Commercial real estate law is all about working through road blocks, according to attorney Stephen Chernof.
As a member of Godfrey & Kahn SC’s real estate practice group, Chernof has tackled sophisticated deals involving major corporations and government entities. Success comes, he said, from bringing all affected sides to the table, recognizing the concerns of all those parties and being creative in finding solutions work for everyone.
It’s an approach that applies to his ongoing work as voluntary co-chairman of the Milwaukee Foreclosure Partnership Initiative, as well.
Chernof has a passion for the city, he said, and when Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett asked him to help lead a work group to deal with a growing foreclosure crisis in the community, he jumped at the chance.
The initiative has led to a stronger push for mediation at the circuit court level, where court staff members are now trying to facilitate solutions between lenders and borrowers when foreclosures are filed, Chernof said. There’s also been greater effort to educate homeowners early on about their rights, in case they get behind on their loans.
The initiative also is working with lenders to restructure loans for borrowers who get in trouble with their loans, he said.
It’s a multilevel approach to an issue that was peppering the city with abandoned properties in foreclosure. When lenders started to “just walk away” from such properties, Chernof said, “there is literally no one to take care of it. It falls on the city, the police force, the fire department, the department of neighborhood services — they end up boarding the place up and it diminished the value of surrounding properties.”
The resulting initiative involves about a hundred volunteers representing banks and community interest groups. Their work to remove the road blocks to success is now receiving national recognition, as well as improving property values for the city.
Whether working with the initiative or with his clients, Chernof works hard to get positive results, said Nicholas Wahl, Godfrey & Kahn’s president and managing partner. Chernof possesses, Wahl said, “an understanding of how to get a deal done and an understanding of how to work with people.”