Five Questions With: Jeffrey Brenner

Nixon Peabody LLP recently appointed Providence partner Jeffrey Brenner to lead the law firm’s newly established construction and real estate litigation division. Brenner is a trial lawyer who represents clients in “complex business disputes,” according to the law firm, in federal and state courts, arbitrations and mediations, as well as before regulatory agencies and municipal boards.

The firm said Brenner, who earned his law degree from the American University Washington College of Law, has also served previously as outside general counsel to several businesses that have a national presence in the construction and real estate development and manufacturing industries.

PBN: What kind of clients have you represented recently in the field of real estate litigation and what kind of conflicts are they facing that require a lawyer like yourself?

BRENNER: I am outside general counsel for several businesses that have a national presence in the construction, real estate development and manufacturing industries. Many of our firm’s clients are interested in developing real estate for commercial, retail, manufacturing, energy and health care uses.

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Sometimes development requires litigation to achieve a client’s objective. Avoiding litigation is often even more important. Utilizing over 30 years of experience in this area, I strive to assist clients to achieve a positive impact for their business and community, whether or not litigation is necessary.

PBN: How have you been able to help these clients in the past to resolve these conflicts, whether in court or otherwise?

BRENNER: I recently obtained a judgment in court for a commercial building owner in a dispute with a tenant that operates a personal training fitness studio, securing substantial compensation for the tenant’s failure to pay rent. I also represent a national pharmacy retailer in multiple real estate lawsuits and disputes in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Recently, I obtained a court judgment to resolve a title issue for an individual client involving a multiple-unit luxury residential building.

I also co-lead Nixon Peabody’s Commercial Leasing Disputes team. This is a group of real estate litigators and transactional attorneys based throughout New England, New York, Chicago, California and Washington, D.C., who frequently advise commercial landlords and tenants concerning leasing disputes. Working together and sharing experiences, we are able to provide our clients with a collaborative approach that can help them avoid litigation altogether.

PBN: What are you most proud of regarding the results from real estate litigation you handle here in Rhode Island?

BRENNER: Litigation can be concluded in less than a year or sometimes can last for many years. Following the conclusion of a lawsuit, many of my litigation clients have hired me to act as their outside general counsel. In this role, I manage their litigation and nonlitigation legal needs, drawing upon the firm’s breadth of resources and experience. These ongoing relationships allow me to assist clients beyond their one-time or infrequent litigation needs.

PBN: How did you develop this specialty in real estate and construction-related litigation? How did you get interested in the topic?

BRENNER: I was appointed to the Barrington Zoning Board when I was 27 years old. During the 12 years that I was on the Zoning Board, before I was elected to the Barrington Town Council for eight years, I observed attorneys, design professionals and contractors representing their clients in developing commercial and residential properties. Creating a positive impact on someone’s real estate and community struck me as something I wanted to focus on as a lawyer.

Also, as a junior associate, I began doing legal work for a local family construction company and learned a tremendous amount about the construction industry from the patriarch of that business. These positive experiences as a young professional paved the way for me to handle construction litigation and real estate disputes involving power plants, pipelines, major commercial buildings, hospitals and high-end residential developments.

PBN: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the construction industry and the property management business and, consequently, your legal work related to those fields?

BRENNER: While litigation in the construction and real estate space has long been a focus area in our firm’s litigation practice, we formally established the construction and real estate litigation practice group in response to the increased and distinct client demand in Rhode Island and nationwide, largely due to challenges related to the pandemic. Supply chain, labor shortages and now energy prices have changed the way businesses conduct themselves and led generally to a more volatile and unpredictable relationship between property owners and their construction industry professionals.

The relationship between commercial landlords and tenants is also evolving to respond to the realities of the pandemic, which has already resulted in commercial properties being repurposed to residential or manufacturing space. Consequently, there has been an uptick in disputes that involve my specialty practice group.

Marc Larocque is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at You may also follow him on Twitter @LaRockPBN.