What kind of relationship do you have with your RE lawyer?

13 Replies

I'm having a hard time finding the right RE lawyer that is well-vetted and that I trust.  Here in Seattle, the well-vetted ones are super busy and aren't responding to my calls/emails.  The ones that I find on a simple google search aren't vetted, and after talking on the phone, I feel that RE isn't really their interest (bankruptcy, divorce, AND real estate, with real estate seeming to be regular home purchase and sale agreements, not asset protection).

So, BP community, what kind of relationship do you have with your RE lawyer? Do you have monthly meeting with them? Do you meet with them face to face? Are phone calls plenty to get all that you need done? Am I safe to find a great, well-vetted lawyer out of the city that perhaps I can start with via phone calls and emails and maybe down the road meet face to face as the relationship develops? If so, who do YOU recommend? What is your advice/thoughts on finding a good lawyer and what must they be well-versed in? I think my needs include asset protection primarily, setting up LLC's as needed to do that, and staying legal. In Seattle, investing in Texas and Alabama. Starting to explore Wisconsin and Kansas City.

Finding an accountant, DONE!  Choosing a market, little tougher because there's so many good ones but I did it.  Finding investment realtors, done!  Lender's...piece of cake!  Lawyer, holy crap this is proving to be the hardest piece of all!

Texas lawyer here, I tend to agree with what you're finding. The best way to get the ear of the busy attorneys is to try and get a referral from another investor/current client. Referrals are very important to my business.

What is the need for the attorney?  What questions are you looking to answer? Most attorneys dont understand real estate at all.  My goal is to talk with one as little as possible. Do you know how to tell when an attorney is lying??? HIs lips are moving. 

Originally posted by @Barry Je :

I'm having a hard time finding the right RE lawyer that is well-vetted and that I trust.  Here in Seattle, the well-vetted ones are super busy and aren't responding to my calls/emails.  The ones that I find on a simple google search aren't vetted, and after talking on the phone, I feel that RE isn't really their interest (bankruptcy, divorce, AND real estate, with real estate seeming to be regular home purchase and sale agreements, not asset protection).

So, BP community, what kind of relationship do you have with your RE lawyer? Do you have monthly meeting with them? Do you meet with them face to face? Are phone calls plenty to get all that you need done? Am I safe to find a great, well-vetted lawyer out of the city that perhaps I can start with via phone calls and emails and maybe down the road meet face to face as the relationship develops? If so, who do YOU recommend? What is your advice/thoughts on finding a good lawyer and what must they be well-versed in? I think my needs include asset protection primarily, setting up LLC's as needed to do that, and staying legal. In Seattle, investing in Texas and Alabama. Starting to explore Wisconsin and Kansas City.

Finding an accountant, DONE!  Choosing a market, little tougher because there's so many good ones but I did it.  Finding investment realtors, done!  Lender's...piece of cake!  Lawyer, holy crap this is proving to be the hardest piece of all!

 Platonic..  LOL.. 

OK on a serious note, I don't use an RE lawyer in Virginia (where all of my investing has been so far). I just use title company. I will only use a lawyer if I have a very specific and legal question that I need answered, or if the deal is so complex that it requires a really savvy legal mind. Now some states like NJ, for e.g., are different.  The lawyer drafts the contract, and does the closing.  I think your first duty is to find out whether the state you are investing in really needs a lawyer, or will a title company suffice? 

I found my title company through word of mouth, and the gal I work with is outstanding. Very professional and thorough.


Don't make it harder than it needs to be.  Good luck.

The reason for an attorney is mostly asset protection.

I want a guy to help direct moving from a personal loan to an LLC and advise all avenues to help protect me.

Lastly, my wife and I are both high income earners and should disaster strike via bankruptcy, lawsuit, etc I want to limit her exposure as much as possible.

Out of curiosity chinmay did you go to penn state?

Originally posted by @Barry Je :

The reason for an attorney is mostly asset protection.

I want a guy to help direct moving from a personal loan to an LLC and advise all avenues to help protect me.

Lastly, my wife and I are both high income earners and should disaster strike via bankruptcy, lawsuit, etc I want to limit her exposure as much as possible.

Out of curiosity chinmay did you go to penn state?

 Yes, I did go to Penn State... BIG TEN.. WE ARE.... Did we go to school together?

 I think you just need like a Financial Planner or something.  I think people might have been a little confused when you said RE lawyer. It doesn't seem you are trying to solve a very difficult real estate related issue, but just protect your assets.  Also to avoid lawsuits, I would definitely recommend a combination of good insurance policy and LLCs to hold your assets, but a Financial Planner or CPA would be a good start. 

Good luck.

@Ronald Rohde @Barry Je

I agree you need a lawyer that understands the AP as well as the taxes. It's going to be tough to get good info without paying for a consultation because from the attorney perspective once they lay down all the cards of what you "should" do then it could be easy to farm out for much cheaper...

@Barry Je

Hi Barry

I have a different perspective - I think you should be focusing, best you can, on what you have to offer.  I don't see you writing much about this.

My view on the value of an attorney is really tied to their ability to 'stand' by you in a transactional sense.  Essentially, to represent you for an actual transaction.  Implicit in any human relationship should be a hint of quid pro quo.  An attorney that is going to share his/her time with you and valuable perspective, is going to want to know/trust that you can credibly offer something in return.  You may have work for them to offer, but you (to me) respectfully are coming across as interested in more 'tire kicking' in how you are presenting yourself.

