July 12, 2013

Four on Friday: Jeremy Cohen of Hartman Simons

In today’s Four on Friday, we chat with
Hartman Simons partner Jeremy Cohen. A lawyer for nearly 20 years, Cohen has a
wide-ranging commercial real estate practice. Below, we chat with Cohen about
his practice, how he decided to become a lawyer, his love of Boston sports
teams and his idea of the perfect day.

Jeremy CohenGive us an overview of your commercial
real estate practice: what sectors and what types of transactions do you focus

My practice has
evolved over the years. When I first started practicing law, way back on Aug.
1, 1994, 90 percent of my practice involved representing a large,
orange-colored retailer in its rapid expansion, and the remaining 10 percent of
my practice was spread out among a variety of different types of commercial
real estate as well as some general business and corporate practice.

Slowly, over the
years, my practice shifted, and I began working primarily with developers and
their development of shopping centers and mixed-use projects from the ground
up, although I continued to represent my favorite retailer and my other
corporate clients.

Once the bank
crises occurred, ground-up development basically came to a screeching halt and,
in order to survive, my practice had to continue to evolve. I spent more time
on loan workouts for clients with their banks and was lucky enough to pick up
some office and industrial leasing and development. That work, coupled with my
representation of smaller companies, bridged the gap until real estate
development returned.

Following the
banking crisis, the commercial real estate industry itself evolved. As a
result, we still are not seeing the amount of ground-up projects that we saw in
the 1990s and early 2000s. Instead, what several of our clients have had
success with is purchasing existing shopping centers that may have been
struggling at discounted rates and, with an influx of capital, re-tenanting and
improving the same. That seems to be the new normal nowadays and that’s where I
have been spending a lot of my time the past couple of years.  So, as a result of the different evolutions,
my practice now covers the gamut of commercial real estate with some general
business and corporate law sprinkled in.

How did you decide to become a lawyer? Did
you consider other professions before going to law school?

When I was a
senior in college at Emory, I worked part time as a waiter/bartender at East
Village Grille. It was the heyday of Buckhead, and I was having a great
time doing so and really hadn’t given too much thought as to what I was going
to do after graduating from college. I have always been the kind of person who
lives in the moment, and I have not spent a lot of my time and energy worrying
about the future, for better or worse. 

I had given some
thought to becoming a teacher, as I knew I liked working with children, and
even applied to some of the private schools around Atlanta to try and get my
foot in the door, but without a teaching degree or any actual experience in
teaching, I did not have much luck securing a teaching position. So, as my
first semester in my senior year was winding down, my mother began to push me
hard to apply to law school since she was worried about my future, even if I
was not. 

She had good
reason to do so as I come from a family of lawyers – well, sort of. My father,
one of my older sisters and my older brother all have law degrees, although
only my sister and I still practice law. So, in order to appease my mother, I
applied to just one law school: Emory University School of Law. For some
reason, Emory accepted me and here I am 23 years later. 

I still have
dreams of teaching high school and helping coach high-school sports, as I have
spent a lot of time coaching kids since I was in law school, both before my
wife and I had children, and then later, coaching my sons’ sports teams. But
for now, teaching will remain a dream.

We understand you're quite a Boston sports
fan. If you had to pick one Boston team that you're most obsessed with, which
one would it be?

Choosing between
my favorite Boston sports teams is like trying to pick your favorite song or
your favorite movie: it just can’t be done, at least not by me. So, I would say
that I am most obsessed with the Celtics, the Red Sox, the Patriots and the

What's your idea of the
perfect day?

There are two
totally different answers I can provide to this question depending on who is
asking the same. For purposes of this piece, my perfect day happens on
Saturdays when I wake up, have breakfast with my family, go on a family walk
with our two dogs, followed by time at our neighborhood pool, then relaxing in
the late afternoon on our screened porch while watching golf and smoking a
tasty cigar, followed by dinner (pizza delivery or Chinese) while watching a
classic movie that my kids had not yet seen (e.g., the initial “Star Wars” and “Back
to the Future” trilogies being the most recent ones). Those are great

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