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Whether the task at hand is negotiating a restaurant lease on behalf of a major mall REIT, helping a local developer secure tax credits for his first shopping center, or defending retailers in wage and hour collective actions, discrimination class actions, or developing and implementing a national RIF program the attorneys on LeClairRyan’s Retail Industry team aim to benefit their clients by taking full advantage of their deep experience in this fast-paced and ever-evolving industry.

Retail is a segment of the economy in which entities large and small, public and private, commingle on a regular basis.  The typical shopping center, for example, might involve leaseholds with a behemoth national discounter as well as a coterie of local mom-and-pops.  The attorneys on our Retail Industry team use a multi-practice area approach, have extensive experience representing retail and restaurant clients of all types and sizes, and have represented both landlords and tenants. Our attorneys routinely counsel clients in connection with specialty leasing and financing arrangements such as ground leases, sale-leasebacks and lease-option arrangements, and are familiar with the full range of issues involved in the unwinding of leases, including early termination planning and negotiation, and restructuring of documentation.

Our Retail Industry team creates retail leasing forms for a myriad of clients, and routinely handles the assignments and subleases of multiple leaseholds in connection with corporate transfers. We also negotiate and draft retail leases on behalf of clients such as national mall REITs, local and regional developers of grocery-anchored shopping centers, and other owners, developers and users of retail real estate.

As a result of its broad experience, our Retail Industry team is able to assist clients with the likes of landlord-tenant litigation, subordination, non-disturbance and attornment agreements, estoppel certificates and property-management agreements. We help clients find practical solutions to the often difficult and complex problems that can arise in the retail world, in part by working closely with our colleagues in LeClairRyan’s bankruptcy, tax, corporate and securities, environmental, local government and construction practices.

Our group offers extensive knowledge and experience in representing borrowers, developers, owners and financial institutions in a broad array of retail real estate-based equity and debt-financing transactions. These include leveraged lease, sale-leaseback, structured finance and joint ventures utilizing manifold mortgage products—from acquisition, development and construction to permanent financing and leasing of shopping center and other development projects. Our team’s lending practice has experience in the financing and securitization of all types of loans on a national basis with ground leases, air-rights leases and subordinate financing arrangements (including mezzanine loans) secured by a wide range of properties. Finally, our Retail Industry team represents owners and investors in tax-credit transactions and cooperative public and private financing arrangements and has also represented financial institutions in the sale of commercial mortgage portfolios.

Our Retail Industry team also offers extensive experience and depth in representing large and small retailers in every type of employee-employer dispute. These disputes include, for example, unfair labor practices, labor arbitrations and union avoidance as well as state and federal charges of discrimination, state and federal wage and hour violations and OSHA violations. We counsel clients who have local, regional, national and international operations and stores regarding all facets of employment law involving issues such as privacy and surveillance, drug and alcohol testing, credit and background checks, payroll and garnishment issues, Department of Transportation regulations, and reductions in force and plant/store closings. Our attorneys have defended single plaintiff, multiple-plaintiff and class action cases involving race discrimination, sex discrimination and sexual harassment, age discrimination, national origin and disability discrimination filed by private plaintiffs and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In addition, the retail industry is a targeted industry for wage and hour audits and claims. The employment lawyers on our team vigorously defend and resolve Department of Labor audits and collective actions around the country. Our team's collective experience in these areas permits us to provide the highest quality counseling services to our clients in order to teach and train employers on how to best avoid these problems.

The Retail Industry Team also includes a number of trial attorneys and civil litigators involved in risk management and legal defense pertaining to the retail industry. They work with clients to identify and manage risks, with an eye toward reducing the severity and volume of claims while controlling litigation costs; provide counsel regarding risk transfer alternatives, either through traditional insurance products, captive insurance vehicles, self insurance or self insured retentions and contractual risk transfer agreements. When asked, they ably assist clients in performing pre-suit investigations, enabling them to capture key evidence and ensure that a cohesive defense is “in the can” before suit is even filed. Our attorneys are proponents of Alternative Dispute Resolution and recommend pursuing arbitration or non-binding mediation where appropriate. When litigation is unavoidable, our attorneys provide zealous, cost-effective representation of retail clients in personal injury, property damage claims, business interruption and insurance coverage matters. LeClairRyan also represents numerous liability insurance carriers and is on their preferred defense counsel panels, so that the client’s defense costs are often assumed by the insurer.

