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Monthly Archives: November 2017

A PASSION FOR (REAL ESTATE) BUSINESS

Lawyers are like most other business professionals. We want your business and we want your referrals – we just don’t always know the best way to ask for either.

 

Take me for example. I’ve been handling commercial real estate transactions and business deals for nearly 40 years. I’ve loved (almost) every day of it, and I look forward to many more (knock on wood). My clients appreciate my insights and value the guidance I provide. Other attorneys respect what I do, and brokers and CPAs like working with me because I strive for practical solutions to efficiently and effectively get the job done. I pay close attention to learn my clients’ business objectives, then work diligently and negotiate hard to get my clients what they expect – when they expect it. That’s what lawyers do. Or at least what all lawyers should do. For any client hiring a lawyer, what else is there?  Achieving client objectives and getting the deal closed on time is why lawyers exist. Deals fail, for sure, but we can never be the reason they fail. Deals that fail are a waste of everyone’s time and money. Getting the deal done, if it can be done, is our value proposition.

 

Deals are my lifeblood – my passion. They’re why I wake up every morning and get out of bed. I love this stuff. I can’t explain exactly why that is – it just is.  Why do musicians practice their instruments and play? Why do scratch golfers golf? Why do competitive skiers ski?  It’s our passion. We don’t know exactly why – it comes from within. And we always need more.

 

Commercial real estate deals always come first for me, but in every commercial real estate project is a business. They go hand in hand. My preference for a good real estate deal over a good business deal is a matter of only slight degree. There’s not really a number one and a number two. It’s more like #1 and #1A.

 

So what’s the problem?

 

The problem is, a lot of people don’t know I’m available to represent them. I write books and articles on commercial real estate. I give seminars on how to structure and close business and real estate transactions. I publish a commercial real estate and business blog.  People think I’m busy, or that I only handle huge deals. The truth is, I am busy – but never too busy to handle another deal, large or small. In the words of the late, great Lucille Ball: “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” We all loved Lucy!

 

The most shocking question I get from prospective clients is: “Would you (I) be willing to handle my (their) next business or commercial real estate deal?”  Are they kidding? My answer is always an emphatic “yes”! It’s my passion. It’s my love.  It’s what I live for.

 

To be sure, I’m a business professional, and I charge for what I do, but if you have a commercial real estate deal or business deal, and need representation, I’m in. Never be shy about calling me. We’ll work out the economics. The range of deals I handle is extraordinarily diverse. For a taste, look at my blog Harp-OnThis.com, or check out my latest book, Illinois Commercial Real Estate on Amazon.com or in your local public library. I love this stuff. I need this stuff. Of course I want to represent you. When can we get started?

 

So back to my initial point:  I do want your business and your business referrals. Like many other business professionals, I just don’t know the best way to go about asking for it. What do you suggest?

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THE CLIENT CONUNDRUM

A mistake lawyers make is treating all clients the same. It’s a mistake shared by other professions as well. They’re not all the same. The issues clients face, and the solutions they deserve, are as varied as life itself.

 

R. Kymn Harp
Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.

With the rise of technology and the commoditization of legal services, nuance can be lost. Precise solutions to particular problems may be neglected while cookie-cutter boilerplate is offered as a cheap substitute. Not that all boilerplate and technology is bad – they can provide huge benefits when applied correctly. But just as a mass-produced size 9 leather dress shoe may be ideal for some, it is of little comfort or use to an athlete with a size 10 foot.

 

Automation is a cost-saver, no doubt. But is it a reasonable substitute for thoughtful analysis and tailor-made solutions to client specific problems?

 

There may be areas of life where commoditized legal services represent a reasonable tradeoff. Perhaps consumers engaged in everyday transactions are adequately-served by inexpensive one-size fits all solutions. Even a consumer buying a home – often touted as the largest single transaction most consumers will make in their lifetime – may be well-served by inexpensive boilerplate solutions on most occasions. In the world of consumer transactions and consumer finance, there is a protective overlay of consumer protection laws and oversight that will often fill in the gaps left by a one-size fits all approach.

 

But what about most commercial transactions? Buying or starting a business? Investing in commercial or industrial real estate? Raising capital from third parties? Entering into a partnership agreement or limited liability company operating agreement for a commercial venture where someone else is in control, and uses or controls your money – or where you use or control someone else’s money? Are these circumstances where one-size solutions and documentation make sense?

 

How do you protect yourself if something goes wrong? Experience shows something can always go wrong. And when things go wrong in a commercial transaction, expensive lawsuits often follow.

 

Business people consider themselves to be intelligent, reasonable beings. When they invest in a business or real estate project they expect it will succeed. If they thought otherwise, they would not make the investment. That would be foolish, and they know for certain that they’re not foolish. If it fails, they conclude it had be someone’s fault – but it certainly wasn’t theirs.  They must have been duped. Information must have been withheld. They must have been lied to or cheated.  The other party must at least be incompetent if not downright crooked.

 

You may laugh, but that’s often how it happens. You may be one hundred percent competent and above-board. You may have understood and discussed the risks to the point where you are certain that your partners or investors understand the risks as well – but if you’re the promoter of the failed business or investment, or you’re in charge of making management decisions – you should expect to find yourself staring down the business end of a double-barreled lawsuit claiming the loss is your fault – even if you lost money as well, and even if nothing you did or could have done resulted in the loss. Changing economic circumstances, business and lifestyle trends, and other factors far beyond your control may be the reason for the loss, but you will be blamed. How do to protect yourself?

 

Suppose you’re on the other side. What if you’re the investor or partner asked to invest? What do you look for? What do you require? How do you protect yourself?

 

Clients are not all the same. Commercial transactions are not all the same. The risks and benefits of each investment and business venture are not all the same. The solutions and documentation of each transaction cannot, therefore, be all the same.

 

If clients are engaged in serious business, serious attention is required. Both the attorney and the client need to understand this. Once a deal goes bad, it’s too late to go back and redo what should have been done at the outset.

 

Will doing it right up front cost more?

 

Probably.

 

Will it be worth it if things go poorly?

 

You bet.

 

Should clients buy a size 9 shoe for their size 10 foot?

 

Thanks for listening. . .

Kymn

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