Mitchell S. Cutler, one of the most prominent commercial real estate lawyers in the Washington area and a respected property law "troubleshooter," suffered a fatal heart attack at his office yesterday afternoon as his firm, Finley Kumble Wagner Heine Underberg Manley & Casey, was hosting a reception for its summer interns. He was 52.

Cutler, who received his bachelor's degree from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in 1955 and his law degree from George Washington University in 1958, was until March the managing partner of the firm's Washington office. Finley Kumble Wagner, the country's second largest law firm, has nine offices in the United States and London.

"By the grace of God," said Robert Washington, who succeeded Cutler as managing partner, "we honored him at the firm's meeting in March with a silver tray for his immense contributions to the firm."

Cutler, who was born Sept. 24, 1933, in Quincy, Mass., was known not only as an assiduous scholar -- he was awarded the John Ordoneaux scholastic prize for the highest standing at George Washington Law School in his first year and later served as editor of its Law Review -- but as a civic and professional activist as well.

He was the founder and publisher of the National Property Law Digest, a former adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, a member of the board of directors of Arena Stage and former director of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He was also active in the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and the D.C., Maryland, Federal and American bar associations.

He also served as a special assistant to the White House under President Kennedy.

Cutler is survived by his wife, Miriam, an attorney and real estate developer; a son, John, of Maryland; and three daughters, Stephanie and Audrey, both of the District, and Leslie, of St. Louis.