Romer Debbas LLP
Romer Debbas, LLP is a mid-sized real estate law firm based in midtown Manhattan. The firm currently consists of twenty-one attorneys and has offices in New York City, Greenwich, Connecticut and Miami, Florida.
Romer Debbas, LLP was founded by good friends and partners Michael J. Romer and Pierre E. Debbas in January 2011. Back then, the two partners had a vision to create a full service real estate firm handling all aspects of real estate in New York City and surrounding areas. In the beginning, the firm focused predominantly on real estate transactions representing international and domestic buyers and sellers of residential and commercial properties as well as institutional lenders and commercial banks financing such deals.
Given the amount of residential purchasers the firm represented, it was only natural that such purchasers became board members who eventually hired the firm as counsel for governance matters. Prior to its recent expansion, the firm represented 20-25 co-op/condo boards on average and handled zero litigation.
Since 2011, the firm has expanded in both size and scope incorporating practices such as offering plans and development, trust and estates, immigration, commercial leasing, commercial lender representation, corporate and immigration.
However, in March 2017, the firm made a decision to expand its presence in the co-op/condo board area by enlisting two new partners: Richard Klein and Emil Samman. By doing so, the firm also added two experienced litigators. Richard and Emil came together to form a formidable team and now co-manage the firm’s co-op/condo board and litigation practice. Overnight, the firm increased the amount of boards it represented to over fifty. Shortly thereafter, Romer Debbas LLP was named panel counsel for a major insurance company in the Directors and Offices (D&O) space.
Prior to joining Romer Debbas, Richard Klein owned and operated his own law practice for over fifteen years. In addition to being an experienced real estate attorney and litigator, Richard focused a substantial portion of his practice on representing cooperative and condominium boards in New York City and surrounding areas such as Westchester and Long Island. As both a litigator and transactional lawyer, Richard has the unique ability to problem solve in advance and resolve most board related disputes. When necessary, he can also handle the disputes that can’t be resolved via the litigation route. In addition to owning a law firm, Richard is an experienced investor in real estate as well as restaurants. Over the years, he has handled many commercial leasing transactions for both his individual and building clients.
Pairing Richard Klein with Emil Samman was an easy decision for the firm. With Richard predominantly focused on board governance and day-to-day matters, adding a seasoned co-op/condo and real estate litigator of Emil’s stature just made sense. Although they each support the other, Richard is the face of the firm’s board practice and Emil the firm’s litigation practice. From day one, the two hit it off and have been working together seamlessly to grow the firm’s co-op/condo practice with the aggressive support of their new partners.
Emil Samman came to the firm after spending over ten years at Kagan Lubic Lepper Finkelstein & Gold, LLP. Over his career, Emil has specialized in resolving and/or litigating disputes related to cooperative and condominium boards, real estate transactions, loan defaults and landlord/tenant issues. He has served as panel counsel to several insurance companies with respect to cooperative and condominium claims. While at Kagan Lubic, Emil was also very active with the firm’s board clients especially when disputes arose or when boards needed to escalate non-payment situations. In addition to co-op/condo disputes, Emil has substantial experience handling litigation matters related to landlord/tenant, breach of contract and construction disputes.
For its first six years, Romer Debbas LLP referred out every single lead or inquiry it received regarding a litigation matter. After the addition of Richard and Emil, the firm suddenly was able to commit to keep these matters in house. In addition, the firm became able to handle insurance company directed work that it long coveted. Being named panel counsel to a major insurance company was a big accomplishment to the partners of the firm; one which they hope to build upon for years to come.
In addition to general governance and litigation matters, the firm has a unique skill set and deep bench when it comes to representing cooperative boards in connection with underlying building mortgage refinances and condominium boards regarding common interest realty association (“CIRA”) loans. The firm’s commercial lending practice is headed by partner Guy Arad who serves as counsel to over ten commercial banks. Guy has handled countless underlying cooperative mortgages for both banks and boards. Together, Guy and Richard have seen basically every type of underlying building mortgage. Serving as counsel to the banks directly also gives them a unique perspective as to what bank is the right fit for each cooperative board’s particular financing needs.
When it comes to CIRA loans, partner Pierre E. Debbas is well versed in these matters and has made countless presentations to banks and boards regarding the technicalities and benefits of this lesser known product. To this day, condominium boards don’t realize that they can actually obtain financing secured by future receivables. This is especially important when a condominium building needs to finance a capital improvement project. Although there are only a select few lenders active in this space, the firm has the right relationships to properly aid and advise its condominium clients.
Another relevant example of the firm’s reach and full service vision is its Trust & Estates practice. This area is managed by partner Christian Zebicoff and counsel Bob Howard. Many of our cooperative and condominium board clients have enlisted their services when it comes to reviewing trust documents for prospective purchasers or transferees. These days, there seems to be more interest in utilizing trusts in real estate transactions than ever before and even cooperative boards are starting to ease restrictions and enact policies allowing for the use of trusts when and where appropriate. However, on each occasion, the trust documentation needs to be reviewed and approved by experienced trust counsel.
At its core, Romer Debbas LLP is a real estate law firm but, with several recent additions of experienced lawyers, the firm has successfully achieved its vision set back in 2011 when two friends, Michael J. Romer and Pierre E. Debbas, had an idea to start a business. The firm has now accomplished its mission of being a full service real estate firm with a growing co-op/condo practice and added litigation component.