Get In The Boat With The Client

A Conversation On Leadership & Life In The Law With Matt Wilcox

Matt Wilcox is a director in our new San Diego office who works in the firm’s Real Estate practice group. His work focuses primarily on commercial, industrial and retail real estate transactional work, as well as general business, corporate, and financing matters.

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Matt about his vision for our Southern California expansion, as well as his life in the legal profession.

As we continue our “tour” of our new Southern California offices, this week we’re happy to turn the spotlight on Matthew Wilcox who works out of our San Diego office! How are things going during the transition? And what’s your vision for the future as we continue to grow in Southern California?

The transition is going great. It has been challenging to learn all of the new systems; however, the Fennemore team has been amazing in helping to make the transition as seamless as possible.

I am really hoping to see the San Diego office grow over the next few years. In the short term, I would love to see at least two attorneys added to the office. Over the long term, between both the San Bernardino and San Diego offices, I think we have a really great opportunity to capture market share and continue to grow.

Without naming your clients, are there any intriguing current matters that you’re working on in the real estate sector?

One of our clients is operating retail business on a ground leased parcel. They developed 90% of the parcel 10 years ago, and had plans to build a fuel station later on the undeveloped portion. 

About a year ago they realized that a car wash was being built on the undeveloped portion. After investigation, we learned that the landlord leased the undeveloped portion to the car wash, not realizing that it was leased by our client. The craziest part is that we clearly have a memorandum of lease recorded, and no one caught it – not the landlord, the car wash tenant, or the lender.

What would you tell your younger self – or a 1L at the University of San Diego School of Law now contemplating a career in the legal profession?

I tell every prospective law student that they shouldn’t go into law for the money; there is certainly an easier way to make a buck. However, if you like to work hard, have a creative and problem-solving mind, and find a niche that fits your personality well, it is a very rewarding profession. I feel very blessed to have found my place in real estate.

Who is your hero – or the person who has had the greatest impact on your life and career?

My grandfather. He owned a retail business and worked long hours, six-days-a-week, and always put the customer first. Those lessons (hard work and customer service) have served me well.

A close second is Mark Ostoich, the former managing partner of Gresham. He recruited me to Gresham 22 years ago, and has had a profound impact on my life, both professionally and personally.

Talk about your biggest failure. What did you learn? And how did you pick up the pieces and move forward?

There are so many to choose from. I would say work / life balance over the first 20 years of my career. Over the last couple of years, I have tried to spend more uninterrupted time with my wife and family.

What’s the best – and worst – piece of career advice that you’ve ever received?

I had an attorney early in my career tell me that we should strive to make sure our work product was “90% right”, and I always thought that was the worst advice.

The best advice I ever received was to “get in the boat with the client”.  That is 100% the way I view my practice; I am part of the client’s team, and we are all working through the project or transaction together.

What are you currently listening to (podcast or music); reading; and watching/streaming?
History Channel, and I am embarrassed to admit, 90 day Fiancé.

Okay, last but not least, you’re hosting a lavish dinner party at your home. Name the three people – from any time in human history – who you’d invite.

Jesus, Thomas Jefferson, and my grandfather.

Many thanks to Matt for his insightful comments – and to all of the new attorneys and allied legal professionals in our new San Bernardino and San Diego offices who are already making such a positive impact on our clients’ businesses.

And for more information on our Real Estate practice group – one of the largest in the American West with offices in Arizona, California, Colorado and Nevada, please visit: .