanine Loans
David Wanetik '74
1.5 credits
March 10, 2021

The Legal Impact of the Pandemic on Condo/Coop Sales, Rentals, Construction and Resident Relations
Helene Hartig '84, Margery Weinstein and Jeffrey Lederman
2 credits
February 24, 2021

Residential Landlord Tenant Practice in New York: The Basics and Beyond
Hon. John S. Lansden '91, Vanessa Fang '09, Nicholas Mattia '09
2 credits
November 18, 2020

Sponsor a CLE Program 

Various levels of sponsorship are available. Please contact Claire McKeever at [email protected] if your firm or organization is interested in sponsoring a CLE.

Alumni Spotlight (Archive)

Steven Simicich ‘04, Managing Partner, SL Law Group
Steven Simicich ‘04, Managing Partner, SL Law Group

Which law school courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in real estate law?

My initial interest in real estate law came from the legendary Professor Robert Zinman, who referred to me as “Steve Seller” during a 1L Property class hypothetical. I was intrigued by all his classes, and by the number of people involved in even the most rudimentary residential real estate transactions. That impression stayed with me through my early career as an associate in a boutique zoning and land use firm, where I worked under the mentorship of fellow St. John’s Law alumnus Vincent Petraro ‘80. Years later, I still draw on lessons learned at St. John’s Law as I handle a range of sophisticated real estate transactions. 


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

As a manager of a small law practice, the unpredictability and personal touch with clients exhilarates me each day. I’m presented with new challenges and opportunities to make a tangible impact on people’s lives. Although our firm embraces all the technological manners in which we can connect with prospective clients, nothing matches the ability to invite them into our local office for a face-to-face meeting and hear their needs firsthand. I thrive on the dynamic nature of the legal profession where no two clients are the same. Every interaction brings a fresh perspective. This personalized approach fosters trust, loyalty, and a sense of fulfillment. 


What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?

I would tell them to embrace every opportunity to learn and grow. Although it’s important to be vigilant in your approach to using the tools of social media and virtual meetings, be proactive in seeking out mentors, networking, and gaining practical experience in the real world. Stay curious and open minded, as the legal landscape is constantly evolving. Develop strong communication skills, both written and oral, as they are essential in advocating for your clients and putting yourself in the position to meet those clients in the first place. Remember the importance of integrity and ethics in every aspect of your work. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, and never stop striving for excellence. Stay connected and integrated into your law school alumni network as the relationships you fostered in law school should not end at graduation, but instead take on a new role in your professional life. 


What has surprised you about a career in law?

I’ve been surprised by the evolving nature of a legal career. Although I found myself getting despondent after five years of working as an attorney, after the roller coaster of life in my 30s, I found myself renewed in my 40s with a fresh perspective filled with curiosity and hope about being a lawyer. The journey through law has been a series of unexpected turns, challenging assumptions, and broadening horizons. Embracing change, I rediscovered the joy of learning and the thrill of new beginnings. Each twist in my life brought a renewed purpose to my legal path, igniting a passion for exploration and innovation. Now, armed with the experience of gains and losses in the business world, I’ve been able to integrate that nimble perspective and approach the future with optimism. My career in law has made me eager to embrace the unknown, and that shapes my view on everything. 


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

The real estate industry is poised for technological disruption over the next year. I see this driven by new rulings regarding residential transactions and the increased demand for remote, and semi-remote, work-friendly property needs in the office market. Zoning laws will play a crucial role in facilitating the changes needed for cities to rebound under a new economy—by accommodating mixed-use developments, promoting sustainable urban planning and adaptive reuse of existing infrastructure, and reimagining building stock to foster innovation and resilience.

Anna Lin ‘07 Principal, Roach & Lin, P.C.
Anna Lin ‘07 Principal, Roach & Lin, P.C.

Which law school courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in real estate law?
Suretyships & Mortgages and Real Estate Finance, both taught by Adjunct Professor Peter Roach, sparked my interest in real estate law. I loved that he gave us real life examples and cases to think about and discussed the practical and day-to-day uses of real estate. He was very down to earth and approachable and showed us how the material we were learning relates to our own lives. He also challenged us to think critically, and I appreciated that. 

