Shareholder Ben Alexander is a Board Certified Real Estate attorney in Jones Foster's Real Estate practice group, focusing his practice on sophisticated commercial and residential real estate transactions. Ben is consistently selected by his peers for inclusion in Best Lawyers in America and Palm Beach Illustrated's "Top Lawyers", and he holds an AV Preeminent® Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer rating based upon legal ability and ethical standards.
We sat down with Ben to get a little more information about his background and his practice here at Jones Foster.
How do you describe your practice to non-attorneys?
I am a Florida Bar Board Certified real estate attorney, which qualifies me as an expert in both commercial and residential real estate law. On the residential side, I work closely with buyers and sellers of high-end real estate and luxury properties in Palm Beach and the surrounding areas. On the commercial side, I represent local, regional, and national developers, equity investors, entrepreneurs, and lenders in matters, including acquisitions, leasing, sales, company formations, joint venture agreements, and secured financing transactions.
Real estate lawyers sometimes figuratively refer to what we do as “playing in the dirt”. We like anything land-related, and the bigger piles of dirt, the better!
How has your practice evolved, and what do you consider to be some of the most interesting areas of your practice?
Many real estate lawyers deal primarily with the residential side of the business, especially in Florida where there is so much activity and opportunity in that space. My practice, however, is also involved significantly on the commercial side, particularly in the area of sophisticated transactions involving private equity investors and regional and national developers.
As South Florida has become more and more attractive to businesses seeking relocation and to enterprises targeting investment opportunities, the need for specialized local legal representation has increased. Not all real estate attorneys in South Florida have the requisite experience needed to negotiate complex real estate transactions, facilitate partnerships between equity funds and developers and close various types of secured financing transactions, so when these entities realize that Jones Foster can handle these transactions as well as offer a depth of knowledge and insight into the local real estate market, we become a desirable resource.
This has allowed us to develop client and industry relationships across the country, and I find myself working more and more with a diverse group of clients in terms of geography, industry, and personal background--that makes each deal that much more unique and interesting.
What do you see as some of the most notable challenges as well as opportunities in the South Florida real estate market right now?
One of the main challenges in the South Florida market is the conflux of high demand, low inventory, and low interest rates, which has caused a rise in real estate prices. Finding a residential property that you like and can afford is a tall order. Similarly in the commercial sector, it’s more difficult to find those ideal investment opportunities.
One of the important ways in which we bring value to our clients is staying informed on a local, state, and national level and communicating with our clients during challenging and uncertain times, as well as prosperous times. As the tide turns on the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe that increasing demand on South Florida will push new projects forward in our community. We watch these situations closely and work with our clients so they are ready to position, plan, negotiate, and execute on those emerging opportunities.
Your personal and professional life has been rooted in Florida, and Palm Beach County specifically. How does your extensive knowledge of the area and the local market benefit your clients?
I was born and raised in West Palm Beach and I now live in Palm Beach with my own family, so I have been involved with the community on every level. As a working professional and a father, I want to give back to the community through my involvement in local non-profit and industry organizations that I feel are important and aligned with my values. My children attend Palm Beach Day Academy, where I currently serve as Vice President of the Board of Trustees, and I believe that the importance of quality education cannot be overstated and that my involvement in that process is a privilege.
I have been involved with The Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach for several years and currently serve as Treasurer. I have a great appreciation and respect for the architectural and cultural heritage of Palm Beach and am proud to support the organization’s mission to protect and preserve these historic sites for future generations.
I am a past president of the Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach and served on the Board of Directors of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce where I have developed many meaningful, long-term relationships with residents and business leaders.
In most instances, I personally know the realtor, surveyor, banker, or insurance agent that my client is working with, or looking for. It is beneficial to our clients to retain counsel that is familiar with the service providers and professionals working on their deal. If issues arise we have confidence in our ability to resolve them. But, beyond the legal services we provide, I pride myself on also being a source of referrals and local knowledge. Many of our clients are out-of-state residents and are greatly appreciative of trustworthy referrals and resources.
What distinguishes you as a real estate attorney?
My client philosophy is about providing the highest level of legal services while cultivating relationships, which requires an investment of time and sincere interest in my clients’ businesses and their goals to determine how to most effectively meet and exceed their expectations. I follow through on what I say I’m going to do and strive to go the extra mile to earn my clients’ trust. It means a lot to me that much of my practice is work from repeat clients because we have developed a relationship based upon trust and respect and they have come to see me as an integral part of their professional team.
Additionally, I think that my clients appreciate the scope of my work and that they can come to me for a broad range of matters from traditional residential real estate transactions to complex commercial deals. It is to their advantage to be able to rely upon us for everything from their home purchase to facilitating business partnerships across the country.
You have been with Jones Foster for 17 years, building your practice from an Associate to Shareholder. What insights can you share about the Firm’s culture and evolution that attracts talent and accounts for the tenure of so many prominent attorneys?
To me, the best way to illustrate what the Jones Foster culture is, is to say that for many people – attorneys, assistants, and administrators – this has been their one and only place of employment. Many people have worked here and built their practice here over the course of 10-50 years. This is incredibly rare in the modern workplace, but it speaks to the culture and the work environment. We have a collegial group of professionals who are smart, focused, and respectful of one another. Associates are mentored by senior attorneys and we support and invest in each attorney’s career path through marketing and business development support, investments in continuing education and legal certifications, and creating opportunities for involvement in community and business organizations.
The Firm is 97 years young and continues to evolve in order to remain competitive, relevant, and serve the needs of our clients and community. We have made significant investments in our future, which include comprehensive initiatives for recruiting, community involvement, branding, technology, and a full-scale office renovation.
The Firm retains its identity as a leading law firm with a legacy of legal excellence and community leadership but we are embracing change and reinventing those parts of our business that must keep pace with modern society and technology. The size of the Firm and its leadership structure gives us the flexibility to react and adapt quickly to meet unanticipated challenges, as was the case in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Professionally, technologically, and socially, it required a collective effort like never before, but we are proud and grateful to have been able to continue to serve our clients and fully retain our staff and attorneys.