Alexa Woods is a real estate investment and development lawyer with extensive experience in navigating highly nuanced public-private development agreements. She has a broad understanding of public inducements, public assistance, private financing and developer equity and has represented municipalities, other governmental entities and developers in negotiation of such agreements.
Alexa frequently serves as lead counsel in real estate financing transactions and works inside business combination, restructuring, merger, acquisition and disposition transactions. She has an active opinion practice relative to her financing and combination transaction work and frequently serves as local counsel for other law firms.
Alexa is a graduate of Indiana University, Purdue University Indianapolis and Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law. She has been recognized by Chambers USA and Best Lawyers in America. She is a member of the Urban Land Institute and a past chairwoman for the Business Law Section of the Indianapolis Bar Association. Alexa volunteers for the Indianapolis Humane Society.
Alexa Woods was a relative late comer to the law. She was 30 years old, married and keen to build a new career for herself as lawyer in Indianapolis.
At first Alexa wasn’t sure which practice area she wanted to focus on, but quickly understood that she preferred commercial and business transactions rather than the cut and thrust of adversarial legal issues.
“I’m just not keen on all that conflict,” she admits. “People think I always had this desire to work in real estate, but that’s not true either. I joined a firm after law school and liked the people in the real estate group – simple as that really. I liked the type of transactions and gravitated towards the people involved. I also really enjoyed working with the clients.”
Alexa believes that when most people first practice law they seldom know which area to focus on. But they tend to be sponges soaking everything up and looking for their own sweet spot. She knew early on she wasn’t cut out to be a litigation lawyer.
“All that arguing and tension you get with litigation,” she laughs. “On the other hand real estate is logical. Everyone needs housing, offices, buildings of some kind.”
“People think I always had the desire to work in real estate, but that’s not true either. I joined a firm after law school and liked the people in the real estate group – simple as that really.”
“It made sense to me. It’s about how you convey the property; how you finance the property. To me, those things make sense. I suppose it’s because most people have experience with buying their own home. You know it and so you’re more comfortable with it.”
A solid reputation
After more than 25 years at the job, Alexa has gained a solid reputation as a first class real estate lawyer in Indianapolis and beyond. It’s a reputation of which to be proud of – but she remains modest about it. In the city, she’s now considered to be something of an expert in the often complex world of property purchasing, leasing and financing by public/private entities.
“Yes, I suppose I am at the top of my game. Most people I know would think I’m pretty confident and that is something that real estate has given me. When you have a willing buyer and willing seller, it’s just understanding how to get the deal done. It’s well suited for my personality because it’s a very practical sort of practice.”
“You start knowing what you’re doing and that always feels good, and then you start enjoying it because it’s nice to be an expert in something.”
Moreover, it’s a particularly good time to be a real estate lawyer in Indianapolis, which is currently having a property boom in multi-family and commercial projects. Much of the success of the spike in demand has been down to local government and state incentives around tax, financing and developer bonds.
“Yes, I suppose I am at the top of my game. Most people I know would think I’m pretty confident and that is something that real estate has given me.”
“Oh, there’s a lot going on,” Alex says. “In Indiana, we don’t have mountains or oceans, so we have to be creative when it comes to attracting business and real estate investment. The local governments are very creative in coming up with ways to encourage investment within and from outside the state.”
“We’re mostly buying right now. For instance, we have a client who’s purchasing a lot of multi-family properties in Indiana and across other states such as Colorado and in Atlanta. We’re also working on a lot of medical office buildings across a number of states.”
Many clients in Indiana are block purchasing real estate and Alexa works with the funders as well as different private and public sector state entities to ensure buyers and sellers have a fairly seamless experience.
“As a lawyer, you don’t really have as much to do with choosing the finance. The clients are very sophisticated and they’ve mostly figured out how they want to fund the business.”
“The multi-family clients located here in Indianapolis are large. And so they’re just accumulating properties. They have investors and regular financing. With medical office buildings, recently I did a joint venture with a firm out of New York. We’re doing a lot of that kind of joint venture work, acquiring other medical office buildings all over the country.”
Alexa admits the financing is often extremely complex and needs the focus and cooperation of both sides in the deal – again a long way from adversarial legal issues that often complicate already complex transactions.
“Unless you’re dealing with a cheat or dishonest person, both sides know where they want to go and you try to get there as efficiently as possible and, yes, it’s sometimes really complicated. Right now I’m doing a sale/lease back where my client is selling five properties to a large organization, which is then going to lease back to them.”
“Lease back is more complex because you’re going to have all the burdens of ownership except you’re not going to own it anymore. These types of deals can get very involved and I have a lot of experience in leasing, so I know what could come up and what’s commercially reasonable to ask for in a large tenant.”
Many of Alexa’s clients have been with her since she first started out as a real estate lawyer – they both grew up with each other, so to speak. As a result, “you care what happens to them. You should always care what happens to clients. Sometimes you care more about the people you’ve worked with for so long.”
But it’s not always been easy for Alexa and during the economic crash of 2008 her legal work fell off a cliff as the subprime mortgage crisis hit the real estate sector: “I became a partner at the end of 2006 and suddenly in 2008 work just disappeared. I had nothing to do. I may have been a partner, but that doesn’t really matter if the work isn’t there. You’ll still risk losing your job.”
“My husband was great. When I would go home I’d say there’s just nothing to do and he would say to me, ‘if your next pay check depends on there being something for you to do, you’d have something to do’. That was very good for me. It really motivated me to work hard and succeed.”
When Alexa is not rubbing shoulders with Indiana’s top real estate investors, she prefers to have a quiet time with her family. Travel is important to her and her favourite destination is Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she can really take it easy away from work.
“Time spent with the family is important to me and we love to travel. We go to Florida most years – we can relax there and get away from it all.”
“Real estate interests people because everybody’s got to live and work somewhere. Combine that with working hard and you meet great, very decent people along the way.”
Meanwhile, back in the office Alexa will still be on top of her game as one of the premier property lawyers in Indianapolis. “Real estate interests people because everybody’s got to live and work somewhere. Combine that with working hard and you meet great, very decent people along the way. I like the people I meet, and I enjoy working with my clients. Sounds silly, but a lot of this work is actually fun to do.”