Okay, killing all the lawyers would a mistake, especially those in the photo. But there are times when I’d like to savage some whose involvement in a transaction made my life difficult.
Such are the lawyers with little experience in real estate, no respect for real estate brokers, no commitment to hard work or some combination of those characteristics.
A lawyer, often a relative or a relative of a friend, who isn’t accustomed to real estate contracts invariably is a problem. She or he usually doesn’t appreciate how routine are the negotiations and terms of a sales contract.
That lawyer loves to prove his or her value by nitpicking issues that rarely matter and inevitably twist negotiations into time-wasting knots. As I see it, all they are doing is demonstrating their insecurity.
As for lawyers who look down their noses at all real estate brokers – frequently with justification when it comes to many of us in the field – they refuse to keep us in the loop.
I view as a critical part of my responsibility an awareness of what is happening and when, thereby assuring a smooth and efficient process that keeps everything on track and the transaction out of jeopardy. Unfortunately, a number of lawyers seem to relish keeping everything close to their vests, never indicating when there is a holdup or why, not even responding to e-mails or bothering to inform us of closing date, reasons for any delay or contract execution.
In a transaction of mine that almost fell apart over the negotiation of a detail – something involving maybe an $8,500 expense – the listing broker confided important information to me. She told me that if the closing didn’t happen in a day or two, the lender would start a foreclosure proceeding. Consequently, there would be no deal over what amounted to a pittance in that transaction.
In a phone message and an e-mail, I let my buyers’ attorney know that I had a crucial fact to relay urgently. (I didn’t want it in writing.) He never called, never wrote and never learned what I knew. Fortunately, the closing occurred just in the nick of time anyway.
As you can imagine, he’s one of the lawyers I’d like to dispatch.
Then, there are the lazy lawyers, whose responsibility is to examine offering plans, bylaws, house rules, board minutes and budgets. Generally, they have to go to a property manager’s office to read minutes and analyze budgets. Yet, for buyers of mine who are closed on their new co-op on the Upper West Side of Manhattan yesterday, the lawyer of their choosing sent them to the property manager and never looked over the documents herself.
Part of my indignation is that brokers elsewhere commonly perform most, if not all, of the functions of lawyers in New York.
One of the virtues that I enjoyed in my real estate business in D.C., Maryland and Virginia was that brokers there conduct all the negotiations, using their wits to fashion a successful meeting of the minds that is fair to all involved.
An offer there and elsewhere is an actual contract, most of it boilerplate, that the brokers complete. So it is possible to go from offer to binding commitment literally in minutes. Here, that is defined as the practice of law and, therefore, limited to lawyers.
All the foregoing said, you may be surprised to hear from me that I believe lawyers in a real estate transaction are underpaid. The gap between the $1,800-2,500 that most of them charge and what brokers receive yawns wide, and indefensibly so.
However, for the lazy ones, the incompetent ones, the arrogant ones and the insecure ones, I’d argue that even the compensation proposed by Shakespeare in “Henry VI” is generous to a fault.
Seriously, though, I definitely am not, law enforcers, seriously advocating harm to anyone. (You can’t be too careful these days, right?)
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022