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Jim Walston
Jim Walston has 35 years of professional and industry experience in national commercial real estate. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Attorney brings real estate experience to firm

Name: Jim Walston

Title: Partner, Ballard Spahr’s Minneapolis office

Education: B.A., political science, University of Nebraska; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Ballard Spahr partner Jim Walston has observed contrasting market conditions in commercial real estate during the pandemic, from booming multifamily housing and industrial projects to office space supply far exceeding demand.

Walston has 35 years of professional and industry experience in national commercial real estate. The firm this month named him practice group leader for its Real Estate Development and Transactions Practice Group.

Walston will work with practice group attorneys in 13 offices, managing productivity, strategic planning and practice development. He’ll mentor associate attorneys and recruit lateral candidates.

With work-from-home during the pandemic often proving more efficient, some law firms and other employers have reduced their office space, Walston said. Activity is strong, however, in senior and other multifamily housing and warehouse, manufacturing and other industrial projects.

A devoted fan of the Beatles, Walston has seen Paul McCartney in concert 10 times, met Ringo Starr backstage when the drummer performed in St. Paul, and traveled to Liverpool. Album covers and memorabilia of the Beatles and their solo projects are on display in his basement.

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: I am open to engaging in a conversation with anyone if I think it will be informative, enlightening or for a specific purpose. I prefer to be the one who does most of the listening and not the talking. There is so much to gain in a conversation by listening — it’s more educational!

Q: Why did you go to law school?

A: I was taking a graduate school business law class at the University of Nebraska. The professor looked and sounded like Gregory Peck and spoke with such random recall, command and confidence without following a syllabus or an outline. The class was always in awe of him. He had a big impact on my career thoughts and provided insights as to how the law and business should necessarily relate to one another and how the law is to support the predictability for business transactions and such. I thought, “Wow, I think I could do this.” I immediately applied for law school admission. I didn’t even tell my parents until I got accepted at William Mitchell.

Q: What books are you reading?

A: At any time, I am reading history books about 19th century to early 20th century Western Europe.

Q: What’s your pet peeve?

A: When people say they’re going to do something and don’t do it.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: Getting to know people. Here’s my Beatles fandom angle that provides a little color to my answer: The opening lyrics of the song, Penny Lane.” “In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs — of every head he’s had the pleasure to know…” I know it’s a stretch, but I can relate to that sentiment of the routine pleasure of getting to know people. While I do not have photographs of my clients (trust me) I truly have and have had the pleasure and privilege of working with thousands of clients and colleagues over the years.

Q: Least favorite?

A: The never-ending computer screen time.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: We used to travel a lot, but that has dried up due to COVID. As of late, my activities are centered around home. Work projects, gardening, golf and being with the family. It’s pretty low-key for now.

Q: Legal figure you most admire?

A: Abraham Lincoln. He started out with nothing, and look at his impact on the world.

Q: Misconception that others have about your work as an attorney?

A: That the job is glamorous.  A common question posed goes something like this: “What do you do all day long?” My answer: “Paperwork, lots of paperwork!”

Q: Favorite book, movie or TV show about lawyers?

A: No question about that one: “Perry Mason” — hands down. I know it’s more than 60 years old, but Perry is tops to me.


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