As industry insiders, the attorneys on our Retail Industry team understand and share the passion for retail that animates so many of our clients, large and small. This exciting and complex industry is both ever-changing and predictably cyclical. Our attorneys, having witnessed multiple business cycles and repeatedly seen the “next new thing” become a thing of the past, know to take the long view as they help our retail clients plan for tomorrow—and seize the opportunities of today.

Representative real estate transactions: 

  • Represented developers in renovations and permanent financing of historic renovation projects involving federal and state tax credits
  • Represented commercial banks and thrifts in the closing of construction loans to finance the development of shopping center and other construction projects
  • Represented lender in financing five shopping centers with multiple borrowers
  • Representing clients in purchase, financings and development of shopping centers
  • Representing clients in purchase, financing and redevelopment of big box retail facilities
  • Represented national life insurance company lenders in numerous permanent loan transactions for a variety of real estate types, including retail centers
  • Representing clients in the purchase of real estate for future development
  • Drafting and reviewing easement agreements necessary for the use and/or development of commercial property
  • Leasing counsel throughout the United States for a major owner of shopping centers, mixed-use and other commercial facilities
  • Represented multi-site operator of franchised businesses in early lease termination planning and negotiation for several underperforming units
  • Represented buyer of national restaurant chain in securing assignment of leases for 34 stores
  • Represented a university in a ground lease and creation of a leasehold condominium in connection with a mixed-use retail, educational and residential
  • Negotiated and drafted ground leases on behalf of property owners in connection with the lease of space to large big box retailers
  • Developed form leases for a developer of retail and restaurant space
  • Negotiated and draft leases for a large national furniture chain
  • Represent major insurance company with interests in a variety of office projects and properties in negotiating office and shopping center leases and addressing property management issues
  • Drafted leases associated with new market tax credit and historic tax credit deal

Representative labor and employment matters:

  • Developed and implemented nationwide reduction-in-force (RIF) strategy for retail chain of stores throughout 48 states.
  • Defeated motion for class certification of race discrimination class action cases under Title VII of Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 for national retail chain.
  • Conducted wage and hour audit under state and federal laws for national retail client with over 700 locations and then developed and implemented exempt/non-exempt categories of employees.
  • Respond to state and federal agency charges of discrimination and alleged wage and hour violations
  • Drafted executive and middle management employment agreements containing covenants not to compete, non-solicitation agreements and confidentiality provisions
  • Pursued and defended business conspiracy, trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty and computer crimes claims.

Representative tort defense matters:

  • Won a dismissal of all claims brought by a severely injured shopper against a national grocery chain. Accepting our argument that the client neither created nor had notice of the condition that plaintiff claims caused his accident, the court granted our summary judgment motion and dismissed the complaint.
  • Successfully defended national retailer in suit alleging negligence in snow and ice removal in the parking lot.
  • Won summary judgment in favor of a national restaurant supply store by establishing entitlement to dismissal in a trip and fall accident.
  • Retained by a leading seller of artisan bakery products to counsel it on the submission of a business interruption proof of loss following the catastrophic failure of a large commercial oven. As a result of our participation, the insurer tendered its full policy limits.
  • Retained by large retailer faced with mold exposure resulting from defective workmanship in construction of new refrigerated facility.
  • Defense verdict in favor of supermarket charged with negligence in maintenance of aisles.
  • Won summary judgment in favor of seller of allegedly defective product, obtaining complete indemnification from manufacturer for traumatic amputation.
  • Obtained favorable settlement in serious pedestrian knockdown accident involving company owned motor vehicle.