With many years of experience, Laura Hall is not only a legal representative for her clients, but is also a business adviser on many transactions, from the letter of intent stage through and including a lease termination. She speaks more about her practice and role as a lawyer.
What is your typical working day?
Our leasing practice is primarily geared toward representation on the landlord side, including developers, insurance companies, pension funds, REITs, private investment companies, real estate development firms, as well as corporate clients engaging in every type of office, retail, and industrial lease transaction. We also represent sublandlords and subtenants, and assignors and assignees. While our practice has historically been on the owner side, we have significantly expanded our leasing practice to provide legal services to corporate and entrepreneurial tenants, particularly end-user corporate tenants.
On the end-user side, we represent an international multi-media corporation with interests in a variety of industries, an international hospitality corporation, one of North America’s largest bedding manufacturers, and a multi-community hospital system in the State of Georgia. My specific practice is primarily on the owner side, and my time is spent preparing and negotiating all types and sizes of leases, from ground leases to smaller suites to headquarter type full-building leases. My time is also spent on advising clients in numerous asset management issues from tenant disputes, property management issues to telecom licensing agreements. We pride ourselves on being a full-service firm offering business advice where warranted and being a good business partner to our clients.
What did you take from your experience at King & Spalding LLP that has informed your work today?
I learned a great deal at King & Spalding, primarily from my partner, Raymond Sheley, who hired me and then helped mold me into the attorney that I am today. Having come from an in-house corporate position to a position with an international law firm, it was quite an adjustment, but I learned a lot about client service and how to be efficient with my time and resources in order to better serve the client. There are certainly a lot of brilliant attorneys in the world, but it takes more than brain-power to be able to perform the legal work well while making the right kind of long-lasting connection with your client. I’ve learned from being an in-house attorney to working with very large and very small firms that clients want great legal work but they also want the human, personable side of their attorney. Clients want someone who can take a complicated and often times controversial legal problem and help solve it in a manner acceptable to both sides without resorting to the “scorched earth” approach. When my job is over, my client has to live with the tenant while I go on to the next matter, so making sure that the relationship starts off on the right foot is critical to my job as key business adviser to our clients. When the other parties to a transaction compliment my client and me on how well and professional the transaction was handled, it means I’ve done my job.
Tell us about the transactional side of your practice?
While my practice has evolved almost exclusively into a leasing practice, our firm is a full service commercial real estate firm offering expertise in the development, acquisition, sale, and financing of office, industrial, hotel, multifamily and mixed-used projects. We are often hired to be the “quarterback” firm on very large, complicated transactions navigating complex real estate issues and managing multiple law firms with disciplines in areas such as bond financing, environmental and tax matters. We are oftentimes asked to assist in putting together large “public-private” partnerships or developments whereby we bring together multiple stakeholders including local government, development authorities, equity participants and debt sources; these may include so called “PILOT” payment transactions.
What is the biggest challenge you face when advising/ representing developers with assets consisting of over 20 million square feet?
It is a great time to be a developer or seller of quality real estate. With that said, while real estate is “scalable”, every asset is different and assembling large portfolios of assets require great discipline and organisations and an attention to details across the board from acquisition associates, their counsel and asset managers. With every acquisition and lease we handle, we always have a view towards what the exit strategy is.
What would be your top advice to clients in regard to commercial property and leasing?
Our best advice to any client would be to be disciplined and principled but flexible and fair in your approach to everything. Given that leases drive the value of the asset, it is important to pick your battles as they say but be smart and reasonable in your negotiations. Not every point has to be won, so focus on the most important ones and allow your counsel to work on the less important and more legal issues. And develop strong lasting relationships with all of your constituents and advisors including your legal counsel. You should have high expectations from them but lean on them to help you navigate complex deals and complex times.
What do you anticipate in 2018 for yourself and Sheley, Hall & Williams?
If only I had a crystal ball! Our first priority is to continue to grow with our existing clients and hopefully add more clients during the course of 2018. We are always looking for new opportunities with existing and, of course, new clients that fit well within our areas of expertise.
Is there anything that you would like to add?
I love what I do. If I don’t laugh at least once a day at work, then it’s not been a good day. I thoroughly enjoy the people I work with and am very proud of what we have accomplished. We have very smart, talented attorneys and paralegals working for us, and it is our ultimate goal to continue to grow our practice, not only in size but also in client base. Whether that’s three more attorneys or 15 more attorneys, who knows. But from where we started to where we are today is really fantastic.
Laura C. Hall
Sheley, Hall &Williams, P.C.
Laura Hall is Partner and one of the Co-Founders of Sheley, Hall & Williams, P.C., a boutique commercial real estate firm in Atlanta, Georgia. She leads the commercial leasing team.
Laura Hall’s practice is primarily focused on commercial leasing of office, retail and industrial properties and related asset management matters and the development, financing, acquisition and disposition of office, retail and industrial properties. She represents many national and international developers and institutional portfolio owners with assets consisting of over 20 million square feet in locations throughout the United States. She also represents national end-user tenant clients in the leasing of large industrial warehouse and industrial buildings.
Sheley, Hall & Williams, P.C., firm specialises in all things commercial real estate from leasing, development, acquisitions, dispositions, joint ventures, to real estate finance. The firm was formed in 2003 by Partner, Raymond Sheley, and Laura, and represents institutional portfolio owners, private equity real estate funds, development companies, corporate owners and real estate investors, including opportunistic buyers, throughout the United States.