Real estate attorney Andrew Hodgson likes looking out the windows of the downtown Chattanooga office of Husch Blackwell and seeing spaces he had a hand in filling.
In the same manner, Hodgson enjoys walking to lunch and pointing to a building in which a business is providing a product or service to the community and employing local residents and saying, “I worked on that deal.”
Essentially, Hodgson, 35, likes being a real estate attorney.
“I enjoy having a connection – albeit in the background – to businesses being successful and to the news people read,” he says.
Hodgson has been a real estate attorney since the momentous day in 2013 when Husch Blackwell partner Ron Feldman walked into his office, handed him a retail lease and said, “Congratulations. You’re going to be a real estate attorney.”
It was Hodgson’s first day at Husch Blackwell. It was also his first day as a working attorney.
A fresh graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville College of Law, Hodgson was intent on becoming a transactional attorney – whatever that would involve. So, he was grateful for the assignment.
The work Hodgson does has grown in complexity since his christening as a real estate attorney. After cutting his teeth on leases for landlords, for example, he gained experience on the tenant side of the equation.
As the sophistication and scope of the deals on which he was working expanded, he added the purchase and sale of property.
Today, Hodgson’s practice is evenly divided between lease work and buying and selling real estate. But he rarely has a task as relatively simple as the lease Feldman handed him on Day One.
“Those days are gone,” he says with a laugh. “Very few deals are as straightforward as my first one.”
As an example of how knotty the deals on which he works can become, Hodgson shares the story of a transaction Husch Blackwell handled for a local client that owned a strip mall in the Mid-Atlantic region.
“The client had an anchor tenant that was leasing a vacant property. Since it was a ground lease, it was just sitting there doing nothing and bringing very little value to our client or the property.”
Husch Blackwell’s client found a group that wanted to acquire the anchor space and then install a grocery store and a variety of small shops – a move Hodgson says can revitalize an entire shopping center.
“When the anchor space at one end of a mall is full and the parking lot no longer looks deserted, occupancy in the other spaces generally increases,” Hodgson explains.
But there were complications, the most pressing of which was the utter absence of the tenant in the anchor space.
“They didn’t have anyone on-site, so we had to figure out how to get their attention,” Hodgson recalls. “We also had to comb through the center’s original documents. The mall was developed in the late sixties or early seventies, so the original owners and tenants were long gone, and we had to figure out what legally controlled what different parties could do.”
As Hodgson and others at Husch Blackwell pieced together that part of the puzzle, they also endeavored to contact the current tenant, remove them from the property and bring in the new owner.
Of course, the new owners came with their own challenges.
“They had tenants with timing issues. One of the tenants was publicly traded and needed to announce they would be opening 500 new stores in 2022, so it was important to them to open by a certain date.”
As the deadline loomed, Hodgson and the other attorneys finally established contact with the current tenant, reassessed the 50-year-old documents and devised a solution that worked for every party.
As Hodgson reaches the end of his story, he exhales a sigh of relief.
“I haven’t had any deals fall to shambles,” he says. “But I feel especially fortunate that one held up.”
Hodgson’s work on every deal paid off this year when Husch Blackwell announced he was part of the firm’s partnership class for 2022.
Firm Chair Catherine Hanaway says Hodgson and the other 35 attorneys who are a part of the new class have helped to maintain and nurture the firm’s culture by not only giving back to their communities through pro bono work but also focusing on various diversity, equity and inclusion-related activities.
Hodgson served on the retention subcommittee of Husch Blackwell’s NextGen Committee, for instance, which helps newer attorneys become involved with firm initiatives, training and events.
“We focused on ways to be even better at retaining our diverse talent,” Hodgson explains. “I also interviewed candidates for a summer associate position through the minority clerkship program sponsored by the Chattanooga Legal Diversity Consortium.”
In addition, Hodgson attended monthly webinars on diversity, equity and inclusion as part of Husch Blackwell’s educational programming and took advantage of his firm’s parental leave program, which falls under its diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
Outside Husch, Hodgson is a member of the board of directors of FACES, a nonprofit that serves children and adults throughout the U.S. with severe craniofacial differences.
Since Hodgson came to Husch Blackwell with an eye on becoming a partner, he’s thrilled he’s achieved this goal, he says.
Hodgson and his wife, Callan, also hoped to make Chattanooga their permanent home. After growing up in families that moved several times, they were ready to put down roots.
Hodgson’s childhood travel itinerary included Charlotte, North Carolina, Southern California, Southern Virginia and Memphis as his dad took promotions at work.
Hodgson was a junior in high school when he decided to attend law school in the hopes of securing a stable and well-paid job in the business realm. When Husch Blackwell brought him to Chattanooga to work as a summer associate, he fell in love with the city.
“It’s a small town with great geography and a lot to do,” he says. “We live on Signal Mountain and can literally walk outside and hop on a couple of trails, which our dogs love.”
Also joining Hodgson and his wife on these walks is August, their newborn. While taking their infant son on a hike involves more preparation than before, he’s a joy to include, Hodgson says.
When August is old enough to understand what he’s seeing, Hodgson is looking forward to driving him through Chattanooga and pointing out the places he had a hand in filling.
“I don’t see us moving from our house. We could be there forever. I feel the same way about work. I enjoy what I do and am looking forward to continuing to develop my practice at Husch. We’re in both for the long haul.”