How did you get started in your career?
I started my career from the bottom up. Starting in seventh grade, I knew I wanted to be an attorney. So, through the years, I worked in law firms and took on any assignment I could. Many aspiring attorneys think that certain jobs or tasks are beneath them. But understanding all aspects of law practice helps you become a better and more encouraging leader and manager. As I’ve progressed from working in the copy room to being the majority shareholder and principal of my own firm, Roach and Lin, my experiences have allowed me to relate to everyone. I seek to be a mentor to my staff and want them to know that I was once in their shoes. 

What part of your job gets you out of bed each day?
I enjoy empowering my staff and giving back to my clients. I always want to elevate my staff to be not only the best in law, but also to achieve their own personal and professional growth. For my clients, I pride our firm on being very responsive and giving them the best performance in our industry.

What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?
I would tell current students that your work ethic is who you are when no one is watching. Ask yourself, “what do I want my reputation in this industry to be in five or 10 years?” This is the best time to build that reputation. Also, remember, while you’re putting in the long hours at work, someone more senior to you has walked that same path. Also, stay humble and be ready to learn as much as you can. 

What has surprised you about a career in law?
Being a lawyer is multifaceted. You can be a lawyer and also be a manager, business person, owner, etc. There are several roles that a lawyer can play in addition to drafting motions and reading agreements. A law firm is a business, and it takes a certain personality, a certain character, and a certain charisma to bring in and retain clients. When I first thought of a career as an attorney, I never thought about all of those things! If you use your people skills and legal knowledge to understand the bigger picture, you can execute your vision for your career. 

Carrie C. Adduci
Carrie C. Adduci Partner Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman, LLP

Which law school courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in real estate law?

I would love to say that practicing in real estate law was always my plan. But that wasn’t the case. I graduated in a down market and fell into real estate law. Since real estate law wasn’t my original plan, I didn’t take any real estate-focused electives at St. John’s Law. I did take one elective, however, that I loved and that has served me well over the years: Professor Ruescher’s Advanced Legal Writing course. It was, by far, the most useful class I took in law school. Professor Ruescher helped me fine-tune my writing skills and crafted me into the writer I am today.

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

I truly enjoy most aspects of my job. It’s important to like the work you do, but it also helps (tremendously) to like the people you work with. I have wonderful coworkers, and I have become friends with many of them outside of the workplace. Our clients, especially our long-term clients, are all a pleasure to work with as well. Substantively speaking, I love drafting. I enjoy taking a concept or a deal and reducing it to written form. The more difficult the concept/deal, the better!

What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?

I would share that the only assumption you should ever make is to assume you know nothing. Question and double check everything you do. After making a diligent effort to find the answer to your questions (of which there will be many), don’t be afraid to ask a trusted mentor for help or advice. The only bad question is the one you don’t ask. Also, if you’re using a document as a base or template to begin drafting your own document, don’t assume that base/template is perfect. Once you convert it into your own document, you’re responsible for everything in it, including any typos or errors that may have existed in that base/template.  

What has surprised you about a career in law?

I never expected to become lifelong friends with the people I work with. I’ve been to weddings, wakes, funerals, birthdays, baptisms, backyard barbeques, and Christmas Eve dinners, just to name a few. It’s a beautiful thing that I never expected to have, but I’m so grateful that I do.

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

The ongoing push for people to return to the workplace is going to intensify. The resulting pushback from employees will cause employers to offer incentives, like improving office space. We’re also going to see an influx towards Class A buildings, and owners of Class B buildings are going to be forced to renovate or sell. Given the current interest rates, many Class B buildings will end up being sold and converted to industrial use, and a lot of those conversions will have a focus on last-mile delivery and distributions. I also think that, given the choice, many people will hold off on acquiring property and taking on new debt until after the 2024 election. The preference for all cash transactions isn’t going away any time soon.

Thomas Rossi Headshot
Thomas J. Rossi ‘85, Partner, Rossi & Crowley, LLP

Which Law School courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in real estate law?

