Self-Taught MBA: A Real-Estate Lawyer's Advice, Part 2 - Fine Homebuilding
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Building Business

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Self-Taught MBA: A Real-Estate Lawyer's Advice, Part 2

comments (0) July 17th, 2012 in Blogs
FPR Fernando Pages Ruiz, contributor

Attorney Nancy Loftis candid, disinterested take on what it takes to make it in construction and real estate provides us a refreshingly realistic look at the ingredients of success. 
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Attorney Nancy Loftis' candid, disinterested take on what it takes to make it in construction and real estate provides us a refreshingly realistic look at the ingredients of success. 


Photo: David Dale


In part 2 of my conversation with real-estate attorney Nancy Loftis, she gets down to the nitty-gritty of hiring a lawyer for your entrepreneurial team; points out how to recognize and avoid the most common pitfalls she sees in her real-estate and construction-law practice; and offers some plain advice about how to redefine and find success during tough times.

Consulting services: For most businesses, you need a good insurance agent, a good accountant, and a good lawyer. Businesses vary to the extent they require legal services. Some, such as restaurants, may just need initial corporate papers and occasional advice. But if you're involved in construction and real estate, you're going to need an active lawyer on your team. There's a lot of specialized knowledge in real estate, and a lawyer is just a service you buy, just like you'd buy bread for you restaurant.

You want to find a lawyer you can trust. Ask people who are successful in your business for a reference. In a pinch, I like to use because it's not just a referral service. The company, Martindale-Hubbell, is a long-established peer-rating service for lawyers. The company screens for ethical standing and skill. Ask around or consult, and then interview a couple of lawyers. Spend 10 minutes and see how you feel. If they are difficult to talk to or you don't feel at ease with their manner of expression, move on. You want someone skilled in your area that has a compatible working style.

Once you engage a lawyer, have him or her look over any documents you use for major commitments, such as your basic contract, change orders, and corporate documents. Do this, and you may save yourself a lot of trouble down the road. Don't worry about being overcharged or overmanaged. Good lawyers are busy, and they tell you if they don't need to see something. If you're going to base a lot of revenue on one piece of paper-even if it's a work order you hand customers for a signature before doing small repairs-let someone look at it for 15 minutes. There may be local laws you don't know about; there may be required language such the right of rescission that makes your agreement valid. The most important thing is that now your lawyer has skin in the game. Your lawyer is not just a vendor; he or she becomes part of your entrepreneurial team.

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