Meet the Legal “Psychiatrist” to New York’s Billionaire Real Estate Developers

Leo Jacobs

Leo Jacobs, the founder of the boutique law firm Jacobs P.C., is one of New York City’s most prominent commercial litigation and bankruptcy attorneys. He’s a quick-witted, brutally honest, no-nonsense straight shooter. But Leo’s secret to success not only lies in his ability to navigate the treacherous waters of in and out of court restructuring of NYC’s toughest debt and equity real estate deals– it is his wholehearted, holistic dedication to his clients mental health that is unprecedented in the cutthroat streets of the Big Apple. 

Some call Leo the Debtors’ psychiatrist*; the distressed real estate surgeon. In any case, he can patch together broken deals, shattered mindsets and propel the down-and-out to victory after a dramatic fall. 

“It is not only about putting clients in a better financial position,” Leo told Impact Wealth Magazine. “It is about harvesting and nurturing them, giving them my undivided attention, and getting them into a much better mental and physical state. I sell the dream to get back onto the top of the mountain no matter how tough it is. It is a Rocky movie; it is a story of second chances.” 

However, Leo’s rise into a gold-trimmed penthouse office inside Manhattan’s storied Fuller building on “Billionaire’s Row,” aka Madison Avenue, hardly materialized overnight. The mid-thirties lawyer grew up in Queens. His rise centered on representing his Bukharian Community in their share of prominent high-profile real estate, partnership, and commercial disputes. 

Yet he sees his practice now as much more than wheeling, dealing, and advocating. It is holding the hand of those caught in the throes of some of the darkest points of their life; it is talking the billionaire who lost everything down from the ledge; it is holding the hand of the tough-talking big-wig gripped by panic attacks; and it is literally saving the life of the stoic developer drinking himself to death. Ultimately, Leo is the attorney and life advisor offering a hand to those quietly suffering in a world that is hardly sympathetic or understanding of those who fall from grace in the brash and hard-line driven NYC real estate world. 

“Nobody is talking about it, but I am going to because this is how these debtors, developers feel. The majority of them are men, and they are suffering from their past business decisions ,” Leo continued. “No billionaire will ever admit to the suicidal thoughts they encounter day after day; the emptiness they feel when everything around them they shaped is taken from them that which they grew from nothing to something.” 

For Leo, working with so many who seem to have it all but are drowning inside serves as a searing reminder that we don’t know what anyone is going through behind closed doors. And bringing a client back from the brink is a skill he has honed and perfected over the years. As a coach, confidant, and consigliere to some of New York’s most influential real estate players Leo focuses foremost on determining a client’s “motivations.” 

“First, you have to understand what motivates the client. Each client is motivated by different things. Some are motivated by God. Some are motivated by women. Some are motivated by ego, or their families or by the embarrassment (of failure),” Leo explained. “So, the key for me is to flip his or her negative attitude and figure out their motivations for getting back up on that mountain. And sometimes I have to reroute their motivation because their motivation is fueled by negative emotions.” 

The game used to be to get the client from 0 to 1. Now the game is to get the client from -1 to 0 and then back to 1. That extra step is the difference in Leo Jacobs craft the developers and debtors now seek. He is a wartime general. The biggest and boldest real estate players of New York City are experiencing that war with high interest rates, changing laws, and pressure from shareholders to deliver more in these times. 

Leo Jacobs Commercial Litigation Attorney

"I sell the dream to get back onto the top of the mountain no matter how tough it is. It is a Rocky movie; it is a story of second chances. "

~ Leo Jacobs

For one, Real Estate magnate Abraham Leifer, the founder and CEO of Aview Equities and Leifer Equities, informed Impact Wealth that the post-COVID era had propelled him into exceedingly challenging and unfamiliar terrain, where he would feel adrift without Leo's guidance. 

“It’s much more, much better than just having a lawyer. Leo is the person who makes sure I know that I am not alone and that will be okay,” Abraham said. “He takes a call at any time of the night, but most importantly, he is a great listener who comes up with expedient solutions to complex problems in a simple way.” And no matter the season, there is hardly a lull in Leo’s flow. 

Part of his day may be spent propelling the aggressor away from the prey that is plagued by 8-figure civil judgments, helping a client find the right therapist to help with mental strengthening before the legal process can commence, and calming another one down with a long phone call that stretches into the early hours of the morning. Then, of course, there is working with debtors, developers, investors, and guarantors on in-court and out-of-court restructuring processes, bankruptcy, and modification for loans with CMBS lenders and private money managers. Leo routinely emphasized that he is “nothing without” his bankruptcy and commercial litigation team, pointing out that JPC advises fiduciaries, shareholders, and partners (General and Limited Partners) on fiduciary disputes. Moreover, the firm is renowned for its speedy work in the commercial litigation sector, where they focus on garnering preliminary relief quicker than what can be achieved in the drawn-out court system. 

Leo’s firm filed the last bankruptcy of 2023 (a $65MM fashion footwear chapter 11 bankruptcy) and the first Southern District of New York Single Asset Real Estate Bankruptcy of 2024, a case valued at $100Mm. 

“Our secret sauce is negotiation (tact), arbitration (privately settle disputes), mediation (create a meeting of the minds) coupled with speed at execution. Instead of fighting against the adversaries, we make our adversaries our counterparties who work together to solve the common problem of their client and our client. We make our adversaries understand our client’s position, or we make them understand their client’s position better than even they understand their clients position,” Leo stressed. 

In life’s spare moments, Leo devotes himself to non-profit and community service, including hours of pro Bono representation to the Bukharian Jewish People and an avid supporter of AIPAC. He acts as the attorney to theBukharian Community and the President of the Bukharian Law Association, a 150 member member organization bettering the lives of Bukharian college graduates seeking to go to law school through educational tools and the lives of law students and lawyers through continuous education and committee meetings on community issues such as housing, drugs and local safety. 

“Hashem, family, community, friendship and self-love,” Leo added, shedding light on the pillars he lives by. “When you break bones in your body, those bones heal back stronger. And that is the goal with my clients. We don’t always get second chances in life. But I bring the underdog back. I give debtors and developers a second chance, a second wind.” 

*Leo Jacobs is a New York Admitted Attorney and Counselor at law, not a psychiatrist.