Brenda Ezell has been a commercial real estate attorney with the Edwards Cohen law firm since April 2007. Before that, she was with the City’s General Counsel Office for three years where she dealt with land use and real estate matters. Earlier, she was with Rogers Towers as a commercial real estate attorney for three and a half years.
BEFORE REAL ESTATE?
She did enforcement work with the Internal Revenue Service for seven years. Before the IRS, she was an Army legal specialist in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps for three years active service and five years in the Army Reserve.
“We represent developers in securing their entitlements and purchase and sale agreements. We help anyone who wants to develop, purchase or sell real estate.”
She earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Jacksonville University and her law degree from the University of Florida.
WHY DID SHE BECOME AN ATTORNEY?
“I’ve always wanted to be an attorney. I decided to have my children first and then went back to law school. Initially, I wanted to help people fight for their rights, but as I started studying and practicing in school, I decided I liked real estate. I liked property and just the idea of property rights. It was just fascinating with the whole constitutionality of your right to own property and do what you want with your property. Also, when I moved to Jacksonville, Phillips Highway didn’t go past Baymeadows Road. It was really undeveloped so it really interested me when I saw things start to grow.”
HOW HAS IT BEEN TO BE A WOMAN IN COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE LAW?
“When I did closings, people didn’t think I was the closing attorney. They would think I was a paralegal or just helping the attorney. They would sit there waiting for the man to walk in and I would say with a smile, ‘Sorry, guys. It’s just me.’” Ezell said she just worked hard and proved herself to the clients.
“I always try to answer my phone on the first ring and not let my secretary be the filter. You build up a trust level so people know they can rely on you and that you are not going to mess anything up.”
FUTURE FOR WOMEN?
“I think there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for growth and development and for women to be even more involved in commercial real estate. I think the new businesses coming in at the ports are going to change the dynamics of commercial real estate. There are a lot of foreigners coming who aren’t invested in the good ol’ boy system and that will change things a lot for commercial real estate women.”
Developers, big box retailers, shopping center developers, commercial lenders, and condominium developers.
Ezell said since retail follows rooftops, she has seen a slowdown in commercial retail deals. “I think it will take about two to three years before we are back to full swing.”
Ezell had two: commercial real estate attorneys Joe O’Shields and Bill Scheu, both at Rogers Towers. “They were great mentors. Joe gave me cases, and helped me prepare documents and do the closing. Personally, he also got me interested in community service. He showed me that as a commercial real estate attorney, you can offer your services to the community and help people. Rogers Towers is a great philanthropic firm. Bill taught me about commercial transactions and how to put the big picture together from the time someone is interested in a property all the way through the closing. He helped me see the big picture of commercial real estate law.”
FAVORITE THING ABOUT HER JOB?
“Watching a project from the start when there is nothing on the ground to when all the entitlements are done, the developer has completed construction and someone is occupying the space.”
BEST PROFESSIONAL ADVICE EVER RECEIVED?
“Always make yourself available to your clients. Return calls promptly and answer the phone whenever possible. Every client should be given equal importance, no matter how big the deal is.”
KEYS TO SUCCESS?
Hard work and commitment.
Commercial Real Estate Women of Jacksonville, Florida and Jacksonville Bar Associations.
- by Michele Newbern Gillis