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Tenant Leasing 101, Part 3: Hiring Legal Help

When you are in the process of leasing commercial space, it is a very good idea to ask someone with a real estate law background to help review the lease document. Even short lease documents can have tricky provisions and legalese language that may not be as straightforward as they appear.

Hiring a lawyer can be an intimidating process, but here is a breakdown of some key points to consider when seeking legal help:

  • Work Experience: Some lawyers will claim to be real estate lawyers even if they never regularly practice in this area. These lawyers can be easy to spot – on their website bio, they will list several unrelated areas of law, including real estate. These lawyers sometimes are great. Sometimes they are trouble. If your lease is of any significance (and real estate usually is the second biggest obligation of a company behind payroll), it is important to make sure your lawyer actually knows real estate. Do not be afraid to ask about specific work experience similar to your type of lease.

  • Referrals: In addition to asking about specific work experience, asking trusted friends and business acquaintances for a referral is a good way to find a lawyer. Practicing law is both a legal profession and a relationship business. Ask your trusted friend both how the legal product was and how the relationship was. You want an attorney with whom you can work, not one that never calls you back, talks at you and not with you, or is intimidating. The right personal fit is important.

  • Cost: There are a million jokes about lawyers, and many of them are not without reason. Lawyers can be high priced, and you often will not know the final cost until you receive the bill. This can create a huge anxiety, particularly for internal business budget purposes. Two recommendaitons are to ask for a fee estimate and budget up front and to ask the lawyer to cap the total legal bill. By asking for a fee estimate, you are better able to set your own budget for your company. It is wholly reasonable for lawyers to operate within agreed-upon budgets. Asking for a cap of fees is not unreasonable. If the level of legal representation is discussed in advance with the lawyer (a light review or a detailed line-by-line legal analysis are two examples), you both can better predict the type of legal work required and the resulting legal bill.

Over the course of the next few months, this blog will review a typical lease provision-by-provision to discuss what they mean and how to approach a negotiation. We look forward to continuing the discussion.

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