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Not Your Average Dirt Lawyer

Bob Hughes uses real estate expertise to fight homelessness        

Published in 2008 Virginia Super Lawyers magazine

In the 1920s, Richmond’s Edgeworth Building on East Cary Street was designed for Larus & Brother Tobacco Co., a fixture of Virginia’s rich industrial past. The building subsequently housed WRVA, one of the state’s first AM radio stations, and, after a recent renovation, is now anchored by the Hirschler Fleischer law firm.

So it’s an ideal place for commercial real estate attorney Robert Hughes to do business, encapsulating, as it does, Hughes’ passions: real estate, property restoration and history.

“I’ve been known within the firm for collecting old tobacco tin paraphernalia,” Hughes says.

A newly minted partner, Hughes regularly seals multimillion-dollar deals. “I call myself a dirt lawyer,” he says. “I do acquisition, sales, financing, leasing and developing of real property.” Tenant-in-common (TIC) transactions, where multiple investors share ownership in a property, are his forte. “The TIC market has grown tremendously,” he explains. “It’s now a $3.5 billion market—even with the credit crisis.”

He also just completed his second term as president of Rebuilding Together of Richmond, a volunteer organization that restores inner-city homes for low-income elderly and disabled persons. “We keep homeowners safe, warm and dry,” he says.

In April, Hughes led 1,500 volunteers as they repaired 50 houses during a one-day building blitz. As the organization’s CEO, Hughes is foremost a manager, but, as he says, “I am happy to grab a hammer or shovel. I’m not a particularly accomplished do-it-yourselfer, but I have a strong back, a willing mind, and as a lawyer I am a killer at following directions. To the letter.”

The off-hours job keeps him centered. “I may be working on a $20 million apartment complex,” he says, “and then go to a [Rebuilding Together] board meeting and see how this 80-year-old woman with emphysema was raised for generations in her home. You can get caught up in life and miss the day-to-day reality for so many folks.”

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