While municipal bond sales are on the rise in New York State, mirroring a nationwide trend on pace to break the $400 billion mark for the first time in five years, bond lawyers taking on this increased work are mostly concentrated in New York City, not Long Island or upstate.
The Empire State was the third largest issuer of bonds in the nation for the first six months of 2015, with $20.9 billion in bonds sold, a 32 percent increase from the first half of last year, according to Thomson Reuters. By July, California, Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania respectively were the biggest issuers, when year-to-year national bond sales were up 43 percent, at $222.5 billion, compared to the first half of 2014, when they were at $154.9 billion.
Paul Reichel, a bond counsel at Bond Schoeneck & King’s Syracuse office, which works with counties, cities, towns, villages school districts throughout the state except Long Island, said attorneys and legal assistants at his firm have been busy with refinancing at low interest rates, the primary drivers of the surge. The firm, which has an office in Garden City (hat is without bond counsel), doesn’t necessarily recruit more attorneys during cycles of greater volume of issuance due to the complexity of the position.
“It takes a long time for a lawyer to become a bond lawyer because it requires knowledge of federal tax law, securities law and municipal law, and those are three pretty narrow fields that most general practitioners wouldn’t have experience with,” Reichel said.
A. Thomas Levin, a municipal attorney with Garden City-based Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, works with bond counsel and represents multiple villages on Long Island, including Rockville Centre, North Hills, Great Neck Estates and Hewlett Bay Park. He said financial institutions look for longstanding law firms that specialize in bond issues and work in strict accordance with the law to gain the full benefits of the federal laws, in particular on taxes and tax exemptions.
“The bond issuers, the lenders, basically want opinions from firms that they know have a history of doing this and are reliable,” he said. “So those are the firms that wind up getting all the work.”