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Working With Your Attorney

Consider an Attorney Familiar With Real Estate

Your company may already have an attorney helping you with general business matters. However, if your attorney is unfamiliar with real estate leasing, you should consider requesting another attorney within the same firm that specializes in leasing. If your firm does not have such an attorney, you should consider interviewing other firms with real estate expertise. TenantWise provides listings of those firms in the goods and services section of the site.

With regard to fees, attorneys will work with you either on an hourly or fixed project basis. Both market factors and the size of your space will materially impact the amount of negotiating room you have, and accordingly, the basis on which you may want to work with your attorney. You would not want your attorney to be retained on an hourly basis to negotiate a smaller lease if you had no idea of total cost.

Questions you might want to ask an attorney prior to retaining him/her are as follows:

  • Do you specialize in real estate and in particular, real estate leasing?
  • How many years have you been working in real estate?
  • How many leases have you negotiated in the last year?
  • Who are some of your clients?
  • Have you negotiated a lease in XYZ building where I will be moving?
  • Have you negotiated leases in other buildings owned by ABC Company, the landlord of my proposed building?
  • How do you typically bill? 
  • What problems or issues do you foresee in negotiating a lease in this market, in this building, with this landlord?
  • How much time will a partner/senior person spend on this assignment? What duties will be relegated to associates?
  • How quickly can you turn around lease comments? (This is especially important in a tight market)

We suggest the following process for working with your attorney once he/she has been retained:

Communicate Your Business Goals

Have a thorough discussion with your attorney about your general business goals and current situation. Issues ranging from your current and projected financial condition, hours of operation, employee growth issues, etc. will impact how your attorney will approach certain topics. Deal-breaker issues such as sublet/assignment are important for your attorney to know. Also, you should communicate the urgency of your move-in date so your attorney does not over-negotiate for issues that are less important to you. In general, you should prioritize your goals with your attorney so he/she can negotiate effectively for you without sacrificing issues of importance to you.

Communicate the History of the Negotiation

Provide your attorney with all documentation regarding the space including floor plans, notes and of course offer and counteroffer letters. Also communicate the tenor and extent of negotiations between you, your TenantWise broker and the parties on the landlord's side. If not included in the earlier negotiations, your attorney will then be better prepared as he/she goes into the negotiations.

Establish a Reporting Time Frame

Particularly if you are a smaller tenant, you may not be your attorney's first priority. Depending on the length of the lease, it can easily require a full day for an attorney to review and comment on a lease. With other clients on his/her roster, it may take a week or more for your attorney to review a first draft. Establish your expectations up-front regarding timing to ensure that your attorney will be able to meet them.

Review and Explanation of the Lease

We suggest that you read the common lease terms section of TenantWise before reading the first draft of your lease. Then, agree with your attorney how you want him/her to review the lease with you. We suggest a sit-down meeting after your attorney has reviewed the lease for him/her to explain any terms you do not understand as well as the attorney's proposed changes.

Currently, there is no standard lease document in the country. Some companies have made efforts in that direction but none have succeeded. Therefore, each lease is an original document which must be read word for word. Therefore, it will be important for your attorney to have worked on several leasing assignments to capably assist you. If lease negotiations are getting bogged down, consider requesting a meeting of all parties to the transaction to agree to resolve final issues. It often takes everyone to be in the same room to finalize any thorny issues.

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