I really enjoyed Real Estate Transactions, which was co-taught by former Professors Parrella and Miller. We learned the nuts and bolts of real estate deals as we reviewed and delved into a standard form contract of sale, a mortgage, a title report, and a survey. But, more than that, the professors provided a practical guide into what it means to be a lawyer representing a client in a real estate transaction, including advice on how to deal with adversaries, with clients, and with fees. It was exciting, and I still recall and use their advice in my practice. 

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

It’s the people I meet and, in a small way, that I can help that keep me going. Whether it’s a developer or a contractor, an architect or engineer, or an individual homeowner, what clients are always seeking is help solving their problems. I’ve transitioned my practice from acting as an advocate to principally acting as a commercial mediator/arbitrator, but I view my role essentially the same way: people have problems (disputes) and are looking for assistance, either a fair way to resolve them amicably through agreement (mediation) or a cost-effective, fair dispute resolution process (binding arbitration). In short, it’s the people and the help I can provide. 

What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?

Two pieces of advice come to mind. The first is that the best lawyers I know concentrate their practice on two or three main areas, but also have a basic knowledge of several other practice areas. So, take advantage of the wide range of courses St. John's Law offers; take CLE classes after graduation; and audit law school classes that are outside your main practice areas. If your firm has a varied practice, don’t hesitate to jump onto a litigation team even if you principally handle transactional work. It will make you a better lawyer overall. The second piece of advice is to remember that your clients have come to you for an independent analysis of the issues and your guidance on how to best proceed. Their problems are not your problems, and clear-eyed, independent, and detached advice is what you owe them as their lawyer. 

What has surprised you about a career in law?

I don’t know if I can say I was surprised, but my career has affirmed for me that the practice of law is a fulfilling and ever-challenging profession that I highly recommend to anyone who has an interest in it. 

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

Anyone my age has seen the ups and downs of the real estate market several times over. There will always be skeptics, but I can assure your readers that the market will go up and down several times during their careers, as will mortgage rates and foreclosure statistics. The market will always recover, and then drop again, and then recover again, etc. I’m reminded of an interview the actor Jimmy Cagney gave many years ago. Quoting his elderly mother, he said: "God made the earth, but He is not making anymore." Don’t be overly concerned about the next year or so. Real estate will always be in demand, and there will always be plenty of work for lawyers in the field. 

Nina P. Williams '06 Headshot
Nina P. Williams '06
Founder and Partner
Wilson Williams LLP Denver, CO

Which law school courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in real estate law?
Like many of us, the late Professor Robert Parella sparked my interest in real estate practice. My father, Vincent Petraro ‘80, also took Professor Parella’s real estate classes at St. John’s Law, and he has practiced land use and zoning in New York City for his entire career. My 2L summer associate position at Farrell Fritz, P.C. also sparked my interest.

What part of your job gets you out of bed each day?
I love helping people solve problems. Yes, still to this day! I’m motivated by service. Plus, it’s fun to be able to find a solution, decipher the puzzle, and get the client to some sort of “yes,” if possible. I remember in our first week of orientation in 2003, then-Dean Andrew Simons presented a visual with four quadrants. He said we were motivated to attend law school for one of four reasons, and that our purpose would likely remain the same throughout our career. The four options were something like: Fame, Money, Family, and Service. Mine was service. I had applied to St. John’s after learning about all the public and elected officials who graduated from the law school. Over 20 years later, “service” is still my answer and motivation.

What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers? 
I would tell them that your experiences during law school will reverberate throughout your career. Take as many externships and internships as you can, work for different types of organizations and people, and in various fields. Try to find something you love, or that you can see yourself doing for many years. Your career lasts longer than you think. It will span the majority of your life. So take the time to find what gets you up in the morning. Plus, as an employer, I can say that I’m far more interested in practical experiences than law school grades.

What has surprised you about a career in law?
I wasn’t expecting my legal career to be so all-consuming. What I mean is that it’s more than just a job. Many of us talk about how we can’t help but think through a solution or answer for a client while we’re driving or in the shower. It’s hard to shut that part of your brain off. But it’s fulfilling when you finally crack the code. I’m still trying to find that healthy life balance!

Do you have any predictions for the real estate industry over the next year?
We should look out for how the use of AI will transform the real estate industry generally over the next year, as well as how we practice law in this field in the future.

