Bernard Lee, notable real estate lawyer, dies at 71

Bernard Lee. (Courtesy of Cozen O' Connor)

Bernard Lee. (Courtesy of Cozen O' Connor)

This story originally appeared in The Philadelphia Tribune

Real estate lawyer Bernard Lee died on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, after suffering a cardiac incident last week at a Philadelphia 76ers game. He was 71.

Lee was a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Real Estate Practice Group since he joined the firm in 2009.

The Philadelphia native served two terms as a member of the board of directors of Cozen O’Connor and a five-year term as co-chair of the real estate practice group. Lee’s practice areas included real estate development and financing, mixed-use and mixed-finance projects, construction and architect agreements, and hotel management, acquisition, and development.

His clients included individual developers and joint venture partners, small and major corporations, and governmental and quasi-governmental entities. He also represented borrowers in workouts of loans, as well as owners and tenants in terminations and settlements of leases.

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“Bernard often said that deals only close if everyone gets something and no one gets everything, and he was widely respected for his skill at creating rapport, aligning interests, and achieving consensus,” Cozen CEO Michael Heller wrote in a note to colleagues Monday, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

He said that Lee’s legal acumen and business judgment guided many of Philadelphia’s most transformative projects over the last several decades, including the development and financing of the Pennsylvania Convention Center; the South Philadelphia Sports Complex; the City of Philadelphia’s police headquarters; and the start of the revival of Amtrak’s 30th Street Station area.

Lee recently served as a commissioner on the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. He is a past member of the Executive Board of the Real Property Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association, and former president of the Barristers’ Association.

Lee’s recent pro bono work included the representation of a church in the acquisition and financing of a building and served as a mediator in the tenant-landlord Philadelphia Bar Association program.

He was an active member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and provided legal services for them and was also an active member of the Real Estate Executive Council; a national member organization of experienced black real estate professionals.

After graduating from Lake Forest College in 1972 and University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1977, Lee joined the real estate department at Wolf Block. He practiced there until the firm folded under financial pressure in 2009, at which time he was one of 55 Wolf Block lawyers that joined Cozen.

He is survived by: his wife, Kathy, and two children, Michelle and Michael.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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