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Biographical Information

Neil C. Johnston (Sr.) has practiced law with Hand Arendall Harrison Sale LLC since 1978, is a Member in the Mobile, Alabama law offices, and the Real Estate, Land Use and Timber Practice Group (Past Practice Group Leader). Neil is a 1975 graduate of Southwestern at Memphis (Rhodes College) (B.A. in Economics and Urban Studies), attended University College, Oxford University in 1973 (Oxford, England), and the University of Alabama School of Law (1978). Neil works with clients regarding permitting and other legal and practical solutions regarding general real estate, development, surface and subsurface uses, and coastal, riparian and submerged land issues affecting ownership, use, development and redevelopment.

Water, wetlands, stormwater, oysters, endangered species, timber, turkeys, cultural resources, cane poles and crickets are constant companions . . . as well as sUAVs.

Projects have included permitting and compliance for multi use residential/commercial/conservation projects along the Gulf Coast, Mobile Bay and many of the rivers, creeks, watersheds, and floodplains throughout Alabama, in addition to golf courses, pipelines and other linear projects, entertainment complexes, timberland, water use and supply, sand and gravel, and coal as well as oil and gas developments.

Neil holds certificates from Wetland Resources for Wetlands Delineation and Identification; Wetland Rapid Assessment Procedure workshops; has held a Stormwater Qualified Credentialed Inspector Certificate 2007—2012 and 2013—2017, QCI # T0751; and is a 2017 certified Professional Logging Manager, Certificate # 109641.

Neil is a 2013 Fellow of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL), (active with the Land Use and Environmental Committee; Liaison Coordinator for the Climate Impacts Affinity Group; active with the Programs Committee as a past presenter, session leader, session coordinator, and Meeting Leader; and presently Vice Chair for the Spring Meetings); the 2014 Chairman of the Alabama Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and built (with his wife Ashley) the first certified LEED Silver waterfront, resilient and energy-efficient residence on Mobile Bay (presented the USGBC “Clover Award” 2012). He is also active in public service, a licensed participant of the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program, sponsor of the Oyster Trail, and active with the annual Coastal Kids Quiz. Neil also has been active with the American Bar Association Section on Environment, Energy and Resources (Committees: Public Service, Forestry, Smart Growth, Wetlands, Water Resources) and the Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section, and active with the Alabama Bar Association – Environmental Law Section (Chairman 1984 and 1991), Real Estate Law Section, and the Oil and Gas Law Section.

Neil received the “Ben Kilborn Lawyer of the Year” Award in 2020 from the South Alabama Volunteer Lawyers Program. He has also received numerous awards for his work in the fields of real estate, conservation, environmental law and education, including Named the Mobile Environmental Lawyer of the Year for 2011, 2014 and 2021 by Best Lawyers, the 2009 Community Partner Award from Partners for Environmental Progress, 2003 National Wetlands Award from the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C., Gulf Guardian Award 2002 – First Place Conservation Education (Ribbit’s Big Splash), the 2003 Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award (“Conservation Educator of the Year” for The Project CATE Foundation) from the Alabama Wildlife Federation, the 2002 Best Environmental Education Award for development of Ribbit’s Big Splash from the Environment Education Association of Alabama, the Wetlands Merit Award from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2000, and the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award (“Water Conservationist of the Year”) from the Alabama Wildlife Federation in 1987.

At the 2011 Fall Meeting of the American Bar Association Section on Environment, Energy and Resources, Neil was presented “The Phoenix Award” as the Chairman of the Forest Resources Committee for the Committee’s work during the 2010-2011 year. The Phoenix Award is a special recognition given to the Committee that has made an outstanding effort to improve the Committee’s performance over the past year.

He is a member of numerous professional and civic associations, including the Rotary Club of Mobile (President, 1996); the Nature Conservancy of Alabama (Board of Trustees, 1990-1996); The Project CATE Foundation, Inc. (President and General Counsel, 1997-present); Alabama Coastal Foundation (President, 2003-2004); Partners for Environmental Progress (Board Member); America’s Junior Miss, Inc. (Board of Directors, 1996-2002); Society of American Military Engineers (Member 1996 – present); the International Right-of-Way Association (Member); Governor’s Wetland Mitigation Task Force (Member); Chair of the USGBC Alabama Chapter (2014); and the American Association of Professional Landmen (Member).


  • Alabama State Bar, 1978


  • J.D., University of Alabama School of Law, 1978
  • B.A., Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College), 1975
  • University College, Oxford University, Oxford, England, 1973

Real Estate, Land Use and Timber Practice Group

The lawyers in our Real Estate, Land Use and Timber Practice Group regularly represent individuals, families, executors, trustees, corporate entities, charitable foundations, land trusts, and government entities in land management, regulatory, transactional and litigation matters. From approval procedures to mass toxic tort litigation and eminent domain proceedings, our lawyers are highly experienced in all aspects of real estate, land use, development, management and environmental law practice.  We offer our clients deep insights, on the ground experience and practical solutions that are custom-tailored to their specific needs and unique circumstances.  

Our Real Estate, Land Use and Timber lawyers are admitted to practice in federal and state courts across the country. In addition to representing clients in courtroom litigation, our lawyers also regularly handle proceedings involving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and other federal, state and local agencies.

Experienced Counsel for Complex Real Estate, Land Use and Timber Law Matters

Our Real Estate, Land Use and Timber Practice Group serves public and private clients in matters involving planning, zoning, permitting and compliance, land acquisitions, residential and commercial land development, land and natural resources management and funding, toxic torts, eminent domain, and all types of dispute resolution proceedings arising under federal, state and local land use and environmental laws and regulations. At Hand Arendall Harrison Sale, we have particular experience in the areas of:

  • Purchase, Sales, Leasing
  • Coastal lands, Riparian rights and resources
  • Development and redevelopment (including Brownfields redevelopment)
  • Energy and Linear projects
  • Erosion control and flood hazards
  • Stormwater
  • Hazardous and solid waste
  • Natural resources and conservation (oil and gas, sand and gravel, timber, water, beaches, fisheries and wildlife)
  • Utility, pipelines and other linear projects
  • Wetlands delineation/permitting/functional assessments/mitigation and mitigation banks
  • Zoning and planning

The lawyers in our Real Estate, Land Use and Timber Practice Group routinely advise clients regarding the implications and compliance issues of the constantly evolving laws and regulations including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), and the Endangered Species Act. They also regularly advise clients on issues related to insurance coverage, environmental audits and disclosures, underground storage tanks (USTs) and the handling of asbestos and other regulated substances, liquids and wastes.