For Suzan Kedron, tenacity is the key to success as a land use lawyer. It’s the quality that defines her career and distinguishes her to clients, who know they can count on Suzan to see a project through to completion no matter what obstacles may arise.
And plenty of obstacles can arise when it comes to land use and zoning rules, which are complicated, vary by municipality, and have the potential to make or break a project. Suzan helps her clients negotiate these complexities and develop smart strategies for commercial and residential development. In addition to all matters related to planning and zoning, the members of the Land Use group at Jackson Walker have expertise in economic development incentives, tax increment financing, and affordable housing initiatives. Suzan’s comprehensive experience enables her to guide clients through every step of the development process.
“We take their ideas and provide the legal framework that will enable their development to succeed,” she says. “Sometimes, the design needs to fit the existing ordinances, and sometimes we may need to seek a code change or zoning change; it’s just a matter of what’s most efficient for the client.”
Suzan’s background in architecture provides an added advantage to clients. After receiving her B.A. in architecture from Columbia University, she worked at an architectural firm for two years. There she realized that she was drawn to the legal side of the profession. Suzan took night classes at South Texas College of Law while working at a Houston law firm and raising her young son as a single parent; yet she still managed to finish the program in three years. She subsequently passed both the Texas and New York bar exams concurrently, attaining a score high enough to be admitted by waiver to D.C. as well.
Today, Suzan brings the same level of commitment that she demonstrated in law school to her client’s projects. And because successful planning often involves design choices, Suzan’s architectural savvy enables her to anticipate issues that may arise and provide practical, effective solutions that remain true to the client’s vision.
“You have to be proactive. Every project that comes in, you have to go after it as if it were your own. That’s how we create value for our clients.”
– Suzan Kedron
While understanding the technical elements of a real estate project is crucial, the ability to forge strong relationships with key decision-makers is also important, especially in Texas, where most planning and zoning decisions are made at the local level. Suzan addresses this challenge by taking time to build relationships with staff members at the agencies with which her clients do business. Her persistence keeps her clients’ projects on track even amid the turnover of councils, boards and commissions that often comes with municipal elections.
“You can’t wait for someone to call you back; you can’t wait for someone to like your project,” she says. “You have to be proactive. Every project that comes in, you have to go after it as if it were your own. That’s how we create value for our clients.”
That sense of personal ownership in each project has earned Suzan the trust of clients in matters large and small. In one recent example, Suzan represented a financial company completing a major store rollout in Texas. Realizing that a proposed ordinance change in Dallas could hamper the project, Suzan advised the client to focus on getting plans for its Dallas locations approved before moving on to other cities. The strategy enabled the company to avoid costly delays. “For developers, time is money,” Suzan says. “By being responsive and efficient, we can help them get through the process quickly and keep their projects moving forward.”
In some cases, perseverance means helping clients find creative solutions to development challenges. For example, Suzan was part of a team that helped to identify alternative income streams for downtown Dallas properties. The outcome involved changing city ordinances to create a new value stream for the landlord, tenant and city.
Suzan’s dedication extends to her community involvement as well. She is heavily involved with the Real Estate Council, and in particular, its Associate Leadership Council program. She also serves on the board of directors for the Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, a cause that is close to her heart. “I support that organization personally and professionally because I think their mission is important,” she says. “At the end of the day, we all care about our home. Whether it cost $10,000 or $10 million, for most of the population, it’s their greatest asset.”
Suzan is also active in Jackson Walker Women (JW2), Jackson Walker’s women’s initiative, and serves on the Firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Diversity is an asset to everyone, Suzan believes. “Being able to relate to different types of people makes me more effective at what I do,” she says. “It enables me to say, ‘I share your concerns, now let’s see how I can help you achieve your goals.'”
Suzan’s clients know that she won’t rest until their goals have been attained. That’s the power of persistence.