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Karen Cohen

Karen Cohen is a member of the firm’s Real Estate and Land UseArchitecture, Engineering and Construction Law, and Business Transactions practices. Karen focuses her practice on the commercial real estate industry representing developers, individuals, and businesses in land purchases and sales, due diligence, zoning analysis, the entitlement process, commercial leasing, and the preparation of deeds, easements and covenants. Karen also advises clients in connection with litigation involving real estate contracts, land use and zoning and environmental issues, construction disputes, commercial leasing disputes, and business and financing disputes. Her experience includes a prior career in architecture and a master’s degree in Real Estate Development.  Karen’s understanding of the business and financial aspects of real estate development gives her a practical perspective that has enabled her to advocate for her clients’ interests and protect their investments.

With a practice based in Northern Virginia, Karen has worked with clients seeking zoning advice, zoning determinations, rezonings, special use permits, and sign permits in Prince William County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Town of Purcellville, City of Fredericksburg and Henrico County. Karen has negotiated and drafted complex agreements for real estate development joint ventures, including operating agreements, tenant-in-common agreements, management agreements, lot take-down agreements, and other contracts related to the development and financing of commercial property, including promissory notes and deeds of trust.  Karen has extensive experience drafting and negotiating commercial leases for retail, industrial and office properties for both landlords and tenants in a variety of industries, including a regional health system, physicians, restaurants, contractors, retailers, and trade associations.

Karen is Secretary of the Virginia State Bar Real Property Section and co-chair of the section’s Land Use and Environmental Committee, a member of the Section’s Board of Governors, chair of the  NAIOP Government Relations Prince William Subcommittee, and active with NAIOP Northern Virginia, the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association (NVBIA), Virginia Women Attorneys Association (VWAA), and was the Founding Director of the George Mason University School of Business Real Estate Development Industry Group.  Karen also serves on the Board of Directors for Legal Services of Northern Virginia and serves on LSNV’s Racial Justice Committee.

Karen received her Juris Doctorate magna cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center and clerked for the Honorable Leonie M. Brinkema in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  She earned her Master of Science in Real Estate Development from George Mason University, graduating first in her class. She also received her Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Virginia.

Karen lives in Prince William County with her husband and three children.

Representative Matters

  • Land Use/Environmental Litigation:  Represented manufacturer in land use dispute brought by citizens. Represented commercial property owner in defense of environmental claims brought in federal court.
  • Construction Dispute: Represented subcontractor in dispute with contractor and claim against surety. Represented business owner in dispute with contractor over completion of commercial tenant space.
  • Commercial Lease Dispute: Represented business owner in dispute with commercial landlord.
  • Business Dispute: Counseled business owners in connection with potential claims for tortious interference and defamation.
  • Title Insurance Claim: Represented flex building owner in mediation involving claim against title insurance company regarding insurer’s failure to identify federal easement that restricted owner’s land use.
  • DPOR Hearing: Representation of general contractor in DPOR hearing, avoiding licensure penalty and obtaining a substantial reduction in fines.
  • Zoning and Land Use:  Provided zoning analysis in connection with various clients’ potential purchase of land for commercial and industrial uses, including evaluation of property within data center opportunity zone in Prince William County, and represented developers and landowners in connection with rezoning and special use permits, sign permits and subdivision approvals.
  • Mixed Use Rezoning:  Represented developer in connection with application for mixed-use rezoning.
  • Easements/Site Plans: Represented commercial property owner in connection with easement acquisition agreement and filing of site plan.
  • Special Use Permits: Represented healthcare facility in connection with obtaining special use permit for an additional building-mounted sign.
  • Real Estate Purchase & Sale: Represented buyers and sellers in commercial real estate transactions, including physician group in connection with commercial condominium purchase.
  • Reciprocal Easements: Represented regional shopping mall owner in connection with subdivision and sale of mall parcel and drafted and negotiated complex reciprocal easement and operating agreement in connection with sale.
  • Restrictive Covenants & Farm Winery Law: Analysis of zoning and restrictive covenant issues in defending operator of farm winery in land use litigation brought by homeowners to prevent operation of winery on historic property
  • Religious Institution: Represented religious institution in connection with special permit amendment for “church with school” zoning classification in Fairfax County.
  • Municipal: Advised municipalities in connection with various zoning and land use matters including Virginia’s new proffer legislation; sign ordinances after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert; the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), federal constitutional issues in connection with zoning ordinances pertaining to certain land uses; and preparation of performance and bonding agreements.
  • Commercial Leases: Representation of landlords and tenants in shopping center, office, and industrial leases, including medical building leases for non-profit integrated health system and urgent care facilities, government contractors, professional service firms and retail establishments.

Speaking Engagements

  • COVID-19 Government Relations: Federal, State and Local – Commercial Real Estate Development Association Webinar, NAIOP, May 5, 2020
  • Land Use and Zoning from Start to Finish: A Practical Guide to Land Use and Zoning Approvals and Issues, National Business Institute, September 10, 2019
  • 22nd Annual Advanced Real Estate Seminar, Lurking in the Weeds – Advanced Covenant Issues
  • Prince William Chamber of Commerce, Powerful Partnerships 2017 Conference
  • Virginia Association of Zoning Officials (Proffer Legislation, RLUIPA, Sign Ordinances)


  • Lay of the Land (Land Use Law Blog Series, 2020)
  • Contributor, Dewberry Land Development Handbook Series (4th ed. 2019)
  • Co-Author, Finding Common Ground on Proffer Reform (The Fee Simple, Nov. 2018)

Honors and Awards

  • 2019 AV Preeminent Peer Rated, Martindale-Hubbell®
  • 2019 Influential Women of Law Award, Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly
  • 2020 – 2018 Virginia Legal Elite – Real Estate/Land Use, Virginia Business
  • Prominent Patriot, George Mason University School of Business