Adam M. Miller has established his firm as a preeminent real estate and land planning practice in the Hamptons. This spring, Denise R. Schoen joined him as a partner, bringing her 25 years of expertise in complex land use, zoning matters and real estate transactions to the 15-year-old firm.
Since 2007, Miller has acted as counsel on more than $4.5 billion in real estate transactions on the East End, representing and advising clients in acquisitions, planning, zoning, financing, sales and leasing of residential and commercial properties. With inventory dwindling, homeowners are looking instead to enhance their home and properties and Schoen’s foothold in this area only further cements the Adam Miller Group as a go-to firm.
“Because the inventory has shrunk, as we all know, out here over the last year, and because people aren’t able necessarily to make a move, like sell their house and buy a new one, they’re now turning to land use as their alternative,” he says. “And by turning to land use, it requires a lot of background because the roadmap needs to be drawn pretty quickly for these clients. It requires management, which Denise has managed her own practice and very significant clients so that’s not new, and it requires people power.”
It’s a perfect fit — Schoen handles the land-use and zoning matters, while Miller remains the lead on his already impressive real estate practice.
Based on Bridgehampton’s Main Street, the Adam Miller Group is centrally located an equal distance from most South Fork hamlets and has opened its business up to brokers and clients throughout the Hamptons. Despite the firm being in demand, Miller feels, “We haven’t even scratched the surface!’
While the two announced their partnership in March, it took time for Schoen to wind down her solo practice, so it really has only been about a month since they were fully up and running. Already, she has been leading the charge on major land-use deals.
The pair’s “silent start,” as Miller put it, began when he moved to the East End from New York City in 2003. “I realized that there were very few attorneys that I could call upon that would give me advice, not looking for something in return,” he says. “Denise was always on the top of that list for me.”
Schoen, an East Hampton native who for the past eight years has practiced alone, “welcomed another good attorney” into the East End legal fold, he says.
“We’ve done lots of deals together over the course of those 20 years,” Schoen says.
Over this past year, Schoen says she decided that being a sole practitioner wasn’t for her anymore. “I really wanted to be in a firm environment with collaborative support — not just for the help, but to talk to people and bounce ideas off of each.”
Schoen says she realized she wanted to focus less on running a business, having to handle payroll and bookkeeping on her own, and instead “focus on being a good lawyer and practicing zoning and planning in a way that I’m not constantly interrupted by the minutia of running a business by myself.”
Schoen first reached out to Miller in January to discuss her next move. The timing was right for Miller and his practice, and Schoen was the right person. “There was no one but Denise that I was going to hire,” he says.
Since joining the firm, Schoen has found a renewed spirit for her work. “I’m happy every day that I come in. I don’t have the stress level I had by myself and I enjoy the work.”
They agree it’s a perfect fit. “As a result of his real estate practice, we end up getting a lot of land-use” cases, Schoen says. “People need the land-use advice before they purchase or after they purchase. So it’s a great symbiotic relationship because one can lead to the other.”
Miller points out that Schoen has a reputation for her keen understanding of the zoning codes and for being on the cusp of every zoning change.
“I feel honored that Denise chose to be here. I mean that because I know that the demand for her services is so great, she really could have picked anywhere to go.”
The two share a vision for a legacy firm that mentors associates, is a resource for the real estate industry and an advocate for the greater community needs.
They also share a large firm background, which Miller says is important for the way they service clients. He had a successful career with the prestigious international firm Proskauer Rose in New York City, and Schoen began her career in the litigation department of Dewey & LeBoeuf in Manhattan.
“That’s something that stood out to me with Denise that she was very service oriented in her practice, and, similarly, I am as well, despite liking to look casual,” he says as they both laugh.
“I always felt that being casual, but giving the highest level of service was kind of the greatest combination of being here,” he says.
“Absolutely,” Schoen chimes in. “It’s one of the benefits of being out here — not having to wear that suit everyday. But, I have the same brain, right? I can still do the same work, but I can wear a sun dress instead of that blue suit.”
While Miller opened up his eponymous firm in 2007, Schoen returned to her hometown in 1999. She became an assistant East Hampton Town attorney representing both the town’s zoning and planning boards.
She later joined Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin and Quartararo, where she continued to work on land use, real estate and zoning law.
In 2004, she joined forces with two other local attorneys, becoming a sought-after land-use expert. By 2013, she ventured out on her own and not only built her private practice but also represented the Village of Sag Harbor, where she has lived with her husband and two children for 25 years.
Schoen’s service to the Sag Harbor community includes being a volunteer member of both the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the Board of Architectural and Historic Preservation. Later, she was hired to represent the village, first as an attorney to regulatory boards and prosecuting code violations in the village justice court, and then became the village attorney in 2021.
Her commitment to the greater community runs deep. For nearly 15 years, she volunteered with the Sag Harbor Village Ambulance Corps as a critical care emergency medical technician. In addition to teaching EMT classes (even while pregnant), she also served as a director on the ambulance corps’ board.
It was her medical expertise that led her to volunteer abroad, as well. She provided emergency medical care to Syrian refugees fleeing to Greece and joined Team Rubicon, a national organization providing disaster response around the globe.
Locally, Schoen is also a director for the Donald E. Reutershan Trust, which provides nearly $100,000 in financial assistance annually to local schools for art programming to celebrate the legacy of a beloved local artist and educator.
“We both feel strongly about the future of this community,” Schoen says. Affordable housing is at the forefront of her mind. She has two daughters, Sara, 19, and Emily, 23, and she is left wondering if they will be able to come back to the South Fork to live. “I felt joining with Adam would give me a platform to work on that.”
Miller, who sits on the East Hampton Town Housing Committee, says, “It’s nice to find someone that feels that same way.”
For Schoen, finding a partner who enjoys running the business end of the legal practice was also a positive. She feels that Miller has a great business sense. He explains he comes from a family of business owners. From a young age, he had a first row seat — usually on the counter by the cash register — as his grandparents and parents ran a women’s shoe store in New Jersey. He picked up on how to run a business, something that is not taught in law school.
He also feels that having been a three-sport captain taught him how to be a leader, which has translated well into business. He has pride in being a business owner.
“We employ eight local people, which to me is probably the most meaningful thing I do,” he says.
The Adam Miller Group also boasts two other associates, Brian Locascio and Haley Willis, both of whom have been practicing a combination of real estate and land use. Miller also says it was an important move to bring Schoen on to mentor them.
“We talked about that for a while,” Schoen adds. “Neither one of us want to leave this practice not having educated the next generation,” by passing along their institutional knowledge. Schoen points to the benefit of having worked with Rick Whalen in the East Hampton Town Attorney’s office, who was instrumental, she says, in making her the lawyer she is today.
Schoen says she has a unique vantage point having worked on land-use deals from both inside and outside municipalities. “I know how to maneuver the cases so that we’re not necessarily upsetting the apple cart within the municipality or vice versa with the client. It’s very difficult when you’ve worked in a municipality and you haven’t been on the outside to understand how your decisions and your actions are actually affecting other people.”
They will continue to look for ways to be a resource for the real estate community. Looking forward, they want to host some continuing legal education classes in the fall.
This article appeared in the June 2022 issue of Behind The Hedges. Read the full digital version of the magazine here.