By Maggie FitzRoy, Contributing Writer
When Matt Breuer was in law school, he assumed at first he would be a litigator, filing lawsuits and spending a lot of time in court.
But his career did not go in that direction at all.
Instead, a clerkship at a major international law firm in Jacksonville propelled him into real estate law, which Breuer said suits him far better.
A partner at Driver, McAfee, Peek & Hawthorne, Breuer specializes in commercial real estate law, focusing on real estate finance. He spends his days dealing in typical buying and selling transactions, poring over contracts to make sure his clients are legally protected.
Every once in a while a title issue comes up that the firm must resolve, Breuer said, “but typically it is pretty routine stuff.”
“With real estate law, the drama is few and far between. I love that,” he said. “Because you get very goal-oriented and it’s real nice that for the most part, things work out.”
Attorneys for buyers and sellers are working toward the same goal of finalizing the transaction, he said. It should be a win-win for everybody, “and it usually is.”
Breuer grew up in Flemington, N.J., an idyllic farm town 20 miles north of Princeton. He majored in history at Duke University before getting his law degree at the University of Florida in 1998.
His wife, Julie, whom he met at Duke, was already in school at UF. They married two weeks before he started classes.
During the summer after his second year at UF, he clerked for Foley & Lardner in the large international firm’s Jacksonville office.
He was originally involved with litigation projects, though his desk happened to be on the real estate floor.
Breuer got to know the firm’s real estate attorneys well, because their desks were near his. At the end of the summer, he was offered a position as a real estate lawyer after graduation.
“It was the greatest thing that happened, career-wise,” he said. “Litigation involves all kinds of civil lawsuits and I expected to be doing that. Filing lawsuits and pounding on the desk, like in the movies and on TV. That is probably not the reality, but that’s what I envisioned.”
Working for Foley & Lardner for 14 years and since 2012 at DMP&H, Breuer said he now knows that unlike some cities, the Jacksonville legal community “is very tight knit and civil. It’s not adversarial, it’s very collegial.”
Breuer’s office at Foley & Lardner was Downtown in the Wells Fargo Center at One Independent Drive. Working there was a great experience, he said.
“I was fortunate to have two or three mentors training me and that has made all the difference in the world,” Breuer said.
It also made him reluctant to leave Foley, but after 14 years, he needed a change of scenery.
Although, not literally.
HIs current firm is only one floor below Foley. That meant Breuer was able to keep his expansive floor-to-ceiling view of the St. Johns River when he changed firms.
Rick Hawthorne, who became one of the firm’s named partners after working with Breuer at Foley for 10 years, said he and his partners had “designs on trying to get” Breuer to join the firm.
“He is incredibly smart, he is incredibly dedicated, a great attorney, a great dad and a great husband,” Hawthorne said. “Matt is a great general real estate lawyer and a superstar.”
When he’s not working, Breuer coaches lacrosse at The Bolles School, which he said “is a nice distraction.”
He and his wife, Julie, now a stay-at-home mom, are parents to 13-year-old twins, Alex and Sean, and 10-year-old, Cole.
Breuer encourages prospective lawyers to look into the field of commercial real estate. When he graduated in 1998, there were plenty of jobs, he said. Then, during the recession, no one was hiring.
Now, firms are hiring again and “a career as a real estate attorney is a very viable option.”
Driver, McAfee, Peek & Hawthorne has 15 attorneys, in addition to paralegals.
“We’re not trying to be big,” Breuer said. “We’re just trying to be the best — at delivering services to our clients efficiently.”