2 min read December 2021 — Troutman Pepper is a national law firm with more than 1,200 attorneys in 23 U.S. cities. In an interview with Invest:, Office Managing Partner, Walter Fisher discussed merging during the pandemic, labor shortages, challenges and opportunities as the area grows, and the priorities and outlook for the company and the legal sector over the next few years.
Troutman Pepper was formed in July 2020 as a result of two well-known firms coming together. What are some lessons learned from that undertaking?
The circumstances under which we merged are unprecedented. We came together at the beginning of the pandemic while both firms were operating primarily remotely. I’m amazed at how well the merger has gone and how much collaboration we’ve already had and are continuing to have. We’ve integrated our practices very well across all areas. In my area, which is real estate, our practice has benefited from strong leaders at both firms. The lesson: effective communication and using technology to your advantage is critical, which is true even outside a pandemic.
How has the labor shortage impacted your line of business?
There is a huge rush to find talent, which is true across the real estate legal practice, but also across the board. We’re looking for talent at the associate level with three to five years of experience in all practice areas. At the same time, other firms are also looking for these candidates. It’s a significant challenge, especially since we want to include people who fit into our culture and who will work well with our clients.
We’ve done some strategic recruiting in specific areas and we’re simultaneously diving into new trends with remote work. We’ve realized that where people physically sit is less important than making sure they have the right skill set and that they are a good fit for both our culture and our clients’ culture. This is a new opportunity and a challenge, as we need to make sure new colleagues feel included and that we are doing everything to provide the ideal office environment to integrate them effectively into the firm.
What are some common mistakes that can be easily avoided on the legal side of commercial real estate?
Many projects we work on are quite complex and have multiple components, types of uses, and other details that must be considered from a legal perspective. We believe it’s very useful to take a step back to see the bigger picture, asking important questions. What are the components? How will they relate to one another? What common amenities will they have? Who is going to manage those common amenities, a master association or will one of the owners fill that role? How will decisions be made? How will relationships be structured over the long term?
As these projects can span many decades, we need to think strategically and carefully on the front end about every single detail and then address different scenarios and fact situations in the legal documentation that will govern the project. A great deal of consternation and confusion can be avoided if the legal team is organized from the beginning and focuses on driving deals forward. It’s not so much a legal skill as it is an organizational skill, but it’s important in a professional atmosphere, especially when dealing with large, complicated real estate projects.
What are some opportunities and challenges from the influx of new residents and businesses in the area?
The rapid growth of the Charlotte metropolitan region is taxing our infrastructure in significant ways. While I want to see commercial real estate continue to boom, there is real tension between existing utility systems, governmental amenities, transportation systems, and the systems needed to effectively absorb, accommodate and serve new residents and businesses. Another key challenge relates to the quality of new development and redevelopment. I believe investing in infrastructure and projects that stand the test of time should be a priority for the region.
The new development rules and regime currently being rolled out in Charlotte includes a blueprint with more detailed regulations and associated zoning and land use requirements. There are some novel concepts that will allow more multifamily projects in residential areas and, ideally, more affordable housing in what have traditionally been single-family neighborhoods to provide more density in areas that already have sufficient infrastructure. Charlotte desires to promote smart growth, and that clearly should include workforce housing and affordable housing in close proximity to jobs and employment opportunities. How this actually plays out under the new regulatory structure in the future will be interesting to observe.
What is your outlook for your firm and the legal sector in Charlotte for the next few years?
My outlook is extraordinarily positive. Charlotte will continue to be a destination for businesses and individuals seeking to relocate and will have a prominent role in the financial services industry, including fintech and other nontraditional services. We’re becoming a more robust market for that industry, and we’re taking a leadership role. The Charlotte region is more diversified than in the past, making our position more advantageous and resilient than ever.
My economic expectations for the near term are between very positive and relatively positive. I am concerned about inflation and overheating the economy with government spending. However, I expect the region to continue to grow and prosper and be a desirable location for those seeking opportunity and advancement. Our law firm has its priorities set and, in our case, a key factor is diversity and inclusion. We’re also continuing to work on post-merger integration to make sure we gain momentum as we develop stronger ties internally and with our expanded base of clients. And we’re looking to recruit more talent. Lastly, we are interested in continuing to grow both in our existing markets and in other areas where we might not be present now and where there is a need to better serve our clients.
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