John Racanelli focuses his law practice on commercial real estate acquisitions, development, leasing and financing and on construction. He brings extensive hands-on experience to clients, having served previously as both principal and general counsel of a prominent New York real estate development and construction firm. During his tenure, his company built more than 200 buildings, totaling more than 13 million square feet, and developed more than 1,000 acres of industrial and commercial property.
You previously served as principal and general counsel of a prominent real estate development and construction firm. How does this experience benefit clients?
Because I have experience on both sides of the table, so to speak, clients recognize that I bring a businessman’s – as well as a lawyer’s – perspective to their transactions. Too often, attorneys focus on the finer points of legal draftsmanship and negotiation and lose sight of what’s important to the client. I know firsthand what’s important, and clients appreciate this. I can offer business judgment in addition to legal expertise, which adds value to my relationship with many clients, even those who are well-staffed and sophisticated.
“The role of a real estate and construction lawyer is to facilitate transactions while protecting the client’s interest. The measure of success, therefore, is getting the transaction done, of course with all the protections that the client expects and deserves. It’s all about the client; it’s not about personal recognition.”
When you decided to leave the family business for a law firm, why did you decide on Farrell Fritz?
Farrell Fritz has an outstanding reputation in the business community. Beyond that, I found there was a depth of expertise and talent here in real estate that other firms lacked. Finally, as I talked to partners at various firms I was considering, it became pretty clear that other firms couldn’t match the collegial, value-centered culture of Farrell Fritz.
What are the most significant, successful matters in which you have been involved?
There have been several recently, both in Manhattan and on Long Island. One that comes to mind is the acquisition of an 81-acre commercial property on which our clients developed a major regional shopping center. This is the latest of several transactions we’ve handled for this client. Another is our work on behalf of a health products start-up. Our client purchased four Suffolk County buildings and, with construction modifications, has already invested more than $20,000,000 in these properties. As part of the transaction, we secured an economic development package worth more than $1.83 million. But what really stands out in this situation is the breadth of firm resources we were able to marshal for this client: from assisting it in setting up its corporate structure and planning its eventual transfer to the next generation to assisting the client in the purchase of the properties that were converted into factories, offices and warehouses.
Your community involvement focuses on business organizations and higher education. Why?
Community-based business organizations are critical to the local economy, and I’ve always had an interest in academia, which obviously is important to the future of that economy. Once I got involved, that led to leadership, and I was willing to take on those roles. For an attorney, the skills developed in those organizations, and in leading them, are invaluable. Serving on the boards of these organizations gives one the opportunity to deal with individuals other than lawyers, and develop a more well-rounded perspective. One also develops the art of consensus building, which is also important – which is why Farrell Fritz especially encourages our younger attorneys to get involved: not only to do good for the community but also for their professional and personal development.