Emily J. Vaias

Of Counsel

Tel 202.661.2239
Fax 202.661.2299
Washington, DC

Emily Vaias is a real estate attorney with over 25 years of experience focused on zoning, land use, and real estate development.

Emily has worked on various projects in the District of Columbia and has guided large, complex, high-profile projects to completion in Montgomery, Prince George's, and Charles Counties in Maryland. She appears before zoning and planning boards and other administrative, legislative, and judicial bodies on behalf of local and national developers, commercial and residential builders, retailers, business owners, and individuals. She helps clients explore financing tools for development projects including tax incentive zones and PILOT agreements, and has worked on industry legislative groups monitoring proposed legislation related to development and Qualified Opportunity Zones.

Emily has worked on a variety of projects, including medical office buildings, hotels, senior housing, and transit-oriented projects. She has experience with mixed-use developments, retail shopping centers, multi-family developments, office complexes, historic building renovations, and single-family housing developments. She has been involved with building industry efforts to redraft Montgomery County’s Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit law and the Stormwater Management law in Prince George’s County.

Emily has been an adjunct professor for more than 15 years in the Edward St. John Real Estate Program at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and is a 1999 Leadership Montgomery graduate. She is past president of the Baltimore Chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women and currently serves as a board member of the Purple Rail Alliance and the Homeless Persons Representation Project. She has served on various other community and professional boards including the Legislative Committee of the Apartment and Office Building Association, the National Capital Trolley Museum, and the Delivery of Legal Services Section Council of the Maryland State Bar Association.

Pro Bono Experience

Emily has been actively involved for nearly 20 years in providing pro bono legal services through the Homeless Persons Representation Project. She helped obtain a special exception from the District of Columbia for a child care center that provides services to homeless families, and is currently preparing an application for a domestic violence emergency shelter. She received the 2001 Maryland Pro Bono Service Award from the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland and the Home Builders Care Foundation’s Tom Sawyer Award in 2010 for pro bono services to the homeless and other at-risk populations. She was honored at the 2012 Annual Gala for Aunt Hattie’s Place, which provides a safe and stable home for abused and neglected children in foster care, for her pro bono work for the organization.

Professional Activities

Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan Implementation Advisory Committee, 2017-present; elected Co-Chair for 2019

Urban Land Institute, Washington District Council, Advisory Board; Regionalism Initiative Council, Planning Committee for Joint Regionalism/Housing Meeting 

Montgomery Housing Partnership, Golf Committee, 2016 and 2017

Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, Legislative Committee, 1994-2013

Commercial Real Estate Women, Washington, D.C., and Suburban Maryland Chapters, 2014-present

Leadership Montgomery, Class of 1999

Maryland College of Art and Design, legal counsel, 1997-2003

Maryland Building Industry Association, 1993-present; Legislative Committee, 2019

Maryland State Bar Association, Delivery of Legal Services Section Council, 2001-2004; Co-Chair, Disaster Relief Committee, Young Lawyers 1998-2000; Co-Chair, Membership Committee, 1996-1998; Sixth Circuit Representative, 1994-1996.

Christmas in April, Montgomery County, legal counsel, 1994-2000

Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, Career Day, 1999; Adopt-A-School Program, 1994-1998

American Planning Association, 1986-2000; Environmental Correspondent, Planning and Law Division Newsletter, 1994-1998

The BWI Partnership, Inc., Ad Hoc Committee on Clean Air, 1993-1996

Maryland Land Use Roundtable

Bar Association of Montgomery County, Golf/Tennis Outing Committee, 1994-1998

District of Columbia Bar Association

Recognition & Accomplishments

Selected for the inaugural edition of the Martindale-Hubbell Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers

Martindale-Hubbell AV Rated; highest possible rating for both legal ability and ethical standards

The Best Lawyers in America, land use and zoning law, 2012-2016, 2018-2021

Legal 500, Land Use and Zoning – Tier 2, 2020

Recipient, 2018 Laura Banks Reed Award for Community Service

Recipient, 2018 Leonard E. Lindquist Award for excellence in providing pro bono legal services to those in need 

Aunt Hattie's Place Honoree, 2012

Recipient, Washington Area Toyota Dealers Tribute to Working Women Award, 2011

Recipient, Home Builders Care Foundation's Tom Sawyer Award, 2010

Recipient, Maryland Pro Bono Service Award, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, 2001

Recipient, Edward F. Shea, Jr., Professionalism Award, Maryland Bar Foundation, 1999

Recipient, Tribute to Women and Industry Award, 1997


"Don't Zone Out," Build Maryland, February 4, 2015

Speaking Engagements

"Mixed-Use Development: Structuring Air Rights Condominiums and Other Common Interest Community Regimes," 2016 and 2017

Board Memberships

Purple Rail Alliance, Inc., Board Member, 2011-present; Secretary, 2015-present

Commercial Real Estate Women, Baltimore Chapter, President, 2000; National Delegate, 2001-2002; Metro Area Task Force, 2006

National Capital Trolley Museum, 2003-2012

Homeless Persons Representation Project, 2015-present; pro bono attorney, 1993-present

University of Maryland School of Law (J.D. 1992)

University of Cincinnati, College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, (Bachelor of Urban Planning, summa cum laude, 1989)

District of Columbia



U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

U.S. Supreme Court