The Case for the Transactional Attorney
Prepared by Cameron Lythberg, Lythberg Law, LLC
Let’s admit it, you’ve seen it before, the dreaded twenty paragraph attorney modification letter. It could be an attorney on the other side of a deal, or one your client brought with them, but you’ve seen this letter, and dozens if not hundreds like them in the past. The letter is rambling, nonsensical and, in your increasingly experienced opinion, superfluous. Yet we have to endure it because attorneys have their requisite words, usually some obscure Latin phrase, and that magic Latin phrase will protect your clients. Yet, after seeing a few dozen attorney modification letters, I think it crosses everyone’s mind to just find a way to send out a similarly worded letter themselves with all the magic words needed and skip the attorney (and their fee) altogether. Concerns about the unauthorized practice of law notwithstanding, most attorneys know the idea is tempting. Legalzoom, Formulaw, and countless other similar products have made an entire industry out of a similar sentiment and they wouldn’t be in business if many people didn’t believe this. I don’t blame them because the sad truth is quite a few inexperienced attorneys believe this too.
I began my career as a trial lawyer and it still encompasses a large portion of my practice today. It’s because of this foregoing sentence that I don’t resent these beliefs but rather embrace them, and I’m not the only member of the trial bar to feel this way. Most litigators grin ear to ear when they have a potential client sit down and start the meeting with a discussion of self-representation in a transactional matter. My first trial ever was over the interpretation of a Legalzoom document, full of all the legal sounding, and even Latin, you could ever hope for. Unfortunately, the manner and circumstances in which the parties tried to implement it caused a catastrophe. Situations like this still keep my litigation practice busy today. I tell all of my clients that the law is a public work. It and all of its definitions can be seen online for free. Attorneys could not gatekeep it even if we wanted to (and we don’t). I say this because boiler plate attorney review letters and Latin phrases are not the value a skilled real estate attorney provides to your transaction but rather a knowledge of the intersections and intricacies of a vast web of laws, regulations, and yes Latin phrases, and how those apply or don’t to a client’s real estate transaction. A good real estate attorney is an advocate, negotiator, troubleshooter, experienced guide, and a big brother/sister looking over your clients’ shoulder making sure that they’re protected throughout a deal. A seasoned attorney, much like an experienced real estate agent can see problems arising even when it’s not readily apparent and prevent it from becoming a bigger issue than it needs to be.