I'm not trying to dissuade you from doing it - as you getting the comfort level you need in these important matters of life, risk, etc is very important.  However, think of it this way: an attorney is trained to know the law and be authoritative in that regard, and to represent you.  When it comes to matters of risk, business structure, etc - a good attorney may have some good experience there to give you some perspective, however at the end of the day, the attorney's value is and should be tied to them representing you on an actual case/transaction.  That's where they ultimately may help in regards to resolving conflict, being a closing attorney, etc.  

I think bigger pockets is a great community but I would honestly trust someone in business that has been through what you are planning on doing more than an attorney.  These types of questions you have to me come best from a mentor, or from a community like this (bigger pockets) - not from an attorney.  An attorney by even just talking about matters like this specific to your situation has some skin in the game given that they are paid to be authoritative on subjects (at least in terms of communicating risks, the law, etc to their clients).  

I don't know what transactions you have planned but ultimately things like closing deals, (buy or sell) are the lifeblood of what makes a good transactional office work.  And ultimately, a good transactional office is the office that does transactions, and thereby, their attorneys get the experience that is valued in the marketplace for legal services...

We enjoy a good relationship with an attorney in the Des Moines IA area that works at a firm called Wasker Door Wimmer and McCouillier (I think I probably spelled that wrong).  Our attorney that had represented us on I think 3-4 closings at the time offered pro actively that she would be fine fielding any questions we have free of charge (I'm sure within reason there).  My view is that there's enough goodwill and trust built by us treating her with respect, bring business her way, that she views that time investment as a good thing.  I think it's worked out that way.  This past year we had a couple deals that kind of 'dragged' and were more time intensive, but there's enough goodwill and trust there that if we were to seriously want to explore what you're putting out there, I think she would be happy to opine/have a conversation etc.

We were continually bringing some business to this firm and this attorney and the hope I would think from both sides is that it is a mutually beneficial relationship over time.  I guess that's my biggest piece of advice to you - think about your value proposition over time - I don't see it.  What specifically in terms of transactions are you interested in?  Business formation?  What can you commit?  What can you offer?  

Hope this helps and I also hope I'm not coming across as a know it all as I am certainly not that!!!!

Jim

Originally posted by @Barry Je :

The reason for an attorney is mostly asset protection.

I want a guy to help direct moving from a personal loan to an LLC and advise all avenues to help protect me.

Lastly, my wife and I are both high income earners and should disaster strike via bankruptcy, lawsuit, etc I want to limit her exposure as much as possible.

Out of curiosity chinmay did you go to penn state?

 I can offer you some referrals locally. You can inbox me as the links are not allowed here. 

@Barry Je

Check out Anderson Advisors (can't post links but you can Google them).  They have clients nationwide but are actually based in our state (down in Tacoma).  They give a lot of talks about real estate and asset protection.  They can also do taxes too, essentially an all-in-one shop.

If you want someone even more local to you, I've used Jerry Walker before.  He's in Bellevue/Redmond off of 520.  My CPA also shares the same office as him.

By the way, a couple people recommended the same attorney to you in the other thread you posted, and he responded on the thread as well. He's a good guy, well-known by most of the real estate investors here. He's the only one that regularly attends a lot of the local real estate meetups.

Wisconsin lawyer here. I would agree with Jim Gobel that lawyers tend to get a lot of tire kicking. We expect it and recognize prospective clients in this category right away. Also the lawyer is thinking the same thing you are about what kind of relationship it may be. 

I always consider clients from multiple angles: Will they pay promptly, or ask for free work constantly? Will they have more business work, or just one transaction? Will they let me be the captain of the ship, or micromanage as the owner of the ship? Are they going to be ultimately satisfied with what they want help for? These are important questions for you to think about as well. For example, if you try to hire a lawyer to help you throw good money after bad, very few quality lawyers will help you do that. Most quality lawyers realize that you will be unhappy with the result you seek and will decline to be involved. 

On the other hand, if you want business advice, a lawyer with extensive business experience is absolutely invaluable. But you are going to pay a premium for their consultation. And it is generally going to be up to you to come up with framing for questions. 

What is not likely is that you will find a lawyer to act as your in-house counsel and review all aspects of your business with you for a cost effective price. Attorneys know this comprehensive service is not worth their time and your money and are not going to engage in it. Think of lawyer's services like al a carte menu items. You hire the lawyer only with respect to one matter/case/transaction at a time. If you have a different transaction, you need to re-hire the lawyer. 

Not to say you cannot build a relationship that transcends this essential division of work. It may take history with the attorney. Realize the attorney is usually working on many different transactions at once.

The fastest way around the above is to find a lawyer as a business partner. Some lawyers are interested in a piece of the action. Almost every corporation and nonprofit in America of sufficient size has at least one lawyer on its board of directors. Probably a clear reason for this is for ongoing, cost effective, pertinent legal advice.

Reading this string I think I may be the odd man out here. I work with an attorney who focuses on real estate. He and his wife have been investors and at one time owned a property management company. I have fits his counsel to be really helpful. I pay him a pretty hefty hourly rate but I find it worth every penny in keeping me from my own mistakes and ignorance. I don’t use him for every decision as I’ve grown in my investing but I definitely value his opinion. Don’t give up on a good attorney to help you.

Not sure if someone already said this, but you could try to find an assistant or someone in the office who is a little more free than the Attorney themselves if you’re looking for someone to actually speak to more often. 

Actually, I would like to amend my comment above slightly. If you start to work with an attorney and build a relationship, it becomes more easy as trust is built. I do not ask for up front payments from certain clients who I have been working with for years. If they call with a simple question there may be no charge generally. Also, there are such things as retainer agreements, where the investor pays his/her attorney a monthly rate in exchange for defined availability and services. This is very useful to the investor who wants to do a lot of consulting with their attorney over the course of, say, an ongoing development project or something that takes many months. Then the attorney is on call for whatever comes up during that time.

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