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Advocacy for Attorneys

ProfessionalProfile_2013Hughes Marino’s Tenants Only Commercial Real Estate Brokerage Gives Attorneys Unparalleled Access To Collective Bargaining Power, Lease-Audits and Tax Credit Services.

More than anyone, attorneys understand the danger in conflicts of interest,” says Jason Hughes, President and CEO of Hughes Marino, San Diego’s largest tenant only commercial real estate brokerage. To say that Hughes speaks from experience is indeed an understatement. Hughes and his team of licensed commercial real estate brokers have represented attorneys for 25 years, and for the past 23 years, they have represented tenants exclusively. The company is by far the largest lease or purchase brokerage working only with tenants in San Diego, and one of the largest in all of Southern California. With 500+ active clients at any given time, a substantial percentage are law firms, according to Hughes. “We represent the smallest to the largest law firms throughout Southern California. For example, right now we have 87 active real estate clients in downtown San Diego alone. More than half are law firms,” Hughes says.

Professional Profile

Fiduciary Focus

Hughes began representing law firms in the late 1980’s, more or less due to proximity. “I started my business in downtown San Diego, and law firms were a huge majority of the businesses there,” Hughes recalls. Although he initially entered the commercial real estate brokerage business with the same M.O. as other brokerages, it took him less than two years to realize that a business plan which includes representing tenants and landlords at the same time was inherently unethical.

“If you represent landlords, you have a fiduciary to obtain the highest rental rate, with the fewest concessions,” Hughes says. “Your job is to get the landlord business.” Obviously, he knew he couldn’t represent both sides in a lease or purchase agreement. “You can’t be the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney, without a conflict of interest,” he continues. “How is the tenant going to get a fair opportunity?” he wondered. With the realization that tenants stood no chance working with a broker who represented both landlords and tenants, Hughes switched his focus.

“Our duty of care is only on one side—the tenant,” he says. With his new clientele established, Hughes set about to provide San Diego attorneys with services that no other brokerage offered. To do that, he would have to build a team of top notch professionals. “All of our brokers are licensed commercial real estate brokers,” Hughes says. “They are not salespeople. The commercial broker’s license establishes a level of accountability to the nth degree.” Moreover, Hughes explains, “we have more salaried employees than commission employees, and we have three attorneys on staff,” he adds.

Extra Effort

Because of the sheer volume of clients Hughes Marino represents, the company is able to level the playing field for law firms of all sizes. “In downtown San Diego, our clients occupy millions of square feet,” Hughes says. When considering San Diego as a whole, that number jumps to tens of millions of square feet, which gives Hughes’ clients a huge advantage. “Our market share, our collective bargaining ability means that when I am negotiating for a small firm, perhaps for 2-3K square feet, I am able to give them the power of a million square feet,” Hughes adds.

“But it’s not just about the price per square foot,” he continues. “Tenants will get a 50 page lease, the bulk of which is designed to protect the landlord.” And it is here that the tenants-only brokerage firm is worth its weight in gold to law firm clients. Hughes Marino fights for tenants to ensure protection of maintenance is included. They work to make sure that the firm has appropriate opportunities to expand or decrease their office size if necessary. In short, they serve as formidable advocates for the rights of attorneys when it comes to real estate. But that’s just the minimum clients receive from the firm. Over the years, Hughes Marino has worked intelligently to provide additional value to clients.

For firms looking to construct their own building, Hughes Marino offers construction management services via those who know the ins and outs of construction, chiefly, in-house experts who are on the Hughes Marino team. “When you are dealing with large dollars and multiple subcontractors, there oftentimes can be some questionable construction expenses. We make sure every last cent is accounted for and that it goes into our client’s space or pocket, and not to pay for a property manager’s swimming pool,” Hughes says.

For renters, the firm offers lease-audit services every year at no additional charge. “We provide yearly free lease-audit services for clients, to insure that any operating expenses/CAM charges passed through to our clients are legitimate. We challenge these charges, [when there is no evidence that the charges are warranted.]”

And in effort to offer even additional value to clients, years ago, Hughes Marino acquired a government incentives tax group in San Diego. As the result, the brokerage firm now proudly offers its clients Tax Credit Services, which Hughes says have been a boon to countless law firms.

“Real estate tax credits are geographically driven. There are a lot of government incentives that people never take advantage of,” Hughes says. For example, the enterprise zone tax credits provide a deduction for employers of an astonishing $37K per employee for businesses operating in those zones. Moreover, says Hughes “the credits can be used retroactively, going back four years. This can result in a 7-figure tax credit,” he adds. Unfortunately, this particular credit expires on December 31, 2013, so Hughes encourages law firms to take action now. “We are not CPAs, but we are experts in real estate tax credits. Most CPAs refer their clients to us for help in these credits, as it is a real niche business,” he continues.

As far as the future is concerned, Jason Hughes is quick to point out that “everything is reinvested into the company, and into the community. We support upwards of 70 different non-profits every year, including the San Diego Volunteer Lawyers Program. We put our money where our mouth is. We want to make our community a better place,” he says. But it’s not just him who is happy and proud of the work the Hughes Marino team is doing, it’s the entire team. “We are a very happy group. We’ve found that when you are doing the right thing, good stuff happens.”


Jason Hughes
Hughes Marino
Phone: 619-238-2111

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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