Real Estate, unlike most other businesses, is littered with a myriad of risks, complexities, sensitive legal processes and of course, lots of dicey negotiations. These, however, do not nullify the presence of the huge goldmine buried just underneath what you might want to describe as the ‘obvious’. The old English proverb that says, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”, holds sway in commercial realty.
Rest assured if you have a competent attorney, you’ve little or nothing to worry about. Competence, however, isn’t the only quality you want to look for when choosing a Commercial Real Estate Attorney. There are certain other equally important qualities that you want to keep in mind. Before I tell you how you can find or identify a good attorney, I’d like to give you the definition of what that is. This is by no means an exhaustive definition, but it does help you know where and how to look:
A good commercial real estate attorney is one who has both the expertise and the ability to help identify, negotiate and manage both imminent and potential risks regarding your realty, as well as help handle transactions, give legal advice, and draw up drafts of documents, agreements, and contract disputes, etc. This attorney must be one who has spent about sixty-five percent of his practicing years exclusively in real estate, (particularly commercial realty in the last five years), invests in real estate himself, and has a good number of full-time professional real estate investors as clients.
Now that we’ve established what the ideal qualifications need to be, let us proceed to learn about how to find one.
For some of us, doing a background check on our would-be attorney might help satisfy our curiosities. We want to know what college they attended, how successful there were academically, etc. As important as these things are, I’ve discovered that there are certain facts that speak for themselves, so I’d suggest recognizing an attorney’s due diligence over certain other weightier details.
Your would-be attorney should be on the real estate committee of your local bar association, or be actively involved in the developmental processes of the ever evolving legal educational courses for the county. These are classes taught by lawyers, for lawyers. This invariably means that the class instructors must be in the upper echelon of their field. You might also want to consider finding out if he or she works for themselves, or if they’re a partner in a small firm. Hiring a competent and experienced attorney from a big firm could also work for you, but you have to know that a letterhead from such a firm doesn’t equal or guarantee quality. Besides, they are more likely to charge you more. While having prior experience at a major firm might be an added advantage, it is my observation that attorneys who run their own firms have more of a businessman’s mindset and approach, since they themselves are in business. They are generally more open-minded about business related issues, flexible, and are usually more willing to work with you on price.
A WORD OF CAUTION:
While great attorneys will work with you on price, it’s important that you DO NOT insult them by demanding that they charge you less, in exchange for increased patronage from you. You’d be portraying yourself as someone who isn’t worth working with- at least not on a long-term basis.
When searching for a good commercial real estate attorney, researching their reputation is essential. It is recommended that you not only check with his clients, but his colleagues and peers as well. It would behoove you to obtain facts about how their business relationships have fared. You want to know if they’ve ever visited a client’s site and talked to the construction workers on the frontlines, bought lunch for said workmen, and really listened to (and cared about) their concerns and issues regarding the project at hand. I’m talking about an attorney who is relationship-conscious; one who builds bridges, not walls. If he or she is proactively involved in every aspect of the job, it is sure to yield positive results and create a harmonious atmosphere. Regardless of how proficient and experienced an attorney is, if he or she isn’t fully committed to your projects, he isn’t worth your time or pay. You need someone who understands that you want a long-term business-relationship; someone who genuinely listens to your creative ideas about business, and is willing to work with you to achieve your goals.
Another important quality to look for is depth of understanding, and not just in matters related to commercial realty transactions. The lawyer should be well versed in the various laws and regulations that govern the industry, such as: apartment laws, contract disputes, commercial leasing, and property and risk management. In particular, you’d want find out how they’ve protected or defended their clients’ interests- through legal advice, aggressive and thorough negotiations, contract preparations, and courtroom procedures. It is to your advantage if your would-be attorney excels at deciphering local land use codes. Bear in mind that an attorney’s expertise is always necessary in resolving constructional disputes, dealing with mechanic’s lien, and handling property defect, along with several other issues that could arise.
If you’re wondering whether or not all of these qualities can be found in a single attorney, my answer is yes- an emphatic yes! It all depends on you; how dedicated you are to your business, and how thorough you want to be when deciding to entrust your business to the hands of a competent and dependable attorney. Like I mentioned earlier, a proactive, business-minded attorney is what you want. They should be actively involved in the evolving activities of the commercial real estate world. You wouldn’t want to agree to entrust some very serious business to a rookie who, though hard-working and enthusiastic, wouldn’t have the experience and necessary insight to successfully partner with you.