Charlottean Brent Torstrick is this year’s recipient of the William Thorp Pro Bono Service Award by the North Carolina Bar Association, the trade group for the state’s lawyers. It recognizes someone who has provided substantial legal services without charging a client who could otherwise not afford counsel. His recent work included helping the Council for Children’s Rights convert vacant land into income and guiding the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte as it renovated its main center near downtown Charlotte. “On behalf of the nearly 2,000 men who will spend the night in our shelter this year, we are deeply grateful for Brent’s generosity,” says Men’s Shelter Executive Director Liz Clasen-Kelly.
At the Robinson Bradshaw law firm, Torstrick’s commercial estate practice includes planning, development, leasing, financing and disposition of shopping centers and condominium projects. He received his law degree from the University of Virginia after graduating summa cum laude from Duke University.
How long have you practiced real estate law?
I have spent my whole career (35 years) at Robinson Bradshaw. While I handled a variety of legal matters during my first few years, I have specialized in commercial real estate since the mid-1980s.
What were the key challenges/obstacles related to the Men’s Shelter renovation on North Tryon?
The primary challenges on the Men’s Shelter project were coordinating the timing and the diverse requirements of four different funding streams: a conventional bank loan along with direct grants (or long-term zero interest loans) from city, state and federal agencies. Although the dollar amounts of each loan and grant were smaller than I usually handle, the closing checklists were not any shorter.
How does one convert undevelopable lots into real income for the Council for Children’s Rights?
The CFCR was contacted last year by a developer who had completed construction of a residential subdivision in suburban Charlotte, but was left with four lots that were not buildable because they did not perk and public sewer was some years away. In order to close out its books, it offered to donate the lots to the CFCR, and with the help of a local broker (who also donated his services), we were able to sell the lots to neighboring homeowners interested in doubling the size of their lots.
Have you worked for other nonprofits on similar projects over the years?
Throughout my legal career, I have tried to identify ways to use my legal skills for the benefit of nonprofit institutions with real estate needs. Nonprofits, like any other entities, often need to buy, sell, develop or refinance real property. Over the years I have represented numerous churches, educational institutions, community development corporations and social service agencies in diverse real estate matters.
How does this kind of work contrast with your traditional daily workload?
There is virtually no substantive difference between my real estate work for pro bono and paying clients. However, there is a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that flows from knowing that I am helping pro bono clients serve their worthwhile missions. And, of course their gratitude fuels my desire to serve.