Attorney at Law Magazine Los Angeles Publisher Sarah Torres sat down with Daniel Wiesel of Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin LLP to discuss his career and his plans for the future.
AALM: What first drew you to practice real estate and finance transactions?
Wiesel: I’ve always liked the deal-making aspects of law more than the adversarial nature of litigation. In law school, I was drawn to the transactional classes, including real estate and corporate finance, as opposed to civil procedure, evidence and torts. Over the course of my career, I’ve come to specialize in complex secured financial transactions, which is a fancy way of describing complicated real estate loans, as well as the purchase and sale and leasing of real estate assets.
AALM: What do you like about being a transactional attorney?
Wiesel: My favorite part of any transaction is the final congratulatory email when the agreement is signed, the loan is funded or the deed is recorded. That simple email speaks volumes about the transactional process. Both parties walk away from a deal having gained something, so no matter how contentious the negotiations, everyone is happy. Transactional law is not a zero sum game. Attorneys don’t simply help their client get a bigger piece of the pie, they figure out how to make the pie bigger. (That also makes it easier for the client when the bill shows up!)
AALM: How do you approach work and family life balance in a deadline-intensive climate?
Wiesel: Some clients are early risers and others night owls, so I get emails and phone calls at all hours of the day and night. I’ve found that clients appreciate a thoughtful, deliberate response more than an immediate one, so I try to maintain some separation between work and family time. That’s not to say I’ve haven’t had to take conference calls from home or revise documents at my dining room table, though. Further, I make it a priority to meet deadlines, so my clients know that if I told them to expect something by a certain time, I will get it done.
AALM: What do you like about working at Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin LLP?
Wiesel: In other firms, especially larger firms, junior attorneys work on discrete portions of a larger transaction without getting a “big picture” view of the deal as a whole. I appreciate that at my current firm, attorneys of different levels of experience have the opportunity to work together on a variety of transactions from beginning to end. The team dynamic is inclusive, collaborative and big-picture oriented.
Additionally, what I think is really unique is that we have a variety of niche practice groups generally not seen outside of large firms. This allows us to serve as “general counsel” to clients instead of simply “real estate counsel.” Whether it’s an employment matter, litigation or trusts and estates, we have someone who can handle it and our clients trust us to handle it all.
AALM: What skills do you think make for a great transactional attorney?
Wiesel: In November 2010, I learned the value of meticulous organization and attention to detail. I joined a practice that focused on highly specialized finance transactions for nonprofit organizations. In response to the Great Recession, the federal government passed a stimulus bill that expanded the scope of these transactions. The bill expired Dec. 31, 2010, and in just over six weeks, we closed over 20 transactions totaling more than $200 million.
I have found that attention to detail is what makes a good attorney. Great attorneys are able to apply that same attention to detail regardless of transaction size. After all, $1 million to one client may seem like $100 million to another.