Here from the start.


Our team leader Thor Hearne is a pioneer in this area of the law. More than 20 years ago, Thor began representing a small municipality in St. Louis in a property dispute. His vigorous work and dedication led to a victory in one of the country's first rails-to-trails cases, Grantwood Village v. United States.

With the support of a team of attorneys, paralegals, and staff, Thor has helped Arent Fox become a preeminent authority in rails to trails cases and the firm now boasts an enviable track record when representing clients in claims against the federal government.

Every penny counts.


Some firms file lots of Trails Act cases, only to sell their clients short and recover only a fraction of what a court would order the government to pay. This enables other firms to “churn” through more cases. We have a different strategy: fighting for each landowner to make sure they get every penny they are entitled to.

We value the importance of property rights and understand the negative impact a rail-to-trail conversion has on landowners. If we know that the government's offer is not adequate, we will go to every length to make sure landowners are fully compensated. We are not afraid to go to trial to make sure you are fairly paid. And in cases where Arent Fox has gone "head to head" with representing different groups of landowners along the same rail-trail conversion, Arent Fox consistently recovers more money than the other law firm.

We don’t just know the law. We created it.


Given our focus on the quality of work, not the quantity of cases, we have spent much of our career pioneering this area of law.

We essentially “wrote the book” on rails to trails compensation, publishing the leading law-review article in this area that has been repeatedly cited by courts and attorneys.

We have won more decisions and more successful trials and appeals on behalf of landowners than any other firm. And we are often called on to help landowners in other cases to vindicate their rights before the United States Supreme Court, including in PPL Montana, Inc. v. State of Montana and Brandt v. US.

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    Frequently Asked Questions


    Why did you contact me?

    • You have a potential claim against the federal government for a taking of your property for a rail-trail conversion.

    What is a rail-trail conversion?

    • Under the Trails Act, an abandoned railroad corridor can be converted into a public trail.

    Why do I have a claim against the federal government?

    • Under state law, the property under the abandoned corridor was likely yours. But the federal law prevented you from regaining this state law right and allowed a third party to acquire the property for a trail.

    Is this legal?

    • Yes, in 1990 the U.S. Supreme Court said a Trails Act taking is constitutional, but the federal government must pay you for the taking pursuant to the Fifth Amendment.

    Why didn't the federal government contact me?

    • Under this law, there is no duty for the government to contact landowners and advise them of the taking. The government does not have to compensate landowners unless and until they file a claim.

    Why should I hire you to file my claim?

    • We are simply the most experienced and successful attorneys in this area of law. With a combined total of more than 50 years of experience and more than $50 million in recoveries, we can be relied upon to give the highest level of quality in your representation.

    What if I don't make a claim for compensation?

    • If you don't file a claim, you will not be paid. You must affirmatively "opt-in."

    How do I make a claim?

    • All you need to do is sign an engagement letter that will allow us to represent you. We will do the rest.

    How much will I be paid?

    • Your award is based on the value of your property and the effect of the rail-trail conversion.

    When will I be paid?

    • It will depend on the government's ability to quickly resolve this case. Typically, these cases take around two years.

    What are your legal fees and expenses?

    • We charge a contingency fee. If we win and you are paid, our maximum fee is one-third of your total recovery. If we lose and you are not paid, you owe us nothing.

    How do I get started?

    • Call us today at 314.296.4000.

    Ready to Hit the Ground Running? Contact Us Today to Get Started.

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    Smart In Your World

    Arent Fox is proud of its reputation for understanding our clients’ business, their industry, and their world.


    Arent Fox LLP, founded in 1942, is internationally recognized in core practice areas where business and government intersect. As a result of guiding principles centered on first-rate legal work and exceptional service, the firm has earned its reputation for providing clients with the counsel they need to meet critical challenges in their “world.”

    Complex problems require interdisciplinary solutions and should be approached with a practical perspective and managed with maximum efficiency. With offices in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, Arent Fox provides strategic legal counsel to clients that range from Fortune 500 corporations and start-ups, to trade associations and foreign governments.

    Our practice breadth, geographical reach, and industry knowledge combine to provide clients with business-oriented legal advice designed to ensure they achieve their commercial goals. Through decades of service, our attorneys have understood that hard work and talent are just a starting point for being considered a premier law firm, a distinction that Arent Fox has earned from The American Lawyer, Chambers USA, and Legal 500.

    As one of the most diverse general practice law firms in the country, Arent Fox has roots in government service, a focus on legal excellence, and a commitment to the administration of justice stretching back 75 years. Our lawyers have consistently distinguished themselves as leaders in pro bono representation, while many continue to play prominent roles in public service.


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