Saunders, Real Estate, Hamptons

Real Estate Center

May 27, 2009 12:47 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Making lemonade out of real estate lemons

May 27, 2009 12:47 PM

Approximately six years ago, attorney Adam Miller came to the East End from Manhattan to practice real estate law.

But what the real estate lawyer from white-shoe firm Proskauer Rose could not have predicted in 2003 was that the real estate bubble would burst so soon after he arrived here. After a few years serving as legal counsel at Farrell Fritz in Bridgehampton—the firm that lured him away from the Manhattan rat race—Mr. Miller decided to launch his own firm, The Adam Miller Group, in 2007. Soon thereafter, the national real estate crisis hit home here in the Hamptons.

Never one to walk away from a challenge, the Bridgehampton-based attorney decided to tailor his personalized brand of service to the times instead of just waiting out the bottom of the market, or worse yet, returning to the grind at a big city firm.

So with the help of a “kindred spirit,” retired tax attorney Norman Altman, Mr. Miller decided to add the title of consultant to his shingle. Mr. Miller and Mr. Altman co-founded TaxWise Planning, which is affiliated with the Adam Miller Group, but operates as a separate entity. The business offers estate-planning services and charitable tax planning to individuals and planned giving services to the not-for-profit community.

Over an exquisite lunch at Bobby Van’s in Bridgehampton, Mr. Miller explained his personal philosophy on law, real estate, customer service and why nice guys do finish first here in the Hamptons.

Q: How did you wind up here?

A: I was spending my summer weekends in Montauk and as each Sunday night approached, I sort of got this depressing feeling that came over me of heading back to the rat race. My office in the sky was away from all the natural beauty that’s out here. I ended up doing a deal with a company that had a presence out here and one of the partners [at Farrell Fritz] asked me if I would be interested in moving to the East End. It was like all the stars aligned.

Q: And then when did you decide to open your own firm?

A: I think probably in high school (laughs). I just always felt that I enjoyed being a leader, whether it was in sports or other things. I always liked blazing my own path and that was the fun part for me. Doing what we did as a team in high school and college, having people who I treated with kindness and respect and ... then delegating and creating something together has always been something that I’ve enjoyed. As for The Adam Miller Group, I feel strongly about us being a group. It’s not about me just being a lawyer and working with other people in the office; it’s about creating something good and positive together as a team.

Q: How are you differentiating yourself from other law firms that specialize in real estate?

A: By being a fighter and competitive and providing good service and creativity. I wasn’t going to allow this downturn in the market to be a dead-end. I would use it to create opportunity as a springboard to other areas. I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by some really good people with whom I’ve become friends and work associates. Out here, I find that’s a distinction that you don’t often have to make. You work with someone and your personal life and your private life sort of 
morphs because even though the opportunities here are less, there’s a closer relationship and a trust. Another thing that may distinguish me is my training from a large firm in New York, [and] that I was able to translate to the service product of what I’m doing. I think the word that comes to mind is accessibility. When a client is paying you, there’s an expectation that you are available to them. 
Real estate may seem very bricks and mortar, but it’s a very emotional process.

Q: Can you explain how you deal with the more personal part of the process?

A: It’s one of the biggest transactions they will make in their life, so what they really want is access. What I always tell brokers and clients when I start a relationship with them is that I give them my cell phone number and I’m always available. And I do think that’s what distinguishes me. When I was working in the city, I was doing that for someone else anyway, so why not give that to my clients.

Q: How do you manage that level of service?

A: I have two great people who work with me and who make the office run and get the phones answered. Unlike a lot of single practitioners, I’d rather dip into my own pocket to make sure that everything is covered and my clients are taken care of. I also don’t leave the office for the day before I return every single phone call. Lawyers have notorious reputations for not getting back, but for me, that’s just not acceptable.

Q: And what about your relationships with your clients? How does that service translate during a deal?

A: There has to be an immediate level of trust that’s created, even if it means not doing a deal for the right reasons. We take an oath to represent their interests. Plus, we know the right rocks to turn over since we are local. One thing I try to do is develop relationships with the people in the specific towns and villages to get the right answers for clients. Having those numbers available and knowing how to reach them and get answers from them is invaluable.

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Adam is a terrific attorney, and I'm sure his Tax-Wise Planning will be as successful as his real estate practice.
By michael daly (12), Sag Harbor on May 28, 09 8:36 PM