The electronic nematic phase occurs when the point-group symmetry of the lattice structure is broken, due to electron-electron interactions. We study a model for the nematic phase on a square lattice with emphasis on the phase transition between isotropic and nematic phases within mean field theory. We find the transition to be first order, with dramatic changes in the Fermi surface topology accompanying the transition. Furthermore, we study the conductivity tensor and Hall constant as probes of the nematic phase and its transition. The relevance of our findings to Hall resistivity experiments in the high-$T_c$ cuprates is discussed.