Jeremy H. Wang ‘08 Founding Partner, Law Office of Yeung & Wang PLLC
Jeremy H. Wang ‘08
Founding Partner
Law Office of Yeung & Wang PLLC

Which law school courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in real estate law?
I took a class in real estate finance with Professor Peter Roach. He taught the class in a real-life application and used concepts that made it very relatable. The way he broke it down sparked my interest in real estate law.

What part of your job gets you out of bed each day?
I'm driven by making connections with new people, and I find that real estate is very relatable: virtually everyone is involved with real estate to some extent, whether as a homeowner, renter, or investor. I think that my experience makes me very dangerous at a dinner party because real estate is perhaps the area of law that inspires the most fascinating discussions about people’s real-world experiences.

What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?
I would advise them to find out what makes you special. Find your niche that is unique to you and it will provide tremendous upward mobility. I know many people feel that they don’t possess any special traits, but I find people typically sell themselves short. I started my firm with my St. John’s Law classmate after we both realized we could service a community that was underserved. I found that speaking with a peer gave me the courage to pursue a career path I previously hadn’t considered.

What has surprised you about a career in real estate law?
I didn’t expect to meet as many interesting people as I have in the field. It’s opened up a pathway to meet so many people—everyone from colleagues, to clients, to opposing counse,l to the multitude of service providers involved with real estate transactions—and in so doing, it’s expanded my viewpoint on how I view New York and the world.

Do you have any predictions for the real estate industry over the next year?
Everyone is concerned about the interest rates. They will, in my opinion, stay relatively high at least over the next 12 months. People predicted the prices of residential properties would drop in New York, and it hasn’t happened. New York is a worldwide city, and there are always infusions of money from all over the world seeking the relative stability of real assets in New York City. New York is never the wrong way to go when it comes to real estate investment.

St. John's Law alumnus Fred Cerullo
Alfred C. Cerullo, III '83NDC, '86L
President/CEO, Grand Central Partnership
Commissioner, NYC Planning Commission

Which Law School courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in public service? 
I think I was bitten by the public service bug even as a young student running for offices, so I was attracted to the Law School’s judicial internship program. I saw it as a branch of government that I wanted to learn more about. Watching attorneys represent New York City in court really piqued my interest in public service as a career, which led me to my first job as Counsel to the New York City Council Minority Leader. In that role, I got to delve into legislation, policy, and constituent services.

What part of your job gets you out of bed each day?
The part of my job that motivates me every day is knowing that I’m responsible for supporting and growing the world’s central business district. Property owners, businesses, residents, visitors, and elected officials who call our neighborhood home, and who work and vacation here, are relying on me and my team to make it the best it can be.

What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?
I would advise them to stay focused, treat everyone with respect (even when you don’t agree with them), build solid relationships, and remain open to opportunities in areas that you may not have thought about before. You never really know where your career will take you.

What has surprised you most about your career in law?
Well, I have to begin by acknowledging that my career in law is not traditional despite its more traditional beginnings. With that said, what has surprised me most is how practical my legal education turned out to be in my everyday life. There hasn’t been one aspect of any position I’ve ever held, or of any decision I’ve ever made, that didn’t draw upon my legal education and training. From the most complex to the most basic, the way I process, analyze, and comprehend any matter grows from my St. John’s Law background.

Do you have any predictions for the real estate industry over the next year?
This is certainly an interesting time for the industry. Hybrid work has changed it a great deal. It’s clear to me that the commitment to building residential housing is there and is necessary to deal with—both for supply and affordability. On the commercial side, my area in Midtown East has several huge, new development projects moving forward, which is all a positive sign for the future. Over the next year, I think we’ll see some movement at both the State and City level in providing needed zoning and legislative relief and in offering incentives for the creation and rehabilitation of new housing. Hopefully, there will also be some progress made in facilitating conversions of commercial real estate to residential properties, where appropriate.

Christina Smyth headshot
Christina Smyth ‘02
Owner, Smyth Law P.C.

