Michael Haas of Latham & Watkins: “Care about your clients”

Care about your clients — as people. Ask them questions about themselves, and take an interest in their lives. By establishing a strong personal connection with clients, you can help ensure a long-lasting, trust-based relationship. As a part of my series about the ‘Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Real Estate Industry’, I […]

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Care about your clients — as people. Ask them questions about themselves, and take an interest in their lives. By establishing a strong personal connection with clients, you can help ensure a long-lasting, trust-based relationship.


As a part of my series about the ‘Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Real Estate Industry’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Haas

Michael Haas, Global Co-Chair of Latham & Watkins’ Real Estate Practice, helps clients successfully navigate their most complex deals in the United States and internationally. He brings experience across a range of asset classes, including multifamily housing, industrial and logistics facilities, retail spaces, data centers, and office buildings.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?

I was first exposed to the industry while interning for a real estate developer before law school. The experience made quite an impression on me. Not only did I enjoy the business side of real estate, but I had the opportunity to work with incredibly interesting, smart, ambitious professionals who challenged and inspired me. So when I went on to pursue a career in law, I knew from the outset who my ideal client base was.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

Early in my career, I oversaw a commercial eviction at a used car dealership where I represented the owner of the land. The tenant used every means possible to delay the eviction — but finally, after an involved and drawn-out process, we were able to move ahead. On the day of the eviction, I arrived at the location with a grin on my face. I remember thinking, “This should be easy, right? The hard part is over.” Boy was I ever wrong. The tenant had failed to remove any of its property — including 100 cars, and numerous guard dogs. Since this was my first legal matter involving a commercial eviction, I had no idea that arrangements needed to be made for a company to tow the cars and remove the dogs. In the end, it took three days for us to remove all the cars. We also needed to bring in animal control, which needed to send two cars to corral all of the dogs on the property.

The lesson I took from this experience and have applied going forward is: always be prepared for anything. In my line of work, you need to do your homework, expect the unexpected, and react quickly.

Do you have a favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share a story or example of how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

People are often afraid to ask for help out of fear that others may judge them. But in my experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m fortunate to have had a number of mentors in my life, and they have never hesitated to provide support. In fact, I’ve found that most people are flattered to be asked for advice, and truly appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m working on a number of unique and important projects around the world that are helping address increased demand in the housing and industrial logistics spaces. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that your work is making a difference — both in the global market, and in people’s everyday lives.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

In my experience, what really makes Latham stand out is the people. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by colleagues who are open-minded, forward-looking, and collaborative. These qualities are also hallmarks of the firm’s culture. The firm organizes a myriad of initiatives to promote personal and professional growth, as well as to advance diversity in the legal profession. These efforts create a strong sense of connection and trust among employees, while also providing everyone the opportunity to learn from one another.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would say that person is James Ratner, who is truly a legend in the real estate business. His counsel over the years has significantly impacted my life and my career. James also played a major role in my decision to join Latham.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry? If you can please share a story or example.

It’s hard to narrow down the list to three. Real estate is a dynamic industry that impacts all facets of our lives and society. But if I had to pick the top things that I find most exciting, they’d be: the people, the complexity of the transactions, and the satisfaction of seeing projects come to life.

Take, for example, my recent experience representing the buyer of the Squaire in Frankfurt — Germany’s largest office building. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the client and the Latham deal team to address a number of unique and interesting challenges. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, I had the opportunity to visit this exceptional property. It was immensely gratifying to see the impact of my work firsthand.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest? Please share stories or examples if possible.

1) The need to advance gender and racial diversity

2) The negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on certain segments, particularly retail and hospitality

3) Debt that has matured, but now has been extended

I’d particularly like to see the industry do a better job of cultivating a diverse workforce. I believe this effort would need to start at the educational level, through the creation of more tailored trainings that specifically target a more diverse group of people. The real estate space offers something for everyone — whether you want to be a broker, an architect, or an analyst. Education and recruitment are key to increasing awareness about the opportunities that abound in this exciting space.

What advice would you give to other real estate leaders to help their teams to thrive and to create a really fantastic work culture?

Listen to your team. It is critically important to meet with your team regularly to ensure you are setting clear objectives. People also feel more motivated and invested in their work if they feel like they’re being heard.

Another key to creating a fantastic work culture is to provide group training opportunities.

These programs can foster a greater sense of trust, camaraderie, and teamwork among colleagues.

Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

  1. Get a mentor. As I mentioned before, I have relied on the support of mentors throughout every step of my career path.
  2. Get involved in industry organizations. Early in my career, I joined the International Shopping Center Counsel and NAIOP.
  3. Become a substantive expert in your particular area of real estate. I think that specializing in one or two areas is more advantageous than being a jack of all trades because you can identify a targeted roster of clients and develop a deep knowledge of your areas of focus.
  4. Always return a phone call or email — promptly. The real estate industry is all about building and maintaining relationships. If you aren’t responsive, your clients will look elsewhere for their legal needs.
  5. Care about your clients — as people. Ask them questions about themselves, and take an interest in their lives. By establishing a strong personal connection with clients, you can help ensure a long-lasting, trust-based relationship.

Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe education is the key to economic mobility. Equal access to education would help people from all corners of society develop the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy, regardless of socioeconomic status.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

https://www.lw.com/people/michael-haas
https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-haas-4b101b14a

Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.

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