Jeffrey Bailey is full of surprises. For a start there is his new role as a real estate partner in the London office of Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker. Many in the industry thought Bailey would be with Linklaters until he gave up practising law (he started there in 1973), but that was not to be. On 30 April he left the magic circle firm and just a week later was settling into a new home in Paul Hastings’ Wood Street premises.
But that is not the only surprise. During the course of the interview he is constantly dispelling any conclusions I might make about him.
An upper-class accent and kids at Harrow and St Mary’s led me to the assumption that he had an upper-class background and an Oxbridge education, but as it turns out he was born and bred in Wales and completed his degree in Cardiff, although you would be hard put to pick up a hint of a Welsh accent now.
He is formal almost to the point of seeming cold, but just when you have decided he is aloof, he surprises you with a self-deprecating anecdote or a quick-witted joke.
What is not surprising is Bailey’s refusal to discuss his departure from Linklaters, but some comments throughout the course of the conversation are telling – the reason for joining Paul Hastings, for example. “The principle reason is because of the predominance and importance of real estate as a core department,” he says. “It gets you down a bit when you’re not perceived to be part of the mainstream business of the firm. Here, real estate is 28 per cent of turnover and it isn’t a poor relation. In some firms it’s just tolerated because a certain capability has to be retained, but not too much.” Bailey will not say whether Linklaters is an example of that or not, although it is not hard to draw some conclusions.
So, what is in store for Bailey at Paul Hastings? “We’d accept today that Paul Hastings is not on the radar of most of the big institutional domestic players, so we want to show them a model and deliver a service that they’re not getting from the traditional firms, and part of the job is to achieve that,” Bailey says. “What I’ve been doing with the other partners in the last three months or so is a pretty heavy recruiting exercise.”
In the near future, the firm will be bringing in expertise in construction, environmental, planning and property litigation, as well as increasing its number of real estate associates. On top of that, it is also looking to beef up on banking and tax.
It sounds like quite a lot of management work and, indeed, a couple of his roles at Linklaters involved that. From 1998 until the end of 2002 Bailey was co-head of the European real estate group, and earlier in his career he set up and headed the property tax unit at the magic circle firm. But to contradict (yet again) my assumption that he must enjoy the management side of the job, he says that management is not really for him.
“I’m not a management type person,” he says. “I didn’t become a lawyer to do management. I like doing deals. I like dealing with clients. I don’t get a buzz out of management. It’s something one has to do, as opposed to likes doing.” He predicts that 80 per cent of his time at Paul Hastings will be devoted to client work.
Bailey and fellow London real estate partners Nigel Heilpern and Mark Egan are now out to prove that they are not taking the usual US approach to real estate in London. “Of the largest and best-known US firms in London, many don’t have large real estate practices in the US,” he says. “Most don’t hold themselves out to provide a full real estate service in the UK, where as we’ll quite happily say we can provide a full real estate service to compete with Nabarro Nathanson or magic circle firms.”
But the team is also out to prove that it is not like UK real estate practices either. “A lot of [UK] deals are being conducted as corporate deals, when in fact they’re real estate deals,” says Bailey. And that is not an attitude that the UK firms are going to change any time soon. “I think it needs to change,” he adds. “But the big players in real estate are either a number of the magic circle firms or first division firms like Nabarros or Berwin Leighton Paisner. These organisations are like ocean-going liners – you can’t just stop them and turn them very quickly.”
The London team already has a fairly healthy client base – but it consists largely of clients that have been converted from its US practice, including such names as Apollo, Lend Lease, Lehman Brothers Opportunity Fund and Brack Capital; and although the firm already has a few good names under its belt, including opportunity fund Patron Capital and UK developer Thomas Goode & Co, the team now has to focus on further developing its UK client base.
Then there is Europe. Paul Hastings is looking to develop further its practice in key jurisdictions on the Continent, and Bailey, with his former Linklaters European experience, will no doubt have a hand in helping out.
Mind you, Bailey is not all work and no play. On the day we meet he has just returned from a visit to the chiropractor in an attempt to cure a volleyball injury. On further prompting, he tells me he got a little carried away playing beach volleyball with his 14-year-old son during the family’s four-week tour of the US by rail – next time they are planning a rail holiday around Eastern Europe.
But do not think Bailey has gone to Paul Hastings for a few easy years before retirement. “I’ve got no ambitions to retire. You do pick up lots of tricks over the years and I always find it perplexing that the Anglo-Saxon approach is not to value age and experience. It’s bizarre really. I fully expect to go on full time until I’m 65 – and then do something part time.”
He is certainly not bored with the job. “People have this impression that real estate never changes, that it’s always the same stuff and it’s only the corporate law that changes and is sexy, he says. “But it’s total rubbish, because apart from changes in real estate law and practice changes, there are more corporate deals involving real estate. It’s not the same job day-in, day-out every year.”
In fact, if there is one thing that is not surprising about Bailey, it is that he is a real estate man through and through – a trait inherited from his father, who was in the property industry – and that is something that is never going to change.