Bernard Lee, lawyer specializing in real estate law, dies at 71


This story originally appeared in The Philadelphia Tribune

Real estate attorney Bernard Lee died on Sunday, November 7, 2021 after suffering a heart attack last week during a Philadelphia 76ers game. He was 71 years old.

Lee has been a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Real Estate Practice Group since joining the firm in 2009.

The Philadelphia native served two terms as a member of the Cozen O’Connor board of directors and a five-year term as co-chair of the real estate practice group. Lee’s areas of practice included real estate development and financing, mixed-use and mixed-finance projects, construction and architectural contracts, and hotel management, acquisition and development.

Its clients included individual developers and joint venture partners, small and large enterprises, and government and quasi-government entities. He has also represented borrowers in loan reordering, as well as landlords and tenants in lease terminations and settlements.

“Bernard often said that deals only happen if everyone gets something and no one gets everything, and he was widely respected for his ability to build relationships, align interests and achieve consensus. Cozen CEO Michael Heller wrote in a note to colleagues Monday, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

He said Lee’s legal acumen and business judgment have guided many of Philadelphia’s most transformative projects in recent decades, including the development and funding of the Pennsylvania Convention Center; the South Philadelphia Sports Complex; the City of Philadelphia Police Headquarters; and the beginning of the renaissance of the Amtrak 30th Street station area.

Lee was recently a commissioner of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. He is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Real Property Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association and past President of the Lawyers Association.

Lee’s recent volunteer work included representing a church in the acquisition and financing of a building and mediated in the Philadelphia Bar Association tenant-owner program.

He was an active member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and provided legal services to them and was also an active member of the Real Estate Executive Board; a national membership organization of experienced black real estate professionals.

After graduating from Lake Forest College in 1972 and from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1977, Lee joined the real estate department at Wolf Block. He practiced there until the firm closed under financial pressure in 2009, when he was one of 55 Wolf Block lawyers who joined Cozen.

He is survived by: his wife, Kathy, and his two children, Michelle and Michael.

Funeral arrangements are pending.


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