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Opportunity Zones, Marijuana-Related Properties and Retail Assets Among Best CRE Bets for HNW Investors in 2019

Commercial Real Estate: Shannon Lee

As general counsel, corporate secretary and chief operating officer of D.C.-based real estate investor Fundrise, Bjorn Hall has conquered new territory by successfully using online crowdfunding to raise funds for real estate.

Hall helped write some of the rules on the process, working with Fundrise and the Securities and Exchange Commission to create a legal framework to allow this form of investing. Hundreds of companies nationwide now follow that framework. But Fundrise wasn’t done — it shifted gears and began raising its largest fund ever, a $500 million pot for communities in the federal “opportunity zones” program, or economically distressed areas where investors can put in money in return for lower or eliminated capital gains taxes.

Hall currently manages the legal interests and compliance for nine public funds totaling $426 million of equity raised by 50,000-plus investors and helping back an overall $2.2 billion worth of real estate, including apartment complexes near Fort Belvoir. And add to that? The company just celebrated ranking at No. 35 for Inc.’s top 5000 fastest-growing private companies in the country, with a total $14.7 million in revenue last year.

How did you find your career path? By chance, because I wanted to work abroad and Georgetown has a great foreign placement program. I interned with the chief counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s office in Moscow, and I really enjoyed how securities law works.

What do you love most about your work? It is never boring. I get to have my hand in things that an attorney in private practice would never get to touch. I get to do the legal work, then see how it directly affects the companies I do work for.

What was a pivotal moment in your career? I was outside securities counsel that came in-house after working on a really cool project where I got to know the company well. After legislation was passed to modernize securities law, it was an opportunity to be at the leading edge of legislation.

What drives you? Innovation. Being at the forefront of how these rules are working on a daily basis.

What’s a risk that resulted in success for you? Our company was the first to work on Regulation B law and file under the new regulations. We unleashed an entire regulatory regime, and we didn’t know how it was going to work. We became a leader in utilizing exemptions and started changing forms. Now every company has followed that.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from a mentor? The venerable Rob Plesnarski, deputy chief counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission, introduced the idea of practicing law to give clients what they want and thinking of creative ways to give them advice. “Don’t say no. Say ‘no, but.’”

What are you most proud of? I am so proud of where this company is now. We’ve aggressively grown a company while being under constant regulatory review.

What do you do in your free time? The vast majority of my free time is taken up with my daughter’s youth sports.

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