Which Law School courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in Real Estate Law?
I attended St. John’s Law in the evening while working full time in the real estate industry. I took Property and T&E with legendary Professor Patrick Rohan. His sense of humor made class bearable, and because I was already in real estate, I gravitated to most of his courses. Equally impactful was Professor Rosemary Salomone and her Administrative Law class. Lastly, I was part of a group of students who gravitated towards one another from day one. We’re still in touch today. There truly is nothing like your law school friends. Finals come at you quickly and require a ton of discipline. We spent all those long nights and weekends together in the trenches, creating bonds of a lifetime.   

What part of your job gets you out of bed each day?
I'm so fortunate to work with the same property owners again and again. When those clients reach out for help with a new acquisition or with the disposition of an asset they own, I’m encouraged by the signs of life in the New York City market and the new opportunities that can emerge through our work together. So, mainly it’s the optimism that the city is one of the strongest and most robust multifamily markets in the country that motivates me. We get knocked down, but we get back up and make forward progress, always. 

What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?
I’d advise them to get into the four walls of a firm and the courtroom as soon as possible. Even if you do not intend to litigate, there is a reverence and respect you can bring to any courtroom, to experience what goes on amongst practitioners. Be a part of fostering civility, equanimity, and respect for jurists and your fellow attorneys. The sooner you approach your career with those values, the better you will be for it.

What has surprised you about a career in law?
I’m surprised by the room for creativity. Since 80-90% of cases settle, there is freedom in a negotiation to resolve complicated issues. Each party gives and takes a little, and while no one in settlement is thrilled, there are so many benefits to resolving disputes without protracted litigation. When matters can't be settled, trial prep and conducting a trial can certainly involve creativity. Our job as practitioners is to present our case in the most cogent manner possible, and that requires positioning the facts in a streamlined, comprehensible way.  

Do you have any predictions for the real estate industry over the next year?
New York City real estate could be a metaphor for the city itself, and for the attorneys who practice here. We’re a tough, resilient, brilliant bunch. Most of us absolutely thrive in any market. This interest rate environment and the need to fill up our office towers again shows some darkish clouds on the horizon, but multifamily housing always has potential to maintain value, while providing the most needed commodity: good, clean, affordable housing for New Yorkers. That’s the endeavor, and it’s a hopeful one. 

Ben Clack
Benjamin D. Clack ‘08C, ‘10MBA, ‘15L 
Corporate Counsel – Real Estate, Curaleaf

Which Law School courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in Real Estate Law? 
My interest in Real Estate Law sparked before law school and grew while I worked at a New York City real estate development firm. I liked being mentored by my boss, managing large real estate projects, and seeing something tangible being built. Negotiating leases and other contracts is an integral part of real estate practice, and I sharpened my negotiation skills at St. John’s by participating in student competitions through the Dispute Resolution Society. I also believe it’s important to use my law degree to promote equity and inclusion in the real estate industry, given the history of discrimination in the housing market. My activism work started as a student in the Law School’s Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic. I really enjoyed the practical training we received while helping people in our community get relief through the courts. At St John's, I was able to try different areas of law and inevitably stuck with real estate. But I’ll always cherish my time in the clinic. 

What part of your job gets you out of bed each day?
Work colleagues have a huge impact on your quality of life because you spend an enormous amount of time with them. I really like the people I work with and call many of them friends. Generally, I find that people in the cannabis profession are happy, progressive, and easy going. It’s exciting to be part of one of the largest companies in a nascent industry, and to play a large role as that industry matures. The cannabis profession is unique in that we have an obligation to help those that came before us and were persecuted by the racist “War on Drugs.” I love the influence I have within my company and on the larger industry.

What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?
Be patient and don’t be afraid of hard work. You have to pay your dues in any industry, especially in the legal field. But if you work hard and enjoy the journey, you will rise out of the trenches with great experience and a strong work ethic, which is a deadly combination.

What has surprised you about a career in law?
Going through law school and working as a lawyer has made me an extremely effective problem solver. This field teaches you to address problems in a way that isn’t taught to most people and it has allowed me to help clients and friends in ways I didn’t expect. 

Do you have any predictions for the real estate industry over the next year?
The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the commercial and residential markets and we are seeing folks adapt in real time. I think we as lawyers are going to have an opportunity to be creative to help our clients navigate the new landscape.

