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The Joys of Being the Second Attorney: Fixing Your Client’s Situation



As a broker, you know all too well that the real estate buying and selling process can become quite intense. With so many steps and risks associated with a transaction, your clients should feel confident that their real estate attorney won’t miss anything. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that they’ve worked with an attorney that simply wasn’t the right fit, and perhaps lacked the proper experience and commitment.

Here we discuss what causes buyers and sellers to terminate their existing attorney and how their next lawyer is left to clean up the mistakes of their less-than-capable predecessor.


Poor Communication

When a real estate lawyer fails to communicate with all the different parties involved, balls will be dropped. This includes the attorney of the other party, broker, and of course your client. Poor communication means your client can be led down the wrong decision path and also keeps you out of the picture, so important information and details might be lost. As the new attorneys, we pretty much need to start from scratch.

Of course, poor communication can also lead to conflicts. In this case, we step in to provide conflict resolution, while trying to help keep the broker’s deal together.


Lack of Concern for Timing

Overbooked real estate attorneys spread themselves too thin. This increases the risk for their missing key deadlines specified in your client’s contract. Of course, they might also just be disorganized with their time which leads to the same issues. When deadlines are missed it impacts your clients’ rights, such as a risk to earnest money. It might also mean defaulting on certain terms of the contract. In the worst-case scenario, the whole deal falls through. In this case, it can be difficult to overcome missed deadlines, since the contract is binding.


Misunderstanding the Property Tax Proration


During closing, tax proration involves math to determine how much each party pays toward taxes based on the number of days they own the property. The calculation is done by the real estate attorney, and if they don’t know how to do it properly, or don’t understand things like how to make an adjustment for revised assessed value, it could end up costing your client money. Our job, in this case, is to redo the math, so each side either pays or receives the right amount.


Condo Documents


If your client fires their attorney in the middle of a condo transaction, there can be a significant documentation mess to clean up. When we are taking over for a condo sale, we ensure the governing documents and statements concerning reserve balances, litigation, insurance, and anticipated capital expenditures are collected and that we have not missed a deadline for objecting to the documentation. One of our main concerns is that the building has enough in reserves so that a buyer is not going to be facing a Special Assessment, or that the Minutes do not reflect that a Special Assessment has been considered but not voted on. In that second instance, we need to make sure that negotiations are conducted properly to assure that the buyer is not left with Special Assessments against which we could have protected.


Adequate Research

Let’s not forget all the research necessary from titles to deeds and liens to litigation. Once we take over a real estate closing, we do it all again to make sure nothing is missed.

Ah, the joys of having to change attorneys while knee-deep in a real estate transaction. It happens, but there’s certainly a remedy that involves hiring the correct one to step in and finish the job right.


We Can Help


With almost 40 years of experience in Illinois real estate law, Erica Minchella has the expertise to take over as your client’s new attorney to ensure a smooth transaction and closing. Schedule a consultation today.


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