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A Better Partnership

James J. Rabaut

Partner | Email

  • Grand Rapids

    t. +1.616.752.2178

    f. +1.616.752.2500

    m. +1.616.460.9324


Jim Rabaut practices in all areas of real estate law, including commercial construction projects, commercial lease negotiations, easements, economic incentives, commercial real estate sales and acquisitions, and business condominiums. Jim helps manage real estate purchase and lease agreements as well as site location, zoning and permitting issues, including those associated with wind and solar energy facilities, biofuel producers and other forms of energy development. He is the two time former chair of the firm's Real Estate Services Group.


  • University of Michigan Law School J.D. 1990 cum laude
  • University of Michigan B.A. 1987 with high distinction


  • 1990, Michigan

Bar Associations

  • American Bar Association
    Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section
  • State Bar of Michigan
    Real Property Section
  • Grand Rapids Bar Association
    Real Property Section, Chair (2000-02), Executive Committee (1998-02), Vice Chair (1999); Publications Committee (1998-99)

Teaching and Lecturing

  • Guest lecturer (Business Law), Aquinas College (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006)
  • Adjunct Professor (Real Estate Law), Grand Rapids Community College (1996, 1997)


  • Representation of a Michigan company in acquisition and development projects for manufacturing and warehouses
  • Representation of a public university in the acquisition and development of real estate for a new business school center
  • Representation of a developer in the assembling and developing of real estate for a large medical office and retail complex
  • Representation of a large religious organization on all real estate matters, including all construction documentation, all acquisitions and dispositions of real estate and the development of a large office and retail complex
  • Representation of a developer of a seven-tier parking structure with respect to the acquisition of project property, construction documentation, construction issues, financing and zoning issues
  • All acquisition, development, construction documentation, financing and lease work associated with a major retail development project
  • Representation of a major regional retail entity in store leasing and licensing agreements, bank and ATM licenses and subleases
  • Representation of a major Grand Rapids real estate developer in acquisition, zoning and leasing activity
  • Creation of a complex business condominium with multiple owners in a single existing building
  • All legal work associated with the creation of a private burial ground in Michigan
  • Detailed review and analysis of all real estate holdings of several bank holding companies associated with acquisition by a client bank
  • Negotiation of complex easement transaction with municipality involving joint use of adjacent facilities
  • Negotiation of sophisticated development agreement with municipality for a complex mixed-use project
  • Preparation and negotiation of a complicated lease agreement between a professional hockey team and a separately-owned municipal arena authority
  • Representation of a developer in the acquisition and development of properties used for a golf course and associated residential project
  • Representation of a major Michigan telecommunications provider in its acquisition, financing and leasing activity

Honors & Awards

  • A Lawyer Helps Pro Bono Honor Roll, State Bar of Michigan, Tier 1, 2021
  • Top Lawyer in Construction Law (2021) and Real Estate Law (2020-21), Grand Rapids Magazine
  • Client Choice Award Winner (2016)
  • Best Lawyers in America, Real Estate Law, 2009-Present
  • Michigan Super Lawyers, 2006, 2010-16
  • AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell
  • Leading Lawyers Michigan, 2014



  • Issues to Consider When Starting a Construction Project, Grand Rapids Business Journal, 8/2/2013
  • "Lien Law Gives Brokers Ability to Collect Earned Commissions," Grand Rapids Business Journal, 2/7/2011
  • "Division and Redivision:  New Options Under the Land Division Act," MiBiz, 2007
  • "Top Court Clarifies Land Division Issue," The Commercial Real Estate Quarterly, 2004
  • "Please Sign on the Dotted Line," Michigan's New Notary Act, 2004
  • "How to Keep a Roof Over Your Head Without Losing Your Shirt," Next Course, 2003
  • "Real Property Reassessment--Know the Rules," The Commercial Real Estate Quarterly, 2002
  • Real Estate Alert, Grand Rapids Bar Association, 1999
  • "Annual Survey of Michigan Real Estate Law," Wayne State Law Review (co-author with John G. Cameron, Jr.), Winter 1994


Professional Affiliations

  • Warner Norcross + Judd LLP
    Management Committee (2014-16) (2008-10); Real Estate Services Group Chair (2016-18) (2004-09); Recruiting Committee (1991-01); Recruiting Committee Chair (1998-01); Nominating and Evaluation Committee (2001-03, 2004-06 and 2011-14); Compensation Committee (1998-01)
  • TerraLex (an international legal referral network)
    North American-Regional Vice Chair of the Real Estate Group (2009)

Community Affiliations

  • Aquinas College
    Board of Trustees (2016-Present)
  • St. Paul The Apostle School Board
    Vice President (2008-09); Member (2002-09)

Speaking Engagements

  • Presenter: Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors; "Land Division Act" (2014)
  • Presenter: Grand Rapids Bar Association Real Property Section; "Land Division Act" (2014)
  • ICLE Presentations
    • Title To Michigan Real Property
    • Handling the Residential Real Estate Closing
    • Anticipating and Avoiding Closing Problems
  • Presenter: "Michigan Construction Liens: Laws and Documentation" (2009)
  • Synergy Conference (2006, 2007, 2008)
  • Lecturer: PES-Michigan Title Insurance (1995)

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