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What does a Commercial Real Estate Lawyer do?

By Erin Oxendine
Updated: May 16, 2024

A commercial real estate lawyer handles real estate transactions surrounding commercial properties. Some of the clients this attorney may have are developers, property owners, and lenders. The cases that these attorneys work on often involve property litigation, contract disputes, and zoning issues.

Many of these lawyers work at commercial real estate firms while others may work for just one corporation. Sometimes, a large developer will employ a commercial real estate lawyer to act as general counsel. The attorney would be responsible for buying and selling properties, reviewing financial documents, and communicating with investors. These lawyers are also in charge of filing paperwork for partnerships, corporations, and documentation for taxes.

Other commercial real estate attorneys often work strictly with contractors on ongoing projects. The lawyer might be in charge of negotiating leases for shopping centers or office buildings. He or she may also have to review deeds and ensure titles are properly filed with the right municipality.

One important role a commercial real estate lawyer has is to provide advice to his clients regarding property transactions. The client may need input on whether or not a particular piece of land is suitable for development. The attorney will give information on jurisdictional and regional building laws, research to see if there are any unpaid taxes on the area, and assist with the closing should the client decide to purchase the property.

Another job that a commercial real estate lawyer does is title opinions. This is crucial to making sure that a parcel or building has a clear title. The attorney conducts a title search, checks for liens, and files the appropriate paperwork with the insurance company.

Some attorneys work specifically with mortgages and foreclosures in commercial real estate. Mortgage companies often hire commercial real estate attorneys to deal with borrowers and lenders to settle mortgages. These lawyers send out correspondence regarding defaulted loans, follow up on late accounts, and file judgments with the courts.

The commercial real estate lawyer also has to represent clients in litigation. The attorney may be retained to defend a developer who has been sued by investors. Another client might be a landlord who has been sued by a tenant regarding a rental contract. The lawyer will draft legal complaints, answer interrogatories, or respond to requests for production of documents. If the case goes before a judge, the attorney will appear in court and plead the case before the judge or jury.

Above all, the lawyer has a responsibility to his clients to be ethical while helping them to the best of his ability with commercial properties. The attorney has to continue to stay educated on current laws and regulations. Most attorneys do this by attending seminars or classes as well as keeping up to date on issues that involve commercial real estate.

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Discussion Comments
By Markerrag — On Jul 22, 2014

@Melonlity -- A really good attorney would have perhaps gotten a feel for whether the project would be possible before a bunch of plans were made and land was purchased. Still, a lot of developers do get ahead of themselves and deal with such issues only when they become absolutely necessary.

By Melonlity — On Jul 22, 2014

@Vincenzo -- And that is why a good, local attorney is often needed. Someone who knows the members of the planning committee and has a good idea about how they and people with property in the area to be developed will react to the development.

Believe it or not, there are a number of planning commission members that simply will not pay much attention to some out of town lawyer who doesn't know anyone in the room except the company that is paying him.

By Vincenzo — On Jul 21, 2014

Quite often, you will see these guys at planning commission meetings trying to convince commissioners of the necessity of a project, arguing that the project should be granted a variance if the development is planned for an area where zoning laws prohibit it, etc.

A good lawyer can make the difference between a project getting off the ground and going nowhere.

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