Alfred Williams Headshot
Alfred Williams ‘14
Partner, Morrison & Foerster

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

As a 1L, I was especially drawn to Contracts, which was taught by Professor Mark Movsesian. That course solidified my preference for transactional work over litigation. Then, I took Property with Professor Jeremy Sheff, who helped me understand the premise behind laws designed to protect real estate (and other property) ownership. The perspective I gained from those courses continues to inform how I think through legal issues. Finally, as an upper-level student, I took Suretyship & Mortgages with Adjunct Professor Peter Roach, who taught us the fundamentals of real estate secured lending from the perspective of both transacting and exercising remedies. It’s a holistic viewpoint that I’ve tried to maintain throughout my career.

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

My alarm and a strong cup of coffee! Beyond that, I’d say a strong sense of responsibility and accountability. I’ve always believed in taking complete ownership of my work. That’s become even more critical now that I’m a partner in the firm and responsible for clients and deal flow that help keep the lights on here. Our clients expect us to be responsive, thoughtful, and do great work. They also expect us to understand the market from all angles and often seek our insight in that regard. And they want to work with people they enjoy interacting with, both personally and professionally. It’s a lot, and the competition is always right around the corner, so you have to be fully invested. For me, at the end of the day I genuinely enjoy helping people solve problems and get deals done, and I take great pride in the trust my clients have in me.

What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?

Work hard and be patient with yourself. It’s important to build a solid foundation for your career. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but challenge yourself to anticipate answers to questions, too. When things get overwhelming, slow down, start with the bigger picture, and work through the basics. At a minimum, you’ll have some analysis to present when you seek guidance. Also, remember to invest in relationships. It’s a small industry and people always remember how you make them feel. Finally, learn the business not only of your clients, but of those they serve, of the people that serve you, and of as much of the industry as you can. It will empower you to be a productive shepherd of progress on any assignment.

What has surprised you about a career in law?

While BigLaw’s culture has changed for the better in recent years, my firm has always emphasized equality, respect, and professional courtesy as core values. I’m always impressed by how well my colleagues treat people. Seeing it over and over again, I have no doubt that lawyers can perform at the highest level without sacrificing kindness, dignity, and collegiality. I think that’s critically important to sustainability in our demanding profession.

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

This is a particularly tough year to make predictions. Getting clarity about interest rates is tricky when the fed is dealing with trailing data and mixed indicators with respect to inflation. But whispers indicate cautious optimism for getting inflation under greater control by the second half of the year, at which point I hope to see a nice uptick in transaction volume given how much liquidity remains on the sidelines.  

When you start getting into asset classes, office is front and center right now given the challenges of work-from-home and other demand-side stressors. In a tale of two cities, new construction is thriving in a flight to quality to attract employees, whereas some older inventory is struggling due to the difficulty of retrofitting that space. We’re starting to see the debt on some of those older buildings trading at a discount, and in some cases borrowers giving back keys. I think that trend will continue.

In the industrial sector, cap rates have compressed and, with stress on consumer discretionary spending, we could see a downtick in pre-leasing and build-to-suit activity, which could hurt industrial transaction volume this year. On the other hand in the multifamily sector, the national housing shortage, combined with high residential mortgage rates and sustained price levels, should make this a busy year for new construction of apartment buildings.

It’s also shaping up to be a busy year for fundraising activity by private equity and debt funds, which is a promising sign for a strong finish to the year and an even stronger 2024.

Maria Castiglie ‘15 Vice President, J.P. Morgan Asset Management
Maria Castiglie ‘15
Vice President, J.P. Morgan Asset Management

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

We didn’t have the Mattone Institute when I was in law school, but I took Real Estate Drafting with Professor Parella, who I had for Property my first year as well. He was a very insightful professor, and his presence and kindness couldn’t be matched. He exposed me to drafting contracts, purchase and sale agreements, and negotiations in real estate transactions. His classes, combined with working on the American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review and taking finance electives, sparked my interest in real estate.

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

The deal flow. It’s exciting to see what new deals our team is working on. From the finance side, I work on bidding for new deals to provide financing for acquisitions or refinancing. I particularly love closing weeks because it’s an all-hands-on-deck approach and all the diligence and drafting culminates into a final deal.

