Honoree: Annie Cheng

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In-house counsel 2023

Vice President – Associate General Counsel
University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Annie Cheng is a real estate lawyer at Hines who across her career has represented real estate companies and private equity firms in buying, selling, financing, and entering joint ventures in connection with properties across various asset classes, including industrial, multifamily (including student housing), self-storage, office, and hospitality.

She was born in Chengdu, China and immigrated to the U.S. at age seven. She grew up in Southern California and became the first “professional” in her family. As a teen, Cheng had wanted to be a corporate attorney after participating on her high school’s mock trial team. But after interning at the Orange County Public Defender’s Office at age 16, she decided she didn’t want to practice criminal law. Instead, after attending the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School for a J.D. - where she graduated cum laude and was senior editor of the Penn Law Review - she decided on real estate law.

Cheng explained, “I saw Superman Returns, a pretty terrible movie that explores land issues. Land is a limited good, and humans cannot create more land unless they’re Lex Luthor or otherwise exorbitantly wealthy.” She realized as long as there is humanity, there will always be transactions involving land and real estate. “That disappointing movie had a big impact on me.”

After graduation, she worked for nearly five years as a real estate associate at Latham & Watkins, before moving to Kirkland in 2017 to help Kevin Ehrhart establish the West Coast real estate practice of Kirkland & Ellis. Cheng was made a partner at Kirkland in 2018, then moved to Hines in September 2021 to take on the role of the firm’s U.S. West Region’s first legal in-house counsel.

It’s been a busy first year at Hines. Cheng has headed the settlement of a years-long lawsuit, helped close several acquisitions, ventures, and financings across the West Region, started the legal intern program in the West Region, and launched a region-wide joint venture database. She also supported crisis management on several unprecedented events in 2022 that will lead to Hines having a stronger crisis management response program going forward.