Mike Thornton is a commercial real estate lawyer with extensive experience representing owners and developers of retail, office, multifamily and hotel properties. Mike co-leads the Real Estate Development practice group at Smith Anderson. His practice consists of a broad range of real estate matters, including finance, leasing and joint ventures. 

Areas of Focus



  • Chambers USA: America’s Leading Business Lawyers, Real Estate (2016-2024)
  • The Best Lawyers in America®, Real Estate Law (2010-2024)
  • Business North Carolina Legal Elite, Real Estate 


  • Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., cum laude, 1994
  • University of North Carolina, B.A., with honors, 1991


  • International Council of Shopping Centers, Member & Board of Editors, The Retail Law Strategist
  • Midtown Raleigh Alliance, Executive Committee & Board of Directors
  • Wake County Real Property Lawyers Association, (President, 2001)
  • LEED Accredited Professional


  • Represents publicly traded-REITs and institutional owners of shopping center and mall portfolios on a national basis for acquisitions & dispositions, leasing and financing matters.
  • Represented an owner of 300,000 square-foot office tower in sale and retention of ownership stake through implementation of new joint venture structure.
  • Formation of condominium ownership structure for mixed-use retail and residential building in connection with the sale of 409 apartment units.
  • Represented a hotel management company in the disposition of a multistate portfolio of twenty hotels valued at over $350 million.
  • Represented a developer of a residential leasehold condominium project within a community of commercial and governmental research facilities located on a state university campus.
  • Represented a municipality in connection with the long-term ground leasing of town-owned property to a private developer for mixed use retail and residential development incorporating public open space for art and cultural events.
  • Represented developers in successful rezoning cases involving a 179-acre mixed-use development, including retail, office, residential and hotel uses, and a mixed-use in-fill development located on eleven acres.
  • Represented a global solid state LED lighting and semiconductor manufacturing company in connection with the real estate aspects of its announced agreement for its $850 million sale of assets to a publicly traded German semiconductor company. The transaction was terminated before completion due to regulatory considerations.



Publications & Alerts

Flexibility and Financial Security: Retail Leasing in 2009 and Beyond, Retail Law Strategist - Volume 9, Issue 7, September  2009

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