CRE Midwest

Ted Yi: A Man You Can Count On

Ted Yi

In an interview with Illinois Real Estate Journal, find out why Ted Yi has remained in the business for more than 30 years.

Ted Yi got into the business in 1983, having finished law school in 1982. His initial interest was in health care, but there were no suitable opportunities in that direction before the chance to enter real estate law presented itself, and he quickly became intrigued by that area as well.

“I was offered work in home foreclosures for a local suburban savings & loan, and I took the assignment,” Yi said, now Partner / Chicago Office Co-Managing Partner, at Quarles & Brady. “About a year later, I was offered a job at what is now Ungaretti & Harris, and once there, I really got started in commercial real estate law, mostly on the lender side, doing commercial loan deals.”

Yi simply enjoys being in the real estate industry — the challenges, the people, the work itself. All major reasons why he’s remained in it after all of this time.

“On a visceral level, I love to see the tangible results of my work, such as a hospital or a skyscraper, right there in front of me. Other areas of law tend to produce fairly abstract results, but bricks & mortar are as real as it gets. Everybody needs real estate on one level or another, and it’s fun to help builders, owners, and users give form and substance to those needs.”

He also enjoys that the real estate market is cyclical, “I’ve worked through three or four cycles over the course of my career, and each point along the cycle brings its own challenges and opportunities for commercial projects. It stays fresh.”

Yi said that he has a bunch of mentors— and it would be difficult to adequately name them all—but at Quarles & Brady, Chairman Emeritus John Daniels is right up there!

“He’s a highly accomplished real estate attorney himself, as well as a member of the firm’s senior management, so he’s accomplished many great things for both the firm, and its clients, while helping prepare me for my own firm management responsibilities. Former Chicago Office Managing Partner Peter Sarasek is another prominent attorney in the field who has taught me great deal, as I now occupy very much the same position that he did.”

At Yi’s former firm, DLA Piper, he benefitted from Chuck Edwards, Portia Morrison, and Kevin Garvey, “All of whom taught me so much about my area of practice and prepared me for the full responsibilities of partnership at a large law firm. And early in my career, I was mentored to great effect by Rich Ungaretti, who was my first boss in commercial real estate and taught me the trade, while he remained ever thoughtful and instructive about my career path.”

With having so many mentors, Yi has surely picked up a ton of advice over his more than 30-year successful career! The biggest lesson he’s learned is that, “People need to know that you are someone who clearly says what they will do, and who does what they say. When you make a commitment, following through on it is essential, and that’s nowhere more apparent to me than in this field. The basic ability to count on you is as important as anything you know about the law.”

Quarles & Brady has a national real estate practice, with high-end practitioners, providing services at the top level of the profession while working hard to offer more value to our clients—A few things that Yi said sets his company apart from the rest.

“We’re an elite real estate practice, yet as a firm we’ve embraced the notion that superlative legal services are only the baseline, and we need to go well beyond providing top-notch legal advice to stay at the top.”

He continued, “We’re fully plugged into the commercial real estate industry and understand our clients’ goals and needs to a degree well beyond land and construction, which makes for more interesting partnerships with them: Rather than simply helping them with their specific real estate needs, we’re fully invested in their plans and strategies. Within that environment, we find our relationships with them quite stimulating and productive.”

Recently, Quarles & Brady has been working with William Blair in connection with their new office at 150 N. Riverside. The company also recently represented Wintrust in their headquarters lease at 231 S. LaSalle.

Right now Yi is working with Northwestern and Sinai Hospitals, which he finds very interesting and satisfying.

“I very much enjoy doing my little bit to support the missions of those health care providers,” he said. “There’s a lot going on in the health care industry, technologically and in response to the fast-evolving health care environment in America. Helping them achieve their goals and remain flexible with respect to future developments is a fascinating experience.”

After closing so many deals, one of his most memorable is when he helped lead a team that provided legal services in connection with relocating Boeing’s headquarters from Seattle to Chicago.

“There aren’t many projects larger or more intense than that,” Yi noted. “The timeframe for completing the deal was very short, considering the size of the transaction. There was also a competitive aspect to it: Boeing was considering not just Chicago but Dallas and Denver as potential sites for their new HQ, and within each of those cities they identified multiple locations for their headquarters. Boeing did a great job of creating momentum and a competitive spirit among the contenders for the deal, which was really exciting and unusual.”

Yi is also very excited about the growth of the Quarles & Brady Chicago office! It’s been very carefully planned, and part of the reason he was recruited by the firm was to help with the execution of that plan.

“We’ve recently added a health care component that we did not previously have in Chicago (although the firm itself has had a major health care practice for a long time). The real estate practice is growing quickly, and we’ve also expanded the firm’s IP practice in the last few years, bringing it to Chicago as well. It’s very smart growth, and as one of the office’s two managing partners, it’s gratifying to be a part of it all.”

When Yi isn’t working, he spends a lot of time working with youth.

“I’m a Sunday School teacher and a Boy Scouts leader. I enjoy camping and hiking with the Scouts — I think boys respond and learn more quickly when they’re outside, physically experiencing the world around them.”

Football season is well underway, and with being a Chicago native it’s no surprise that he’s obviously a Bears fan!

“I was born and raised in Chicago, so I’m obviously a Bears fan. Aren’t all right-thinking Americans, anyway? I’m an even bigger White Sox fan, and I also enjoy following the Blackhawks and the Bulls.”