What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?

Work hard. I think St. John’s Law has such a great reputation across practice areas—but especially in real estate—for producing the hardest working lawyers. We come in with something to prove and put the hours in. If you can show that in interviews or internships, you will stand out tremendously. 

What has surprised you about a career in law?

What has surprised me is how small the real estate community is and how smart the partners are. The lawyers in the real estate industry remember so many deals and are willing to train associates based on their experiences. Peoples’ willingness to pay it forward and take so much time out of their lives to mentor newer lawyers has been one of the nicest surprises for me.

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

One of the things that is going to make the real estate industry more volatile is rising interest rates. We’re still experiencing COVID’s slowdown in the office and hospitality asset classes, but other areas such as multi-family and industrial have been very busy. There are good deals out there, but lenders are definitely being more particular. I think some folks are still standing on the sidelines a little, in selling, lending, and investing. Once the ball gets rolling, it will still be a busy year in real estate. We just need people to jump back in and, hopefully, see a slowdown in interest rate hikes.

Robert L. Renda ‘12 Partner, Forchelli Deegan Terrana LLP
Robert L. Renda ‘12
Partner, Forchelli Deegan Terrana LLP

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

The initial spark actually came much earlier than law school as I had always been drawn to real estate due to my father’s involvement in the industry. However, it was my internship at Forchelli Deegan Terrana LLP (my current firm) which was the impetus for me to decide on a career in real estate law. It was also during my internship that I met my mentors, John Terrana and Douglas Atkins, both of whom continue to teach and inspire me to this day.     

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

Interacting with my colleagues and clients is a wonderful part of daily work life. Negotiating is also something I thoroughly enjoy and I’m fortunate that it’s an integral part of my practice. I focus my work in tax certiorari, which is a niche area of the law involving commercial real estate tax challenges. A large part of my practice involves negotiating with municipalities throughout New York State in order to achieve the lowest possible real estate tax burden for my clients. 

What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers?

The most valuable asset for a lawyer is your reputation, which you begin to build your first day on the job. It will follow you throughout your career, and can often set the table for success or failure. Work hard to build a good reputation among your colleagues, peers, and adversaries—and work even harder to maintain it. 

What has surprised you about a career in law?

The congeniality among the attorneys I practice with, particularly among my adversaries, has been a welcome surprise. While we all advocate strongly on our client’s behalf, we do so with respect and courtesy for one another.

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

The last few years saw extraordinary growth in both the residential and industrial real estate markets. I believe we will see contraction in both of those markets moving forward. In the retail segment, I believe there is opportunity for property owners who evolve in an effort to provide a diversified retail and entertainment experience for consumers. 

Michael Romer Headshot
Michael Romer ‘99
Managing Partner, Romer Debbas LLP

Which St. John’s courses, clinics, or experiences sparked your interest in Real Estate Law? 
Something clicked for me during a real estate course class taught by Dean Emeritus Patrick Rohan, who passed away in 2009. The man was a walking real estate textbook and a great teacher. I was also lucky enough to have many great mentors during law school internships and in my early career. One of my mentors, 40-plus-year real estate industry veteran Peter Reiter, works right down the hall. He is a good friend and continues to inspire me.

What part of your job gets you out of bed each day? 
The practice of law is an in-person business. Whether it’s seeing my colleagues in the office or meeting with existing or prospective clients, I’m driven by the connections made with colleagues and clients. I was told early on that the key to success is surrounding yourself with great people.

What advice would you give to current law students as they start their careers? 
The best advice I can share is rather simple: work hard, expect nothing, and remain teachable. It’s important to stay positive, treat others with respect, and make yourself indispensable to any employer and your clients. Success and career advancement will follow.

What is one thing that has surprised you about a career in law? 
The practice of law can be unpredictable because people are unpredictable. Some clients will remain will you indefinitely, while others will not. It’s extremely important to remain grateful and appreciate your clients, both past and present.

Do you have any predictions for the real estate industry over the next year? 
The real estate market is currently facing several challenges, notably inflation, interest rates, and affordability. Opportunities will arise for those with liquidity. However, the real estate affordability crisis in this country will continue. 

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.

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.  

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.

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]