The Zegans Law Group, PLLC Grows by Service and Relationships
Combine the knowledge and experience of a big law firm with a youthful zeal, dedication to client service, and common-sense billing: that’s the philosophy of The Zegans Law Group, an eight-year-old firm that’s growing quickly.
Founding partner Jason Zegans says he has formed a different type of law practice, one that’s thorough, provides top-notch customer service, offers quick turnaround times, and is staffed by young attorneys with a fresh outlook at serving their clients.
“I hire people who are smart, have a high degree of interpersonal skills, and have the ability to think outside of the box and come up with pragmatic solutions to legal issues,” Zegans said. “It’s not just about understanding a contractual clause; almost any practicing attorney can do that. What separates our attorneys and support staff from the rest of the pack is taking that fundamental understanding, having an in-depth discussion with our clients to explain same and understand their needs and concerns, and then communicating such concerns and needs with opposing counsel to find mutually acceptable contractual clauses to achieve the parties’ objectives. The legal business by nature tends to be an adversarial one, but I train my attorneys and staff to focus on finding ways to do what we were hired to do: complete a transaction while protecting our client’s interests and leaving our egos at the door. That’s what I like to call a younger, fresher approach.”
The firm has a growing corporate and litigation practice, but the primary focus is on the transactional side, specializing in commercial and residential real estate with a heavy concentration in office, retail, and restaurant leasing.
“We are working on a lot of really interesting projects right now with deals ranging from multi-floor offices leases for tech firms and family offices, to the rollout of retail stores nationwide for a fashion/apparel tenant, to a new restaurant venture for a Michelin Starred Chef. Just a lot of exciting stuff both now and in the pipeline!” Zegans enthused.
At The Zegans Law Group, the difference lies in its approach, based on Jason Zegans’ own background.
“Prior to starting my own firm, I worked for Cassin & Cassin, LLP (formerly Cassin Cassin & Joseph LLP), a midsized real estate law firm, where I had the opportunity to work under two of the managing partners; one who headed the firm’s commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) practice, and the other who headed the firm’s transaction practice. In that ‘jack-of-all-trades’ role, I was able to gain a wide breath of knowledge and invaluable experience, which was instrumental in my endeavor to start my own practice,” Zegans recalled. “Take that knowledge and experience, combine it with my insane work ethic, drive, and connections, how could I not succeed?”
The timing was right! With new CMBS issuances plummeting from $229 billion in 2007, to $12 billion in 2008 and just $3 billion in 2009 according to the Commercial Real Estate Finance Council, new real estate development and real estate lending halted, and the economy was in a chaotic state.
“Companies and individuals alike no longer had the appetite and desire to pay traditional big firm hourly rates. For me, it was an opportune time to show such clients the services and professionalism that could be provided by smaller boutique firms like my own,” Zegans said.
The Zegans Law Group launched in 2009 as a one-man shop, working with existing clients from home and a small satellite office. As the industry recovered, business increased, and it was time to expand. While Zegans remains the only partner, he has built a dedicated staff comprised of associate attorneys, Of Counsel attorneys, and highly trained and skilled paralegals and administrative support staff.
That breadth of experience is unusual, he said, for a firm of this size.
“Most residential real estate attorneys just do residential. A lot of attorneys will run away from residential real estate deals with any ‘hair’ on them, however. That is where we thrive. We have a big commercial practice which enables us to understand such more complicated matters such as land leasing,” he added. “Having a strong commercial practice definitely gives us a leg up on the residential side.”
Furthermore, because the firm’s practice is so well rounded, the residential sector is often a segue into commercial real estate and corporate representation.
“Once clients get to see first-hand how we operate and handle transactions, our attention to detail and turnaround time at moderate NYC pricing, it’s a done deal,” Zegans said.
“At larger firm, a lease will be given to an associate, who’ll mark it up and give it back to the senior associate and/or partner to then review before speaking to the client. Not only does this potentially add on additional legal billable hours, it surely leads to a longer review and turnaround period. We don’t do that,” he observed. “People call and email me at all hours of the night. Our response and turnaround time is great, and this is part of the philosophy at The Zegans Law Group–excellence in customer service”
Zegans’ own education continues—he’s pursuing a master’s degree in Real Estate Development from NYU’s Schack Institute of Real Estate.
“I’m doing it to continue learning. The only way you get better than everyone else is to continue to learn,” he said. “I learn through practice, through experience. But as you continue to grow the practice and bring on more complicated transactions and higher-end clients, you need more knowledge. ABL—always be learning—is my philosophy.”
Expansion is in the plan, focusing on the same sectors.
“Growth will continue in a sensible and smart fashion. I don’t want to go out and hire 20 people and subject them to market planning. My key is to make sure that we provide the same level of service and quality of work, as we continue to grow,” Zegans noted.
But the corporate culture won’t change, he insisted.
“I have to make money, I want to make money, and I love making money,” he observed. “But it’s not always my number one consideration. That’s what differentiates us. And people see that, sense that, and appreciate that, and that’s why they refer me to others. It’s almost like the hospitality industry. I’m more about building relationships, servicing our clients so they want to come back for future representation, so they want to go out of their way to speak highly about the firm and refer us to friends and family. People love to say, ‘I have the best guy.’ And our goal is to be that ‘real estate guy.’”