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Commercial real estate – what do you want from your lawyers?

Would you prefer real estate lawyers who use their expertise to point out problems or those who sell you solutions?

How clients choose lawyers remains a bit of a mystery.  There is plenty of advice online as to what clients should look for but little on the driver to instruct one firm instead of others.  Reputation is a factor, relevant experience another and undoubtedly value for money in these straightened times.

But essentially, there is not much to differentiate lawyers.  From websites and social media all real estate lawyers say they can meet their clients’ needs by offering their ‘expertise, time and knowledge’ and provide ‘commercial pragmatic advice’.  Some highlight their specialist teams, dealing with areas such as hotels, retail and landlord and tenant matters.  So how can you recognise lawyers who are different and will give you the support and advice you need for your business?  Our answer is by seeking out those who can add value to you by applying more than their specialist legal knowledge and expertise to solve any issues you may have whether its deadlines, technical legal issues or not knowing what may be needed to achieve your goal.

One key factor is a lawyer who is experienced enough to anticipate your needs and use their network to make useful introductions.  For a hospitality client: ‘oh, you’ll need a premises licence for that… let me introduce you to X’, can save both time and money.  Such introductions offer no direct benefit to the lawyer but a client will appreciate the gesture. Your lawyer will have gone some way to solve a future problem for you.

Focus on actively listening and getting an understanding of the client’s business and priorities is fundamental to adding value.  All too often lawyers seem to follow their own agendas – a firm’s standard changes to a contract or lease and arguing esoteric legal points may be interesting for the lawyers but don’t often achieve what a client wants.  Unless your lawyer knows you, you may not gain the best result for you.

The biggest enemy of deals is time.  Time costs money.  Endless email tennis, protracted negotiations and misunderstandings of each party’s position mean delays, annoyance and loss of faith in every person involved in the transaction.  Our solution is to phone first, discuss issues, keep the matter moving and try to break any deadlock.  Your lawyers must have confidence in their expertise and understanding of your requirements to reach for the phone or even have an all-parties meeting.

Our aim is to achieve our clients’ goals whilst protecting their interests.  So, whether you are a retailer or hospitality client wanting to be open to capitalise on trade, an automotive client needing additional vehicle storage before a plate change or a tech or life sciences client with a deadline to meet, we will work with you to meet your deadlines and leave you to do what you do best – run your business.

Good, experienced real estate lawyers are clairvoyants, anticipating the future and heading off potential problems and delays.  A primary source of delay on lease assignments is usually landlord’s consent (despite statutory requirements for reply within a reasonable time).  Your experienced lawyer will frontload the work on an application for consent and work with you to pull together an information pack to present to the landlord and its agents, to avoid days or weeks of correspondence providing information piecemeal.

Problems and issues inevitably arise in transactions.  We don’t simply tell you there is a problem and leave you to make a commercial decision whether to accept them or not but seek a tangible solution to balance your requirements and risk.  Insurance may not be the silver bullet to remove all issues but in some instances, such as unknown restrictive covenants or access issues, it is more timely and cost effective to investigate and obtain insurance than to insist on enquiries of third parties or historical investigations which may, in any event, ultimately prevent insurance cover.  Of course, there may not be a solution to some problems.  In that case your lawyer must let you know as soon as possible so you can make an informed decision whether to proceed (or not).

Many real estate lawyers’ websites will tell you that they will work with you as part of your team – that they are approachable and available.  How can you check that this means you and they can work together effectively and that they are able to meet your legal needs?  Our solution is come meet us and talk about what you want and judge us for yourself – talk about our previous experience, our various fee structures and, most important of all, our approach to building and maintaining our relationships with our clients.  If your existing lawyers are not giving you what you want – try us.  We pride ourselves on being different – as our website says, we are not identikit lawyers!


Greenwoods Legal LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership, registered in England, registered number OC306912. Our registered office is Queens House, 55-56 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3LJ. A list of the members’ names is available for inspection at our offices in Peterborough, Cambridge and London. Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, SRA number 401162. Details of the Solicitors’ Codes of Conduct can be found at All instructions accepted by Greenwoods Legal LLP are subject to our current Terms of Business. VAT Reg No: 161 9287 89.

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